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2014-03-10
Green Bay, WI. Wal-Mart Proposal For Downtown Superstore Goes Down Hard

It wasn't even close.

A proposed 154,000 s.f . Wal-Mart superstore on 15 acres in downtown Green Bay, Wisconsin was defeated March 4th by a unanimous 12-0 vote of the Green Bay City Council. The only people who seemed upset by the defeat were a couple of Republican elected officials who accepted money from the Walton billionaires.

Wal-Mart wanted the land rezoned to allow a huge, single-story, suburban box, but the City Council voted to classify the property for "downtown use." This designation limits the size, and the kinds of buildings that can be built on the site.

The Council vote was a sign of support for the work of the city's Plan Commission, which voted in late January to recommend a 'mixed use' project for the city's downtown. The Commission wanted to preserve the unique historic downtown district and the denser development.

The Council hearing lasted three hours, with most of the testimony opposed to the store. "I think there is a need for a retail store downtown," one Alderman said. "Wal-Mart has expressed a desire, but I do think that if we do mixed-use development, Wal-Mart can be part of that picture." "If they don't want to go smaller that's fine," another Alderman said, " but as far as I'm concerned, if they are not, we should be looking at other opportunities with other developers, and I'm very confident that other developers will come forward."

Last month, when it became apparent that Wal-Mart's superstore was not going over in Green Bay, one elected official, State. Rep. John Klenke, told the media that he had changed his mind about using $2 million in state funds for an unrelated Convention Center if the City Council voted down Wal-Mart. Once a leader in favor of state support for the Center, Klenke reversed position in early February, hoping to influence the Council's vote. "If you're not going to help yourself then why should we help you?" Klenke said. When asked why he had a change of heart, Klenke told the Green Bay Gazette, "It's not about Wal-Mart first of all. For me, it's about economic growth and tax base in the city of Green Bay."

But the Republican lawmaker's switch clearly exasperated the Democratic Mayor of Green Bay, Jim Schmitt, who has been a consistent supporter of the $23 million Convention Center, and a consistent opponent of the Wal-Mart suburban style superstore.

Schmitt said the Convention Center got "a lot of accolades when we were down there, so for him to want to pull back on something that he was kind of champion of, so we're confused. To tell us where to build a Wal-Mart, I think we're a little more about local control and I think he and I need to have a discussion on that."

But Fox 11 News had a theory about what was motivating Rep. Klenke. According to a Fox 11 Fact Check, 4 members of the Walton family contributed $4,500 to Klenke's campaign. Klenke told Fox News he'd have the same approach even if it were not a Wal-Mart.

Klenke wasn't the only recipient of Walton money who spoke up in favor of Wal-Mart's proposed downtown superstore. Republican Governor Scott Walker, who has benefited from thousands of dollars in donations from the Walton family, sent a note to the media saying he was "hopeful Green Bay will continue to move forward with efforts to bring employers into the city."

A website called "Walmart 1%" called Klenke "the State Representative from Wal-Mart," and noted that "despite the fact that none of them live in Wisconsin, six Waltons were among the top fifteen political donors in Wisconsin state legislative races from 2009-2010, the cycle that brought Republicans to power in the state... It looks like the Waltons' political contributions continue to pay off."

In the end, Wal-Mart couldn't muster a single vote for its superstore, but there is no doubt the company will come back for a second time with a slightly smaller footprint.


Readers are urged to email Rep. John Klenke, at Rep.Klenke@legis.wisconsin.gov with the following message:

"Dear Representative Klenke,

It was great to see such a transparent political move on your part when you threatened to stop state funding for a Convention Center expansion in Green Bay if the City Council did not vote for a suburban Wal-Mart superstore in downtown Green Bay.
No one had to wonder about the impact of the Walton money on your reversal. Even Fox News found it worth reporting that you and Governor Walker had both flocked to Wal-Mart's defense.

Do not fear that if Wal-Mart's store has to shrink, that the Walton's future contributions will shrink too. I have every confidence that the Waltons will continue to be a major contributor to elected officials who see the value of their proposed positions on the issues.

Wal-Mart is not a form of economic development. It is a form of economic displacement, because its "new" jobs are merely transferred from existing merchants. In the meantime, taxpayers continue to subsidize the Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers, and earned income tax credits for hundreds of thousands of Walton workers across Wisconsin and America.

Perhaps you might ask the Waltons a variant of the same question you asked Green Bay: "If you're not going to help your own workers, then why should we help you?"

What you can do: In the end, Wal-Mart couldn't muster a single vote for its superstore, but there is no doubt the company will come back for a second time with a slightly smaller footprint.

Readers are urged to email Rep. John Klenke, at Rep.Klenke@legis.wisconsin.gov with the following message:

"Dear Representative Klenke,

It was great to see such a transparent political move on your part when you threatened to stop state funding for a Convention Center expansion in Green Bay if the City Council did not vote for a suburban Wal-Mart superstore in downtown Green Bay.

No one had to wonder about the impact of the Walton money on your reversal. Even Fox News found it worth reporting that you and Governor Walker had both flocked to Wal-Mart's defense.

Do not fear that if Wal-Mart's store has to shrink, that the Walton's future contributions will shrink too. I have every confidence that the Waltons will continue to be a major contributor to elected officials who see the value of their proposed positions on the issues.

Wal-Mart is not a form of economic development. It is a form of economic displacement, because its "new" jobs are merely transferred from existing merchants. In the meantime, taxpayers continue to subsidize the Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers, and earned income tax credits for hundreds of thousands of Walton workers across Wisconsin and America.

Perhaps you might ask the Waltons a variant of the same question you asked Green Bay: "If you're not going to help your own workers, then why should we help you?"










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

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