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2003-09-01
Inglewood, CA. Citizen Wal-Mart Puts Itself on the Ballot--Again.

Citizen Wal-Mart is putting itself on the ballot in another California community in an effort to ignore the wishes of local communities. In October of 2002, the Inglewood City Council adopted an ordinance that limits the interior square footage of a superstore that can be devoted to the sale of non-taxable food items, such as groceries. Wal-Mart has announced that it will actively fight such ordinances. Last June, Wal-Mart unveiled an effort to overturn a similar ordinance in Contra Costa county. "It's a matter of principle," a Wal-Mart PR person said at the time. "These types of ordinances are anti-competitive and anti-consumer and we will fight them tooth and nail." Wal-Mart tried a similar ballot move in Eureka, Caifornia -- creating a "citizen's" group to draft a zoning law that would have allowed a Wal-Mart on Eureka's waterfront. The ballot question went to the voters in 1999, and Wal-Mart lost by 62% of the vote. In Inglewood, the company is again trying to imitate a "grassroots" effort by creating their own "astro-roots" group called the "Citizens Committee to Welcome Wal-Mart to Inglewood". According to the Los Angeles Times, the Wal-Mart ballot question calls for building permits for the store to be issued without a public hearing or environmental impact study: "The reviewing official shall be required to issue the requested permit or permits without the exercise of any discretion and no development standards, criteria, requirements, procedures, mitigations or exactions shall be imposed." If this ordinance passes, Inglewood will in essence have no zoning code. Anything over a 50% majority will pass the Wal-Mart code. Once it is enacted, however, it takes a two-thirds vote of the city council to amend or repeal it. "This is the most outrageous thing I've seen a corporation do in a low-income community," said Madeline Janis-Aparicio, director of Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, an opponent of the Inglewood development. "It says to me they're afraid of the public process." A Wal-Mar spokesman said the company is going direclty to voters because it did not believe it would be treated fairly by the Inglewood City Council. "When people feel they're not getting a fair shake with the legislative process, they take things to a vote of the people," said Wal-Mart spokesman Robert McAdam. "That's what the initiative process is about, having people petition for voter approval. That's fairly consistent with California tradition." To get on the ballot, Wal-Mart will have to collect 6,500 signatures of registered voters, and the measure would appear before voters in March, 2004. Wal-Mart is pursuing a similar strategy in Contra Costa, California, to overturn an ordinance they don't like there. In Contra Costa, Wal-Mart hired a company to collect signatures for it, because the company would have a much harder time finding real residents willing to go door to door for signatures. Wal-Mart has been dogging the Inglewood City Council since it passed its anti-Wal-Mart ordinance. In December of 2002, just a couple of months after the zoning limit ordinance was passed, the council voted to overturn the measure, concerned that the procedure used to pass the ordinance was flawed. So that ordinance was repealed, and now Wal-Mart wants its store, but doesn't want to go through the normal review process that any other developer, large or small, must endure. Why should a powerful company like Wal-Mart have to get its hands dirty with zoning hearings and public testimony? The company is expected to dump at least a quarter of a million dollars into the Inglewood campaign, including directly mailing, newspaper ads, telephoning, etc. Under the rules of corporate democracy, the one who spends the most money, wins.

What you can do: For more background on the use of ballot questions by "citizen corporations", search this database by Contra Costa, Eureka, Martinez, or ballot. Home Depot has used the initiative route as well in places like Encinitas, and other communities.










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

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