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2004-09-11
Rosemead, CA. Residents Considering Legal Challenge to Wal-Mart Supercenter

The Rosemead, California City Council ended nearly 10 months of controversy this week by voting to approve a Wal-Mart supercenter in this city of 53,000 people just 12 miles outside of Los Angeles -- but the approval may lead to court, not to a ribbon-cutting anytime soon. The City Council, acting under cover of darkness, voted 5-0 to approve the superstore, at 3 am in the morning. Opponents charged that the city mismanaged the hearing by letting it drag on into the night, forcing many residens to return home to prepare for work the next day. Instead of adjourning to another session, the Council waited until the wee hours of the morning to do the deed. Local residents who have been fighting this application since November, 2003, have told the Los Angeles Times that a legal challenge is likely. The Rosemead project would be the first Wal-Mart supercenter in Los Angeles County. The giant retailer has not exactly received a sunny welcome in the L.A region. The city of Los Angeles recently adopted an ordinance designed to force out more economic information about the impacts of a supercenter. Rosemead officials took on face value the estimate that Wal-Mart would increase city sales taxes by $640,000 -- a figure that is a gross statement, not a net figure after the public costs of the superstore are considered. Other research conducted in California and elsewhere show that Wal-Mart can create more public expenses than revenues. The city sponsored a study that said the superstore would create 325 to 500 "new" jobs. Rosemead currently does not have a major grocery store, since Ralph's closed recently. Nobody in Rosemead seems to connect the Ralph's closing to what is happening in the grocery industry in California and across the country. A study by consultant Retail Forward said that for every one Wal-Mart superstore that opens, two grocery stores close. In the case of Rosemead, the grocery store got out before it started draining more red ink. As noted in our earlier report from Rosemead, this project was opposed by county Supervisor Gloria Molina, state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblywoman Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park). "We are looking at the Wal-Martization of our economy in California," Romero told the Los Angeles Times. "Local governments are essentially behaving like addicts, and Wal-Mart is their crack cocaine. It's a short-term fix." Although Wal-Mart has promised to build 40 supercenters in California, so far the company has run into fierce opposition at every turn. A superstore has opened in La Quinta, and two others are in the works for Hemet and Stockton. But the California General Assembly recently sent a bill to the Governor that would require an economic impact statement for large big box projects. The bill, however, does not say what communities should do if they don't like the results from such a study. "I would characterize this as a victory for consumers," said a Wal-Mart spokesman. "People, regardless of their socioeconomic status, all have one thing in common: They all want to save money."

What you can do: At Wal-Mart, they know the price of everything, and the value of nothing. This decision is an example of "cash box zoning", where the outcome is based on projected revenues, not on good land use criteria. Because California towns are cash-strapped for property tax revenues, they try to build up a revenue base from retail malls. Unfortunately, such projects have significant economic downsides, on wages, on public safety costs, and on jobs. In addition, a recent study found that every Wal-Mart worker costs the U.S. taxpayer around $2,000 a year in tax subsidies, from health care to tax credits. For an earlier story on the Rosemead battle, search this database by the name of the city. It is clear that Rosemead's battle is far from over.










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

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