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2007-02-25
Broomfield, CO. Wal-Mart Forms Astro-Turf “Customers” Group

Wal-Mart already has a supercenter in the city of Broomfield, Colorado, but they want to build another one. So they are organizing their own customers to look like a grassroots movement. On September 21, 2006, Sprawl-Busters reported that city officials in Broomfield had offered to pay for 49% of the cost of site acquisition of a turkey processing plant for a Wal-Mart supercenter -- a deal that would subsidize Wal-Mart to the tune of $7.85 million, funded by taxpayers. A group was formed to oppose this tax giveaway, called Broomfield First, and their first order of business was to get the City Council to delay accepting a bid from Wal-Mart for the land deal. Wal-Mart says it can't afford the whole asking price, and subsidies from the city are needed. Any sales tax that does not go back to the city is lost revenue. If the deal between the buyer and the seller requires millions in welfare from the city's taxpayers, then the deal is not worth doing. In October, 2006, the city council rejected the Wal-Mart offer on a 5-4 vote, and sent the landowner and the retailer back to the drawing board. Now the city is making a second offer for developers to propose reuse of the poultry processing plant. Broomfield First, has been collecting hundreds of signatures to present to the Broomfield City Council on February 27th. To counter the grassroots citizen's group, Wal-Mart created an "astro-roots" group, ironically called the Broomfield Customers Action Network. (Wal-Mart apparently sees these people as "customers" not "citizens.") Wal-Mart's group, CAN, is collecting names from shoppers at the Wal-Mart Supercenter. "This was an overt Wal-Mart action to counter our true grassroots efforts," Dorothy Rawsky told the Broomnfield Enterprise. Rawsky helped organize the Broomfield First group after talking to Sprawl-Busters. "This is not coming from the citizens. You don't pay an agency to collect signatures and call it a grassroots effort." Wal-Mart's confirmed they are financing Broomfield CAN, but told the newspaper, "It is a grassroots group. The definition of grassroots is reaching out to the people. What we're doing is reaching out to the thousands of Broomfield citizens to get their support for the Wal-Mart." The city send out a new plan to 450 developers, they claim, but have received no responses yet. "People are angry," Rawsky told the Enterprise. "They feel like council isn't listening to them. Retail dollars can be brought in without resorting to bottom-feeding Wal-Mart." The CAN fliers claim that Wal-Mart is the only retailer "willing or able to help Broomfield tackle the enormity" of the cleanup needed at the site. Yet environmental clean up is not even necessary at the site. The turkey plant building has to be torn down. "As far as environmental cleanup, there's nothing that we know of, no heavy metals or anything like that," said a representative of the landowner. "They have agreed to take on the demolition of the building and that's big."

What you can do: Wal-Mart has defended its need to "buy" a "customers group" to lobby for its plan. It's called "astro-turfing" when a corporation finances a phony citizen's group. Wal-Mart has been doing it for the past 15 years or more. "Frequently, when we deal with a new store process," the Wal-Mart public affairs rep said, "we deal with a very effective minority of well-intentioned people that are in opposition to Wal-Mart. The very vast and silent majority are in support." The City Council may decide on a plan by late March. It is not clear if the city still intends to pay for almost half of the cost of acquiring the land, which amounts to a $7.8 million subsidy to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart always claims its opponents are a "special interest" or "small minority," even when they lose a vote at the ballot. This Wal-Mart proposal is an economic turkey for Broomfield. They already have one supercenter, and there are 11 Wal-Marts within 15 miles of Broomfield, including superstores in Broomfield, Westminster, Thornton, Lakewood, Brighton, and Denver. For earlier stories, search Newsflash by "Broomfield."










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

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