St. Albans, VT. Governor "Dead Wrong" At Wal-Mart Opening
Sue Prent is one of the diehard activists in St. Albans, Vermont who fought the opening of a Wal-Mart in the town on the edge of the city with the same name.
This small community battled Bentonville for almost 20 years. They beat Wal-Mart once in 1995--but like cheap pair of Chinese underwear, Wal-Mart kept creeping up on St. Albans. The same developer who built a Sprawl-Mart in Williston, Vermont, pushed his way past the weak Act 250 nvironmental law in Vermont, and this past week opened up a new superstore---within spitting distance of a Price Chopper, Hannafords, Peebles, and other box stores.
Here is the text of Sue Prent's most recent entry on The Green Mountain Daily about Wal-Mart's opening---and how the Governor of Vermont, Peter Shumlin, has betrayed the smart growth movement in Vermont:
"It's mornings like this that remind me why I became a Progressive.
I opened my Freeps [Burlington Free Press]to find out what I missed at the Walmart opening in St. Albans, only to discover that Peter Shumlin was on hand, eager to wrap himself in hyperbolic "Walmart fever," so that he might pick up the stink of cheap exploitation for the purpose of...cheap exploitation(?)
Quoth our good governor: Anyone Who says Walmart and downtown can't thrive together is dead wrong. We're here to prove it.
So, Governor, are we to understand that you have joined the Walmart club, embracing all that that represents... crap made in China, low wages, union bashing, predatory pricing, bait and switch and all?
You've had quite a change of heart since you appeared and spoke at the first event held at Hudak Farm in 2003 to raise awareness of the damage the proposed Walmart would mean to the local economy and the tragic waste of prime agricultural soil the project would claim. Of course, back then, you were vying with Peter Welch (who also spoke) for the Democratic nomination to fill Bernie's vacated congessional seat.
I'll be having a good look at your campaign finance records next year.
Well, sir, you may have noticed that our downtown, pretty as it looks in its TIF finery, has already gone south after more than ten long years of Walmart waiting in the wings.
Gone are the pharmacy, toy and bookstore, clothing store and children's shop that were the last to resign under the dark shadow of discount doom. Well before then went the stationary store, supermarket, department store, shoe stores, menswear, appliance and furniture stores; more childrens and ladies' wear stores... every department of J.C. Penney except women's wear.
Once the predatory giant marked St. Albans for its own years ago, no general merchandiser was foolish enough to set its sights on downtown. We know because we have been told as much.
So, what are we left with in our pretty new cityscape? Giftshops and galleries; antiques and vintage clothing; coffee shops, restaurants and bars. All very nice places to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there.
St. Albans is no longer the shiretown it once was; a place where working-class people gathered from all over the countryside to visit the post office and do their essential shopping while they gossiped with their neighbors, discussed local politics and made new social connections.
We still have the courthouse and city hall; and the post office is over there in the little shopping center, but it doesn't have a generous lobby anymore, where people used to hang out and shoot the breeze for half an hour at a time.
Now we all pile into our cars and drive to the edge of town, to hurriedly "get 'er done" before heading home to the TV.
I know that shiretown will never return; that the worst damage has already been done to our downtown by Walmart and the culture of discount ultra-consumerism that it spawned. It remains to be see whether or not the gentrified froth that remains of our traditional downtown can actually be economically viable.
I sincerely hope that it can; but Governor, if it turns out to be a dud, I will remind you of your words often and at inconvenient times.
Here's hoping both you and Big Jim (who has expressed his wish to do so) get to serve out some years as Walmart greeters. You deserve as much."
What you can do: Readers are urged to email Governor Shumlin at http://governor.vermont.gov/contact-us/opinion with the following message:
Dear Governor Sprawlin,
"Either you or I are dead wrong about Wal-Marts and downtowns.
If you think Wal-Mart is going to prove you right---sit down with Peebles, Hannafords or Price Chopper, and ask them to explain to you the concept of market share. Or sit down with the Hudak's and talk about farming in Vermont.
Your willingness to stand with Wal-Mart at a time when they are the most reviled employer in the nation, also says something about your lack of understanding of job growth, and of jobs with a fair wage. Wal-Mart has also depended heavily on Medicaid to keep its health care costs down.
The city of St. Albans is struggling already. The downtown is weak. This is not Burlington, where a University can support small boutique businesses. St. Albans is a working community, and they have already suffered economically because of growth on the edge of town by the interstate.
I believe you are dead wrong---and it won't take more than a few years to prove it. The opening of a Wal-Mart superstore is a blot on your environmental and economic resume as Governor."