Milwaukee Lawmaker Floats Annexation As A Way to Deal With Transportation Concerns

Dec 13, 2017

Milwaukee lawmakers are getting creative when it comes to trying to ensure city residents are not left out of the expected job boom that will be created by Foxconn. One alderman is now floating the idea of expanding the footprint of the city.

Annexation, the act of incorporating new territory into the domain of a city, country or state, is not a term thrown around a lot these days. At a Milwaukee common council committee meeting on Tuesday, it got some play.

Alderman Bob Bauman sees annexation as a way unemployed Milwaukeeans could benefit from the Foxconn plant coming to Mount Pleasant. The LCD screen factory could create from 3,000 -- to up to 13,000 -- jobs.

“One of two things would seem to have to happen here. Either one, we provide some public transit infrastructure to get folks from the city of Milwaukee to Mount Pleasant and back. Or if there’s no public transit, maybe we just move folks from the city of Milwaukee to Mount Pleasant, period. And basically develop some land for residential and commercial use, where basically we could create a satellite city to the city of Milwaukee,” Bauman says.

If the City of Milwaukee simply owned the land, it would not be able to collect property taxes from those residents, but it could, if the city actually annexed land. Bauman says that while the idea may sound far-fetched, there’s precedent. He says back in the 1940s Milwaukee Mayor Frank Zeidler looked at developing satellite cities in Waukesha County that would have housed up to 50,000 people. While planning was done, those communities never came to fruition. Bauman admits, annexation -- to help Milwaukee residents work at Foxconn -- would be a longshot.

But the real focus of the discussion appears to be making a point that the city must find a way to get people Foxconn jobs, especially if transportation isn’t being made a priority. As of now, there have been no real discussions about expanding public transit, for example, Amtrak service, to the area. That's according to Kevin Muhs of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

“We’ve not only taken every opportunity at the staff level to remind the DOT that transit could be a very important part of the solution to bringing workers to Foxconn, but we’ve been involved in some of these discussions and it hasn’t been a major source of discussion. So I’m not saying we don’t know, but I guess because it could be so important we’re hoping that there may be something more to come,” Muhs says.

SEWRPC says it plans to update its transportation recommendations soon and will include a multimodal mix designed with Foxconn and other employment opportunities in mind.