Mayor’s Walmart vote challenges his downtown goals

GREEN BAY – For the past year, Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt has stood firmly against Walmart’s desire to build a Supercenter in the city’s downtown, but he admits, his decision Tuesday night, may clear the way for the store to be built.

Schmitt broke a city council tie, delaying a vote on the Walmart issue.

The delay is to allow time for Alderman Tom Sladek to vote. Sladek has been recovering from a stroke and has missed council meetings the last few months.

Sladek tells FOX 11 he will likely support Walmart’s plan. He also says he will be healthy enough to attend city meetings starting in July.

Schmitt told FOX 11 he knew Alderman Sladek was leaning toward supporting Walmart’s downtown Supercenter proposal. However, Schmitt says letting Sladek vote is important.

“It’s a major decision and I think it’s important that we have as much representation there as we can,” said Schmitt.

After Schmitt made his decision, many people opposed to Walmart’s plan who’ve sided with the mayor questioned his move.

“There has been many times where there has been more than one person absent from the council with large decisions and they still go through with the vote,” said Troy Kapalczynski of Green Bay.

Schmitt says on Tuesday, the city council would have voted five to five on whether to rezone the property Walmart wants to build on. Schmitt would have broken that tie by denying Walmart’s request.

Delaying the vote for Alderman Sladek to participate takes a tie and Schmitt out of the vote. Sladek says he’ll likely tip the scale in Walmart’s favor.

“I think I’ve given the other point of view a fair hearing,” said Sladek. “I just don’t see us walking away from what would be a fairly immediate creation of jobs and tax base.”

Schmitt is hopeful he’ll still be able to convince Sladek or other aldermen to vote against Walmart.

“I don’t know that people’s minds are 100% made up,” said Schmitt.

If people’s minds are made up, and the vote goes in Walmart’s favor, Schmitt could still veto the council’s vote. However, in Schmitt’s 12 years as mayor, he has never used his veto power. Schmitt says he hasn’t ruled out a veto for Walmart.

“I think I’ve done what’s best for Green Bay for the last 12 years and I’ll continue that,” said Schmitt. “I’ll listen to it. I’ll make the best decision for the city.”

The earliest a vote could happen on Walmart’s rezoning request is July 15th.

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