Tom Weatherston

Caledonia Trustee #2

Email address
Tweatherston@yahoo.com

Street address 
8722 Dunkelow Rd , Franksville WI

Length of time living in the community?
42 years

Occupation
Retired from Modine Manufacturing

What is your spouse’s name?
Not Married

Please name any civic groups you have been involved with.
Vietnam Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Salvation Army advisory board, St. Catherine’s board and former Wisconsin State Representative

What motivated you to run for office?
As a former Village of Caledonia board member and a former Wisconsin State Representative I would like to work with the citizens of Caledonia to help guide the village as transitional changes and growth occurring with Foxconn driven developments.

If you are an incumbent, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
Not a current incumbent but as your State Representative I worked to make sure that your voice was heard in Madison. My main goal was to encourage work force development within the district.

Name three challenges Caledonia residents are experiencing.
The Village of Caledonia is going to experience industrial and commercial growth along I 94 and it is important to make sure that we balance new tax revenues, environmental issues and planned growth to the benefit of the community.

How would address those challenges?
I will apply my 30 years of Facilities Management experience along with my working knowledge of state government to assist the village of Caledonia with these future decisions.

Name three challenges businesses are experiencing?
Business all across our state our experiencing a shortage of qualified employees. Businesses are also deeply affected by property taxes and rising health care costs.

How would you address those challenges?
Well it’s pretty hard to fix healthcare costs from the village board level but we certainly can control property tax rates and we can support technical education programs within our communities.

Foxconn is slated to build a 22-million-square-foot manufacturing campus and Caledonia will likely see major development projects. What is your vision for how the Village should grow?
All communities are seeing rising housing costs not just the city of Racine. It is important that our city and local communities recognize this issue and support cost-effective housing projects

The largest coal-fired power plant in the state straddles Oak Creek and Caledonia. A number of neighbors have complained for years about their health concerns after coal dust was found in their homes. What role — if any — should the Village have in addressing those concerns? 
My old home was just south of the power plant and I never saw any coal dust but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The Village needs to be supportive of any and all citizens concerns. This is an issue that the State DNR should be reviewing and keeping an eye on and if that takes the Village board to ask for assistance or provide help to the State DNR then we should do so.

Should Caledonia support the pursuit of an independent school district? Please explain the reason for your answer. 
Short answer Yes. This is a very complicated issue that is not driven by the Village board as schools are separate tax entities from the Village. A lot of conversation has gone on throughout the village about his subject and unfortunately a lot of wrong information is out there. I do think that the taxpayers deserve to have full transparency on the costs of starting a new school system, the pros and cons of this decision and then it should be voted on. While we are weighing this decision I feel it is important that we as a community support the system we have and work together to improve the quality of education.

Do you approve or disapprove of using tax incremental finance districts to attract new businesses? Please explain your answer.
Yes I approve of this method of inviting and maintaining jobs and tax base within the Village. This is a proven and effective method of development

 

Jay Benkowski

Caledonia Trustee #2

Email address
jay.benkowski@gmail.com

Street address 
5645 Highway V, Caledonia, WI 53108

Length of time living in the community?
26 years

Occupation
Vice President and Managing Partner of Benkowski Builders, Inc. and Trustee, Village of Caledonia

What is your spouse’s name?
Carla Freeman Benkowski

Please name any civic groups you have been involved with.
Neighborhood Work Group W-2 Member, Town of Caledonia; Neighborhood Work Group Rural Area Member, Town of Caledonia; Caledonia Conservancy Volunteer; Member, Zoning and Density Code Update Work Group, South Milwaukee; Vice Chair/Chairman, South Milwaukee Blue Ribbon Committee on Economic Development; Commission Member, South Milwaukee 2020 Comprehensive Plan Work Group; Vice Chair/Chairman, Committee for Historical Preservation, South Milwaukee; Member South Milwaukee 2035 Comprehensive Plan Work Group; Member, Downtown Work Group, South Milwaukee Central Business District; Member, Downtown Advisory Committee Work Group, South Milwaukee; Treasurer, South Milwaukee Community and Business Association; Committee Member, “Evening on the Avenue” fundraising event for the South Milwaukee Central Business District; Board Member, “Growing South Milwaukee” Community Garden; Imaginarium Children’s Museum, Racine “Visioneering” Committee; and Member, Site Selection Committee for Annual Historic Designation, Milwaukee Historical Society

What motivated you to run for office?
Community is what matters, and Caledonia’s future depends on improving its economic prosperity and its quality of life. That’s why I’ve been honored to serve as a Trustee for the last two years, and why I promise to keep fighting for a more inclusive, transparent, and responsive Village Board.

If you are an incumbent, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of making Caledonia more fiscally responsible while improving our public spaces. I helped Caledonia taxpayers save more than $20,000,000 in future sewer infrastructure costs and over $300,000 on the new Highway Department facility, for example, while also coordinating a program of improvements to parks and playgrounds.

Name three challenges Caledonia residents are experiencing.
We’re concerned first about taxes, which are going up because of investments in commercial development on the interstate. Tax incremental finance district 4, for example, costs every Caledonian taxpayer more than $1 per year for every $3000 of assessed value. Second, we need to keep our neighborhoods livable and preserve our property values. Wisconsin Act 67, which my opponent endorsed, reduced communities’ right to self-regulate land use; some properties have fallen into disrepair and we underfund Caledonia public spaces. Third, we need better jobs. The Village isn’t responsive enough to local businesses, especially regarding the vital Douglas Avenue corridor.

How would address those challenges?
To keep taxes down, Caledonia needs a long-term economic plan that prioritizes investments and identifies the most promising development opportunities. We need to have a healthy skepticism regarding our investments. To improve our community’s quality of life and property values, we need to give residents more of a voice to decide how neighborhood land is used, and to invest more in our public spaces. Finally, we must be more supportive of local businesses. I will work to revitalize Douglas Avenue and to make local government more accessible to business concerns, including by consulting with business leaders regarding Village development plans.

Name three challenges businesses are experiencing?
Many of the same challenges faced by Caledonia residents confront Caledonia’s businesses, including economic development, infrastructure and residential bases, and the accessibility of public resources and government. Businesses also need skilled and motivated employees, which Caledonia can never have enough of. These challenges come together in Caledonia’s most important commercial area: the Douglas Avenue corridor. To put it simply, as go businesses and communities along Douglas Avenue, so goes Caledonia as a whole. Caledonia needs to get Douglas Avenue right.

How would you address those challenges?
The key to Caledonia’s long-term economic health rests not only in welcoming businesses to the interstate, but also by promoting both residential density and creating conditions for higher value-added business along Douglas Avenue. I will therefore produce a unified master plan for the Douglas Avenue corridor that will realize its economic potential to the fullest. This will have wide-reaching positive effects on the rest of Caledonia by making it more economically dynamic, by attracting more residents, by diversifying our tax base, and—with some luck—by allowing us to slow or even reverse increases in taxes on the community.

Foxconn is slated to build a 22-million-square-foot manufacturing campus and Caledonia will likely see major development projects. What is your vision for how the Village should grow?
Caledonia must avoid catching Foxconn fever, as the project has morphed in troubling ways since its inception. Foxconn now intends to use the space as a “technology hub” for research, perhaps assembly and packaging, rather than for manufacturing. It therefore probably won’t bring Caledonia the economic stimulus we had originally hoped for. Still, even a technology hub will provide Caledonia an opportunity to develop upscale multi-family housing, both in our existing population and commercial centers (i.e. the Douglas Avenue/ Highway 32 corridor) as well as the Franksville-Highway V corridor, which will see new opportunities as businesses locate along I-94.

The largest coal-fired power plant in the state straddles Oak Creek and Caledonia. A number of neighbors have complained for years about their health concerns after coal dust was found in their homes. What role — if any — should the Village have in addressing those concerns? 
I opposed the expansion of the coal plant at the outset. As many of us feared, recent studies suggest that coal dust harms not only our personal health, but also our community’s health; many Caledonians, for example, have struggled to sell their properties due to proximity to the plant. The Village must advocate for the health, safety, and property values of its residents, both with the power plant and also at the state level. We need allies, because we can’t solve this problem alone, and we must hold our state representatives, like my opponent, accountable for not addressing our concerns.

Should Caledonia support the pursuit of an independent school district? Please explain the reason for your answer. 
Although the Racine Unified School District is improving, it’s clear that Caledonia is being harmed by its educational system. Anecdotally, many of us know talented or wealthy people who have moved their families out of Caledonia for a better school district. That said, establishing an independent school district would be expensive and would not lead to automatic improvements. We just don’t know enough about the risks and opportunities to responsibly go independent. I support an expedited expert study to determine what it would cost and how we can improve on the current situation, because our children deserve better.

Do you approve or disapprove of using tax incremental finance districts to attract new businesses? Please explain your answer.
Tax incremental finance (TIF) districts are an essential tool for promoting economic development, but, like any tool, they can cause more harm than good when used irresponsibly. In 2018, we extended our two TIF districts’ payback lives to reduce their immediate costs. However TIF #4 still does not generate enough taxable income to cover its principal and debt payments, so Caledonian residents must pay higher property taxes to cover the $750,000 annual shortfall of the DeBack Farms/ WISPARK Business Park. To be blunt, our community can’t afford to cover more deficits like this without stealing from Peter to pay Paul.