Arvada, CO. Wal-Mart Opponents Put $5.8 Million "Bailout for Billionaires" On City Ballot
A decade ago, the community of Arvada, Colorado managed to stop Wal-Mart from paving over a lake in their community. Now the retail giant is back---and this time opponents want to prevent a billionaire bailout for the Walton family at taxpayer's expense.
Here's how activist's described their encounter with Wal-Mart a decade ago:
"In the early fall of 2003, the City of Arvada, Colorado proceeded to serve eminent domain papers on the owners of a small lake claiming the lake was blighted for the purpose of draining the lake, filling it in, paving it over, and making it a truck turn-around for a proposed super Wal-Mart store.
Angry residents united and started petition drives to prevent the city from draining the lake. Thus, Arvada's "Save Our Lake" committee was formed. We had gathered over 1,000 signatures that supported our position and requested the city not to take the lake. The owners of the lake decided to fight and sued to have the eminent domain rescinded along with the blight designation.
In March of 2004 the Colorado Supreme reversed the lower court's ruling and gave the lake back to the original owners, stating that the blight study is outdated. The original blight study was done in 1981. The court also said that when the owners purchased the lake it had been done under the auspices of the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority and subsequently was cleared of the original blight. Therefore the Authority would have to do a new blight study to re-condemn the lake. We were also told that in March the contract with Wal-Mart and the developer had expired and no new contract was in the works."
Wal-Mart did return to Arvada, and with the support of the Arvada city council, votes were taken on July 15th to allow zoning changes for the superstore. The City Council voted 6-1 to support the zoning changes needed by a public-private partnership between the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority and Industrial Realty Group of Torrance, California, the owner of the Arvada Plaza property.
Under the public financing deal, the public entity, AURA, will refund sales taxes back to the private landowner,IRG---a total of $5.8 million towards the $9.1 million in public improvements being made to the site and the surrounding area. AURA has 12 years to pay the money to the private developer.
This means Arvada taxpayers are subsidizing the Walton billionaires with 64% of the funding needed to improve this private property. The city will lose out on nearly $6 million it would have received in sales tax from the store.
A group called SAW - Stop Arvada Walmart, filed a Letter of Intent to repeal two of the ordinances. Opponents now are focusing on an effort to undermine just the public financing for the project at the Arvada Plaza. They want to put the tax subsidy on the November ballot in Arvada, to give local residents a chance to vote on the tax financing portion of the plan.
SAW spokesperson Cindi Kreutzer told OurColoradoNews.com: "We've been advised by the city that the first ordinance they passed is not legislative in nature and is not referable, but the sales tax issue is. That also happens to be an issue everyone is concerned about anyway. We have citizens that are wondering where their money is going."
Stop Arvada Wal-Mart now must gather 7,246 signatures from registered voters by the close of work Thursday, Aug. 22, in order to place the sales tax financing issue on the ballot.
"It's money that would normally be spent doing things for our city where we live and it's sales tax money," Kreutzer told OurColoradoNews. "We keep hearing it's going to be people from Arvada that go to that store, so it's really our money -- it won't be my money, but it'll be most people of Arvada that shop there, it'll be their money -- and we expect that sales tax is used for things that affect all of us...that money belongs to us -- or it should -- it belongs to our city. And that's a point I'm trying really hard to make when I'm talking to people. This is our city and it should be up to us how it runs and what happens with it."
What you can do: Local taxpayers across the country have revolted against these public subsidies for rich developers. The Walton heirs, who control more than $113 billion in assets, can easily afford to pay their own way in Arvada. The idea that city taxpayers should give a special bailout to Wal-Mart is just another example of how the rich needlessly prey on the beleaguered working families of America. Let the Walton pay their for their own land improvements!
Readers are urged to learn more about the Stop Arvada Wal-Mart campaign to end the "bailout for billionaires" by going to www.qualityarvada.info
Readers are urged to send Wal-Mart a Tweet @WalmartHub with the following message: "Stop the bailout for billionaires. Return $5.8 M in sales tax to the people of Arvada, CO!"