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2007-07-21
Oakley, CA. Young City Warned About Wal-Mart

In early July, it was reported that Wal-Mart had submitted plans to build a supercenter in Oakley, California. The superstore would be located on 76 acres of land near Highway 160. Wal-Mart picked the evocative name of "River Oaks Crossing" for its huge, 220,012-square-foot store. "We're very excited about this opportunity here in Oakley," a Wal-Mart public affairs employee said. "We know already there are thousands of customers shopping in our stores in Antioch, Pittsburg and Martinez. We have heard loud and clear that they want to shop closer to home. The reception has been overwhelmingly positive." Wal-Mart claims the new store in Oakley will " generate about 450 local jobs" with full benefit packages. "Our retail positions pay $10.77 an hour; however, it would be slightly higher here in the Bay Area," Wal-Mart said. "And with those jobs come full health and dental coverage, 401k's and profit sharing. That is for full and part time. We know we can have a positive impact on Oakley." The San Francisco Business Times reported that Oakley's economic development director was also "enthusiastic at the prospect" of the supercenter. "We estimate that Oakley residents are currently spending $150 million annually on retail goods in Antioch, Brentwood and other cities," Oakley's ED director told the media. "We would like to recapture that revenue and put it to good use for Oakley residents. "This is just the kind of big box retailer Oakley needs. We want to bring our dollars back to, and keep them in, Oakley. Every town needs to have basic goods and services, and nothing else will come here until we have that in place." She claimed the River Oaks Crossing project will double the city's annual sales tax revenue. But Oakley already has 8 Wal-Marts within 25 miles, including the Antioch store on Lone Tree Way less than 4 miles from this site. The city has already enacted an ordinance that bans construction of supercenters. But Oakley Mayor Kevin Romnick seems to be oblivious to any concerns about Wal-Mart. "The proposed project will generate much-needed sales tax revenue for Oakley to fund police and fire services, and to maintain and upgrade streets, parks and other infrastructure. The venture will also stimulate Oakley's commercial development, create new jobs in the community, and provide additional shopping opportunities for our residents." But some residents say that Oakley is already saturated with nearby Wal-Marts. "I do not want Wal-Mart here in town because Wal-Mart brings crime and extra traffic to towns," one resident told the Brentwood Press. "Wal-Mart has a history of closing down grocery stores and other stores, and we don't need to lose small businesses here. We can handle going to Antioch to buy our big purchases and leave our town without a big box. We don't need any of it."

What you can do: Oakley was created as a city in 1999, so it is one of the youngest cities in America. It's population is around 26,000. The city, which is only an hour's drive from San Francisco, boasts of its "bountiful agricultural" heritage, and describes the community as "a fishing and boating paradise." Part of its tourist pitch outlines the area's "gently rolling hills, crisscrossed by country lanes and patch-worked with vineyards and orchards." They don't mention Wal-Marts in that description. In fact, the city's leadership says its "working to maintain Oakley's small town character while strongly encouraging the development of new industries to employ the growing local workforce." City officials in Oakley would do well to inquire why the nearby city of Antioch rejected an effort by Wal-Mart to expand its discount store into a 24 hour superstore. Wal-Mart says, "That application is still pending, and we are still actively pursuing the expansion. Of course, there are special interest groups out there that have participated in the process in Antioch and Concord, too." The next step for the Oakley store is to go before the city's Planning Commission, which may not happen until December. The absurdity here is that city officials in Oakley issued a joint press release with Wal-Mart, in which they said "City officials are committed to making this location a signature development for Oakley and the region, as well as an economic engine for its residents. This project will be located on property zoned for commercial uses and will provide community benefits that go far beyond its commercial footprint." With such a ringing endorsement, how can city officials now ensure that "the proposal will undergo thorough environmental and economic reviews in addition to a detailed and comprehensive public review process?" The city has already decided the outcome of this process. To give Mayor Romick your views on Wal-Mart, drop him an email at kevin@romick.net or send one to the City Council at: council@ci.oakley.ca.us. Tell Mayor Romick: "Wal-Mart is not a form of economic development. You will see lost jobs and lost revenues when you add more redundant retail. And what about your commitment to small town character? This store will be nearly 4 times the size of a football field? Do you think grabbing sales tax from Antioch is going to solve your financial problems? Have you factored in the increased cost of police and fire monitoring of this store? Welcoming Wal-Mart will be the biggest mistake your little community has made in its eight year history."










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

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