Unhappy residents in Muskego, Wisconsin are fed up with their elected officials, and just aren’t going to take it anymore. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, frustrated citizens in Muskego are organizing an effort to recall one or more Alderman who recently voted to approve a Wal-Mart supercenter. Sprawl-Busters reported on June 4, 2008 that the Plan Commission in Muskego faced down an estimated 200 local residents who filled the hearing room earlier this week. The hearing was described by residents as “wild” and “contentious.” At one point during the two hour meeting, members of Muskego First walked out of the room when their attorney, Ed Garvey of Madison, Wisconsin, was escorted out of the room by Muskego police, at the order of Muskego Mayor John Johnson, who said the lawyer’s questions were disrupting the hearing. Mayor Johnson used to be the police chief in Muskego. Commissioners seemed to be in too much of a hurry to approve the plan to allow facts to get in the way. While the citizens were outside the hearing room, the Plan Commission formalized their vote in favor of the project. Now Muskego First has announced that it is organizing a political action committee to begin the recall process against several aldermen. Muskego First filed the preliminary paperwork this week to form an Exploratory Recall Committee, according to co-coordinator John Walters “The citizens have had enough here in Muskego,” Walters told the Journal. “We have absolutely no say-so in the process,” Walters said. “We have not been asked to participate, to review, to partake in discussion. . . . We’re not going to allow it.” Alderman Noah Fiedler, who also sits on the Plan Commission, is the first subject of the recall effort, which could spread to four Aldermen. Fiedler defended the Plan Commission’s vote, saying the group “exhaustively considered” the superstore project. “This process that Wal-Mart went through was the same as any other development would go through, and, in fact, had more public input and notice than required by law and more public input and notice than any project I’ve seen since I’ve been working with city government,” Fiedler said. “Really, what Muskego First wanted us to do is treat Wal-Mart differently based on the name.” Fiedler said he doesn’t think the Wal-Mart issue is a big controversy. “My personal experience has been that the majority of Muskego residents favored the Wal-Mart proposal,” Fiedler said.
Muskego First says the 156,400 s.f. Wal-Mart is the wrong scale and the wrong location for a huge store. The Plan Commission voted 6-1 in favor of the proposal, with the only major condition being that the township would review the store’s 24 hour operation six month after opening to see its impact on nearby homes. The Journal notes that the neighboring town of Hartford, Wisconsin saw a recall effort launched two years ago when Aldermen there approved a 185,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter. The two Alderman targeted in that recall effort survived the vote. Once the Muskego clerk receives the completed paperwork, the group will have 60 days to gather the petition signatures needed to trigger a recall. Johnson will not be eligible for recall until April. According to a new report by State Resource Strategies, there were ballot questions filed on big box issues 67 times in America between 2000 and 2006. Only two of those cases involved recall efforts. One filed by pro-Wal-Mart backers recalled an official who had blocked an annexation for a Wal-Mart, and the other failed to recall elected officials who were considered too friendly to Wal-Mart. In Muskego, there are two other options which big box opponents could pursue. One is the legal appeal of the Planning Commission’s vote. Opponents for the project say the Planning Commission approved an application that was not complete. The second action is for residents to try to amend the town’s zoning code to put a cap on the size of retail stores. This would not stop Wal-Mart today, but it would create a roadblock for any future big boxes in Muskego. It could also be a problem for Wal-Mart if their project was remanded back to the town as the outcome of a court appeal. Muskego First is trying to sell hamburgers and hot dogs to fight the world’s largest retailer. Readers are urged to help this citizen’s group out with a financial contribution of any size. To make a donation, or learn more about this fight, go to www.muskegofirst.webs.com, or email the group at: [email protected]