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KENOSHA — Gov. Tony Evers said Wednesday night that he was pleased to see “more consistency” in communication from Foxconn Technology Group regarding its development in Mount Pleasant.

“I’m happy that there is more consistency,” he said. “As I told them, we can’t have every two weeks an issue in the newspaper and then we have to spend another two weeks explaining. That isn’t good for anyone. The people in this part of the state have made some significant investments.”

Foxconn last month reiterated its intentions to construct its planned Mount Pleasant facility after months of speculation that the company had changed plans, announcing it would start the next construction phases this summer.

Evers made the comments during a brief interview with reporters following a budget listening session at Kenosha Public Museum, 5500 First Ave., which was attended by about 150 southeastern Wisconsin residents and various state lawmakers and cabinet members. It was the second stop in a statewide tour that will next take him to Superior on Monday.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes was also supposed to be present but could not make it due to the snowstorm Wednesday afternoon.

Attendees were able to sit in five different areas to discuss issues on education; jobs, tax fairness and criminal justice; transportation and infrastructure; energy and the environment; and healthcare. Evers made his way around to each area, seldom speaking, but listening to concerns from residents.

Racine schools discussed

The most fiery exchanges came from the education area, where people debated voucher school funding and open enrollment, with much of the conversation surrounding Racine’s schools.

Scott Coey, a Racine resident who teaches social studies at Bradford High School in Kenosha, said Racine’s schools are becoming re-segregated and placed some of the blame on open enrollment that funnels white students out of the city and into rural school districts.

Another man shot back, saying he felt the issue did not come down to race but to quality of education. The argument briefly continued before a moderator broke it up and the man, visibly angered, left the session.

State data show Julian Thomas Elementary School in Racine has a white student population of just 7.6%, while Gifford Elementary School in Caledonia has a 73% white student population.

“The schools are segregated,” Coey said.

Akosua Aning, education chair for the Racine NAACP, said she sends her children to The Prairie School in Wind Point because she does not see Racine schools serving black children. She said her son is the only black boy in his ninth grade class.

“That’s problematic to me, but it would be a bigger problem to stick him in a school that isn’t going to invest in him as a young black male,” Aning said.

Evers, who was the state superintendent of education before being elected governor, said he enjoyed seeing the involved discussion around education.

“I love that passion that people have around education,” Evers said.

Looking for compromise

Evers also said he was confident Republicans and Democrats will reach compromise on the budget that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, previously dismissed as a “liberal tax and spend wish list.” Evers cited the Marquette Law School Poll released Wednesday that showed statewide support for some of his positions, such as legalizing medical marijuana and accepting federal funds for Medicaid expansion, which 83% and 70% of respondents supported respectively.

“I think they (Republicans) are willing to work with me,” Evers said. “At the end of the day, they have to pass a budget and I need to make sure that the will of the people has been listened to. … We’ve heard from some politicians that there’s this, ‘We will never accept Medicaid expansion.’ And then at the same time, 70% of the people in the state of Wisconsin say, ‘We want to have Medicaid expansion.’ There’s a disconnect there.”

State Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, who was one of the state politicians in attendance, said the general support of Evers’ budget among citizens in attendance “really speaks to the strength of the budget that the governor has put forward.”

Peter Barca, the state Department of Revenue secretary and former state representative, said he and Evers have been meeting with various Republican officials to reach compromises to get the budget passed. He added that he expects bipartisan support on infrastructure improvements.

“Everybody knows that our roads and infrastructure has just crumbled so badly that we absolutely have to do something on that,” Barca said.

“I think they (Republicans) are willing to work with me. At the end of the day, they have to pass a budget and I need to make sure that the will of the people has been listened to.” Gov. Tony Evers

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Jonathon Sadowski covers the villages of Union Grove and Yorkville, the Town of Dover, arts, entertainment and odds and ends for The Journal Times.

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