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2004-08-30
Pueblo West, CO. Residents Oppose Use of Corporate Welfare To Build Wal-Mart Distribution Center.

Wal-Mart's empire is built on tax subsidies, and nowhere is it more evident than in its web of distribution centers across America. More often than not, these super-huge "D.C.s" are gifts to Wal-Mart from state and local taxpayers, an unfair competitive advantage that smaller companies cannot obtain. Most recent case in point: Pueblo West, Colorado. According to the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper, in early August, more than 100 Pueblo West residents jammed into the boardroom of the Metropolitan District to voice their objections to a proposed Wal-Mart distribution center that is being built with corporate welfare. The world's richest retailer would receive a candystore of financial incentives from the Metro district and the county, including free land and money to pay for road improvements at the busy intersection. The Metro board was handed a petition with the names of more than 1,000 area residents who oppose this tax giveaway, and the secrecy under which the deal was created. Residents complained at a public hearing that the county and district should not be giving away prime industrial land and paying for utility hookups and roadwork for a private company that is more than able to pay for such costs on its own. The Metro board members defended their actions by claiming they were not an "active participant" in the negotiations, and that board members signed confidentiality agreements that prohibit them from discussing whatever information they do have. Wal-Mart's bidding was handled by the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation. When citizens pressed for the secret agreement to be made public, one member of the Metro board said, "I guarantee you we're not going to be bullied or badgered. I don't care who the corporation is. We will be in the driver's seat" when a written proposal is received. But one former board member, who met with land use consultants representing Wal-Mart, said the board knew exactly what was going on during the negotiations. The former board member stated that offering $4.2 million in free land to Wal-Mart, as well as free sewer and water hookups, is unfair to the many small businesses owners who have had to pay those costs themselves. One resident chastised the board for playing such a weak role in the process. "I'm glad to hear you're going to invite us in at the eleventh hour. You've left a lot of people to wonder if money and greed are the driving factors." Wal-Mart would be given 160 acres of land under the deal being offered to the retailer, free sewer and water hookups, a free traffic signal, and capping of a well. The D.C. would be 850,000 s.f. A community group called SOLV-VA has charged that board members have lied in public meetings about their alleged lack of knowledge and involvement in the ongoing Wal-Mart negotiations, and violated open meeting laws.

What you can do: For more stories about how Wal-Mart has parlayed free land and tax breaks to build its string of distribution centers, search this database by "distribtion centers" or "corporate welfare." Search also by "Good Jobs First" to see a study released earlier in 2004 about welfare for Wal-Mart, entitled "Shopping for Subsidies." For a copy of that report, contact info@sprawl-busters.com










 
 
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