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2007-03-21
Littleton, CO. Citizens Take Wal-Mart To The Ballot

The Mayor of Littleton, Colorado told the Denver Post that his community voted for a Wal-Mart supercenter for a very straightforward reason. "The city needs the money," Littleton Mayor Jim Taylor said. "It's that simple." This is the same commuity that Sprawl-Busters reported wanted to fine residents $1,000 for wearing anti-Wal-Mart T shirts to city hearings. There are several Wal-Marts within a short drive of Littleton, but the Mayor wants some Wal-Mart cash to balance his budget. But he has no economic analysis that suggests the city would wind up a winner. The land Wal-Mart picked out was not correctly zoned. But the Littleton City Council obliged the retailer by voting recently to rezone it from residential and agricultural, to commercial. One neighbor to the project, a real estate broker for 37 years in Littleton, told the newspaper that several of his properties near the store have already lost 10% of their value, and he's trying to sell them as quickly as possible at low, everyday prices. The proximity of this project to residential property in part prompted a group to form, called simply, "Littleton Against Wal-Mart." Right after the city council rezoned land for Wal-Mart, the group continued its fight by going to the ballot. The citizens group sent out the following email to its supporters this week: "The City Clerk has just certified the citizen petition to force a Wal-Mart project to a public vote. Littleton Against Wal-Mart needed about 3,000 signatures to force the city council decision to approve the store to a public vote. The grass roots citizen group pounded the pavement to gather nearly 6,500 signatures. The city clerk stopped counting after she certified there were more than the required number of certified signatures. The Littleton City Council, which overwhelmingly backed the project, will decide whether there will be a special election soon or wait till the general election. The council could repeal their ordinance approving zoning for the controversial super-store, but that seems doubtful, given their unwavering support of the project in the face of overwhelming public opposition. The project cannot proceed till after an election. This is a great victory for this grass-roots group and for the nearly 1,000 Local 7 members who either work in grocery stores in Littleton or live in the city. The key arguments against the project have been that it backs up against a large regional park and the perception that the city is in Wal-Mart's pocket. Wal-Mart will now bring out the big guns to beat the citizen referendum. In the vote on a Wal-Mart in Westminster last year, the corporation spent about $200,000 for massive mailings and to form a "citizens group" of their own. In spite of that, citizen support is so strong and they have worked so hard I believe they can pull this off!"

What you can do: It is often Wal-Mart that goes to a referendum when a community votes against them. The retailer knows that it can spend big in little towns, and their form of corporate democracy is predicated on the principle that whoever spends the most money, gets the most votes. It is an uphill climb for citizen's groups, who often hold bake sales to fight the world's largest retailer, but Sprawl-Busters was created in 1993 out of a referendum battle that we won, and since that date, many referendums have defeated big box stores. Not only are residents in Littleton fighting Wal-Mart, they are fighting their own Mayor and City Council. In many cases, citizens are also fighting their local newspapers as well. Wal-Mart likely will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in telemarketing, direct mail, and voter turnout. Littleton Against Wal-Mart will never match the company dollar for dollar, but the citizens have a resource that Wal-Mart cannot buy: footsoldiers who live in the city, and who know that you can't buy small town quality of life at a superstore. And once they take it from you, they can't sell it back at any price. For related stories, search Newsflash by "referendum" and "Littleton."










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

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