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Kim Mahoney isn’t opposed to the factory, but wants transparency

Just two-and-a-half years ago, Kim Mahoney lived happily in a small subdivision of about a dozen homes in the suburban Racine County village of Mount Pleasant. 

She and her husband, Jim, built their dream home. In February of 2017 they moved in. By the end of the year, a massive Foxconn Technology Group development was announced. 

The subdivision was slated for demolition, and one by one, the houses were torn down. Except for one.

In 2020, the Mahoneys’ home stands alone as the Foxconn development rapidly builds up practically in their front yard. They successfully fought back an eminent domain claim from Mount Pleasant, and now Kim Mahoney is taking the fight to the County Board as she runs to replace outgoing County Supervisor Kay Buske.

“I would never have thought of running for office, but when we went through this situation with Foxconn, we encountered no representation on any level,” said Mahoney, a 50-year-old paralegal, Thursday evening at her home.

Mahoney said the eminent domain claim against her house “was wrong and fraudulent,” and other former homeowners in the area say the same. She fought the claim because she could not agree on a purchase price with Mount Pleasant that would have allowed her and Jim to rebuild their house elsewhere. The village eventually dropped its claim.

While Mahoney got into the race specifically because of her experience with the Foxconn project, her platform consistently circles back to transparency and accountability. She has pledged to livestream every meeting she attends and hold Foxconn to its original development agreement that included nearly $4 billion in incentives. 

The company has not upheld its end of the agreement by almost any measure, and has refused to renegotiate its contract with the state. Even so, Mahoney said there are rampant misconceptions about the project throughout the state.

She said one of the biggest misconceptions people have is that Foxconn has done nothing since announcing its project. The buildings the company has already erected are assessed at $522 million.

Racine County, particularly the City of Racine, has historically struggled with unemployment, and whatever new jobs end up materializing will certainly be welcomed by the community. 

The county’s unemployment rate has outpaced the state’s for virtually every reporting period for the past 30 years, peaking at 12 percent during the Great Recession. Mahoney said she views the project as an important job-creator for the area, but said “we need to scale back some of those incentives.”

“I’m not anti-Foxconn,” Mahoney said. “From the beginning, we were willing to sell our property. There was no way we wanted to stand in the way of a $10 billion investment and 13,000 jobs for our community.”

Mahoney’s issues come with the way village, county, and state government bodies have handled the ever-changing project, which Gov. Tony Evers said is now expected to only bring 1,500 jobs and a far smaller facility than originally proposed. Because it’s clear the company has no intentions to meet the terms of the contract, Mahoney said, “the contract needs to be reviewed.”

Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave told UpNorthNews in a previous interview that “we were always under the impression — and I’m not going to speak for the state, I’m just speaking for myself — that the project was going to be fluid. And we wanted it to be fluid.”

“We feel like we’re pretty lucky, but we’ll never declare victory on Foxconn,” Delagrave said.

Mahoney is a Democrat, but County Board supervisor seats are nonpartisan. The 14th County Supervisor District, in which she is running, includes the entire Foxconn project area as well as the nearby suburban Village of Sturtevant.

Asked why she is running for County Board as opposed to the Mount Pleasant Village Board, Mahoney said did not feel she could make an impact on the village level. Outgoing Village Trustee Gary Feest, who often voted “no” on controversial measures, including a number related to Foxconn, failed to make changes despite his votes, Mahoney said.

“I’ve seen Gary Feest standing up for residents for 10 years now, and there’s very little he can do being the one person on the board who uses reason and is not a rubber stamp for whatever is getting pushed down from the state and county,” Mahoney said. “I didn’t see that I could actually do anything positive on the Village Board.”

For the Mahoneys, a shift to the public eye came quickly. They have been the subject of dozens of local, regional, and national media stories. When a Foxconn-related road expansion was being voted on last year, Mahoney stood up for the handful of affected homeowners on the rural highway that serves as the border of Kenosha and Racine counties. She said those homeowners, some of whom are on the Kenosha County side of the road, are largely excited for her candidacy.

Jim Mahoney said he has supported his wife’s run for County Board since day one.

“I wanted to be the first one that signs her papers,” Jim said. “And now I’m in charge of putting up all the signs.” 

Jim Mahoney, of Mount Pleasant, in his garage. In the distance is the Foxconn Technology Group development. (Photo by Jonathon Sadowski)

One of the campaign signs stands defiantly in their front yard. The couple’s garage has been turned into a sign workshop, and all the while, Foxconn’s current buildings are visible with just a glance out the garage door.  It’s March now and the couple has yet to take their outside Christmas lights down, but they don’t seem to be in any rush.

“It lets them know we’re still here,” Kim Mahoney said. About an hour later, the sun set and the house’s exterior facing Foxconn was illuminated in red and green, the lone source of light in what used to be a neighborhood.