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2002-12-26
Dubuque, IA. Wal-Mart called "An Absolutely Abhorrent Employer".

Some residents of Dubuque, Iowa see a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter as a great Christmas gift to the town -- but others don't want to open up the box. According to a front page story in the Christmas issue of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, the city's Community Development Advisory Commission has a sleigh-full of issues to raise with Wal-Mart over their plans to build a 185,000 s.f. superstore on industrial land where an old meatpacking facility once operated. The CDAC says that a retail store is not the best and highest use of land which is currently industrial; is identified in the city's long-range plan as industrial in nature; and which is located by a rail line. The Commission also wants Wal-Mart to address the impact of its plans on neighborhood businesses. The committee was concerned by studies conducted by Iowa State University Professor Ken Stone, which show significant loss of local businesses when Wal-Mart comes to town. In a letter to the city, the 11 person Commission said "the researcher estimated that a 50,000-square-foot Wal-Mart could be expected to take $5 million per year in sales from existing local businesses, especially groceries, hardware stores, drug stores, bookstores, hobby and toy stores, and apparel shops. Many stores like this currently exist in neighborhoods around the proposed redevelopment." The development group also stated that Wal-Mart's low wages and fringe benefits may not be consistent with the City's Consolidated Plan, which calls for half of the new jobs created in the city to pay more than $9 per hour, and one in four jobs to pay at least $12 per hour. The Commmission is headed by Walter Pregler, the former Mayor of the City, who says Wal-Mart is not a model employer. "Their labor relations are less than desirable," Pregler told the newspaper. "I'm an old union man, but I think Wal-Mart is an absolutely abhorrent employer." The former Mayor would like to see the meatpacking plant razed, and a new industrial user found. "It would be a golden opportunity." Pregler told the Telegraph Herald. "It would allow the city to bring in an employer that would pay a living wage, plus benefits." There is already one Wal-Mart in Dubuque, and Commission members wonder if the new store will merely cannibalize the first. Wal-Mart has admitted in the past that it competes with its own stores. The Commission is concerned about what a second Wal-Mart will do to other retailers in the city. They want the City to carry out a community and economic impact study before processing any further plans. The request for rezoning comes before the Dubuque Zoning Commission on January 8th. The current Mayor, Terry Duggan, seems to be happy with Wal-Mart's plans, and says he's not going to "hold my breath waiting" for the old meatpacking plant to reopen -- an option that no one is pushing.


What you can do: All people in Dubuque want is a study of the facts before they make a decision, something that many officials gloss over as quibbling. If Dubuque had a city zoning ordinance which said that 2% of the value of the proposed building had to be put into escrow by the developer for the city to conduct independent special impact studies, then the hue and cry for impact numbers would be satisfied. Instead, citizens in Dubuque get irrelevant statements from their Mayor about dead businesses starting up again. Their minds are made up in city hall, one might say, so don't confuse them with the facts. Iowa, by the way, has at least 7 "dark stores" -- 560,000 s.f. of empty Wal-Marts. For local contacts in Dubuque, email info@sprawl-busters.com.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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