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Will Green Bay Opposition to Walmart Threaten State KI Convention Center Grant?

by Jerry Bader

The Walmart debate in downtown Green Bay has just gotten a lot more interesting. Mayor Jim Schmitt has been leading a charge against a Walmart in an area where a grocery story is desperately needed, would add millions to the tax base and Walmart is willing to pay for clean up on the old Larsen Canning property where the store would sit.

City Council this week voted unanimously for a Plan Commission recommendation that would deny Walmart the designation for the area it seeks. Schmitt and others have argued Walmart isn't a good fit for the Broadway district now dotted by small specialty shops.

One of Schmitt's dearest projects is expansion of the KI Convention Center in downtown Green Bay. State Representative John Klenke has decided to try to hit Schmitt where he lives. I've obtained this letter, dated Monday, that Klenke is sending to the state Building Commission:

February 10, 2014

Governor Scott Walker

Representative Dean Kaufert

Senator Neal Kedzie

Senator Terry Moulton

Senator Fred Risser

Representative Joan Ballweg

Representative Gordon Hintz

Mr. Bob Brandherm

Secretary Michael Huebsch

Mr. Gilbert Funk

Members of Wisconsin’s Building Commission,

This past spring I was very proud to support Mayor Schmitt in his attempt to expand the Green Bay KI Convention Center.  I advocated for, and voted in favor of the $2 million for the City of Green Bay for that purpose.

However, in light of the situation surrounding the development proposal of Wal-Mart in downtown Green Bay, I believe I may have to re-think my support.  I formally would like to ask the Building Commission to reconsider granting $2 million to the City of Green Bay for the KI Convention Center.  I have always believed that people who can help themselves, should help themselves.  Blocking this expansion of Wal-Mart that would help serve the poor is a way that the city of Green Bay is not helping itself.

By blocking the expansion of Wal-Mart, who is willing to pay millions of dollars in environmental remediation, I believe that the City of Green Bay is harming themselves.  It is my request that we reconsider this $2 million dollar expansion to the KI Center.

Sincerely, 

Representative John Klenke 

Klenke's point here is spot on and applies to more than just Green Bay. The state should withhold its development dollars from any community who would say no to this type of development. That's especially true here, where downtown Green Bay would so substantially benefit from a development where Walmart is asking for virtually nothing from the city. If Schmitt won't bend, the Building Commission should make good on Klenke's request. Klenke will be on my show Monday at 9:06 AM. I've also put out a request to Schmitt to be on the show.