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2005-09-29
Santa Fe, NM. Mayor Breaks Wal-Mart Tie, Sells Out Local Business

Mayor Larry Delgado never ran on a campaign platform to destroy existing merchants and the character of his city -- but that's what he'll have to rely on if he ever wants to run again. Last night Mayor Delgado broke a 4-4 tie to OK a traffic plan submitted by developers for the Entrada Contenta development, which will be anchored by a Wal-Mart Supercenter. The city council voted last month to allow the project -- but only if it came in with an appropriate traffic plan -- which traffic engineers can always do by widening roads, adding lanes and retiming signals. The real world result is often traffic accidents, falling levels of service, and queueing of cars -- but very few public officials can understand what a traffic engineer presents. Wal-Mart, however, is not out of the traffic jam yet in Santa Fe, because a group called the Coalition to Limit Big Box Stores may take the city to court. According to the Nex Mexican newspaper, one city councilor labeled the store as "oversized", and another said the plan violates the city's big-box ordinance, which puts a limit on the size of stores. In the end, the vote came down to a $20,000 agreement between one councilor and Wal-Mart. The developer agreed to spend "at least $20,000" on traffic mitigation measures affecting the Tierra Contenta neighborhood that will see an increase in traffic because of the huge project. That decision won the developer one councilor's vote -- and it was the critical vote he needed to win the multi-million project.

What you can do: It is remarkable how the caretakers of special places, who have lived there so long they perhaps have lost the sense of uniqueness, can focus on the little details, like a $20,000 traffic calming measure, while missing the big picture of what a giant suburban style mall means to a community like Santa Fe. If the concept is to make Santa Fe resemble Albuquerque, then Wal-Mart is the key to the door. But if Santa Fe wants to retain its small community, adobe-residential charm, this is the encroaching of dead, anonymous architecture into their world. Wal-Mart will largely displace sales of existing merchants, especially grocers, and ironically, the city already has one controversial Wal-Mart, that now is likely to shut down. The vote last night may lead to a courtroom, not a ribbon-cutting.










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

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