Protesters carrying signs reading “Slaughterhouses hurt communities” and “Stop slaughter” urged aldermen at Tuesday’s Milwaukee Joint Council meeting to delay vote on plans for a meat processing company to develop a 170,000 square foot production facility at Century City Business Park in Milwaukee.
Balaji Venkatesan of the Slaughter Free Milwaukee and Direct Action Everywhere groups said ahead of the meeting that residents the groups spoke to did not know a slaughterhouse was coming to their neighborhood.
Protesters claimed the facility, located at 3025 W. Hopkins St., would have negative effects on the surrounding area, including odors, pollution and employees developing post-traumatic stress disorder. They also said residents lacked the capacity to weigh in on the proposal.
“This is irresponsibly made in a residential area,” Venkatesan said.
Residents Wanda Terry, 74, and her son Keith Terry, 53, said they heard about the proposal on the radio Tuesday morning and came to town hall to protest. Keith Terry said they had spent their entire lives in the neighborhood and had seen the area move from an area with jobs to an area with dilapidated buildings.
“Whatever they do to revive this community, I think it should be based on something that makes sense to everyone,” he said.
Ald. Khalif Rainey, whose district includes the site, backed down, saying the plan to move specialty meat packer Strauss Brands LLC from Franklin to the Milwaukee site presented a job creation opportunity. He also criticized the protesters, saying the people who showed up to protest the facility were not his neighbors and were showing “selective outrage”.
The facility would initially bring 250 jobs to Century City. Linked to the number of jobs created, up to $ 4.5 million in municipal funding would be split into annual payments generated from the new building’s property tax revenues.
This and another allowing the 20-acre and possibly five additional acres to be sold for $ 1 was unanimously approved by the city’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee on the 8th. October.
Plans called for the company to innovate in November and start operating in 2021. Its products include lamb, veal and beef.
Jerry Bussen, chief financial officer, previously said that about 60% of the company’s 170 production workers at the Franklin site commute from the north side of Milwaukee. A refrigerated production facility and other features would primarily eliminate odors at the Century City facility, he said in mid-September.
Randy Strauss, president and CEO of Strauss Brands, said in a statement that the company has been in the Milwaukee area for over 82 years and has a reputation for being a good corporate citizen.
“Strauss Brands is proud of our reputation as one of the leading national suppliers of ethically raised meats,” he said. “We look forward to working with the city and the community to advance this important economic development project in Century City.”
During the meeting, protesters held up signs when the measures were introduced, yelling at Rainey as he spoke.
“As I look around the gallery words stand out such as massacre, trauma,” he said, speaking directly to the protesters. “I did not receive an influx of emails when a mother was killed in the car with her daughter, I did not receive an email about the massacre as blood flowed in the streets . … “
The root of the problem is poverty, he said, and job creation is what is on the table.
He said he could understand the objections of someone who doesn’t eat meat. But, he said, the protesters were showing “selective outrage”, caring about this issue but not angry about black jobs and quality of life.
He said this effort is aimed at creating opportunities. Curing the scourge of violence in the city is high-paying work, Rainey said.
“It’s crazy how all roads lead back to this single question: does black life matter? Does black life matter or … possibility of paying for the life of their family?” said.
Rainey later said the development could help rid the neighborhood of crime and trauma.
On motion by Ald. Robert Bauman, the proposal was sent back to committee for further discussion.
Rainey said he is not opposed to this step and will also hold a community meeting.
Bauman said he was not informed by the city’s Development Ministry of the measure before the Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee meeting last week, nor did he believe that other members of the committee had been. It was unusual, he said.
Bauman said it was surprising that no member of the public was present at the committee meeting.
“The company basically admitted in response to a question from me that they did offer a slaughterhouse and I thought, ‘Wow, is everyone okay with that? neighborhood? ‘”he said.
He said there are legitimate issues with land use and transparency.
City official criticizes delay
City Development Department commissioner Rocky Marcoux called Bauman’s comments at Tuesday’s meeting “dishonest.” The nature of the plant was explained during the redevelopment authority and zoning committee meetings, he said, and the proposal was made public in several ways, including the two publicly notified town halls. .
He said the company was a leader in the industry and was “embraced by many people who have played a pivotal role in the operation of this industry in the past.”
It is disappointing that the council has not taken action for what could be 500 jobs in a downtown location, he said, adding that many communities wanted this plant, including Franklin.
“If you have Franklin saying they want to keep this factory – and they certainly want the new factory – this idea of it being presented as something painful is really offensive to both the city’s efforts to secure this. business and for the business itself, “he said.
In 2014, Minneapolis-based Cargill cut about 600 jobs when it closed its slaughterhouse in the Menomonee Valley that had been operating since the 1940s. The company said at the time that it closed the facility because that a decrease in the beef supply nationwide meant that it could not keep the slaughterhouse sufficiently stocked with livestock.
The company still operates a factory in Menomonee Valley that processes ground beef into hamburger patties.
Sentinel Journal reporter Tom Daykin contributed to this story.