Sunday, July 17, 2005

Who ya gonna...?

Is Wall-Mart gunning for your town? Are you afraid that Home Depot is going to put your favorite hardware store out of business? Who ya gonna call?
Sprawl-busters !

Sprawl-busters is "an international clearinghouse on big box anti-sprawl information."
No matter what the logo on the building says--Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Target, Lowe's, Kohls, CVS--if its unwanted development, Sprawl-Busters can help you stop it. In hundreds of communities, we have helped citizens groups strategize and carry out a plan to stop the superstores. Our Newsflash page contains the latest on big box battles from around the globe, and the book "Slam Dunking Wal-Mart" has become a citizen's classic for hands-on combat with Sprawl-Marts. If a big box store is causing you a big problem, call on Sprawl-Busters! Local visits can be arranged. Contact Your quality of life is worth more than a cheap pair of underwear.
Their website documents 280 victories when cities and towns were able to block the big box stores "at least once." It's heartening. Want to persuade people that these stores bring problems? Review this list to bolster your arguments:

The 10 sins of retail sprawl:

  1. It destroys the economic and environmental value of land
  2. It encourages an inefficient land-use pattern that is very expensive to serve.
  3. It fosters redundant competition between local governments, an economic war of tax incentives.
  4. It forces costly infrastructure development at the edge of towns.
  5. It causes disinvestment from established core commercial areas.
  6. It requires the use of public tax support for revitalizing rundown core areas.
  7. It degrades the visual, aesthetic character of local communities.
  8. It lowers the value of other commercial and residential property, reducing public revenues.
  9. It weakens the sense of place and community cohesiveness.
  10. It masquerades as a form of economic development.

And these points don't even touch on the labor and balance-of-trade problems. I went through three months of article from the site about Wal-Mart and learned about these labor issues:

  • Time Theft: A computer expert hired by the plaintiffs found 7,000 examples in a one year period where Wal-Mart managers deleted large blocks of time from their employee payroll records.
  • Intimidation: Wal-Mart employees are afraid to file workers' compensation claims out of fear of retaliation.
  • Child Labor: For the past ten years or more, Wal-Mart has run afoul of federal and state officials in a number of states for violating child labor laws. The over-sized retailer has worked children excessive hours, and given them dangerous machinery to operate.
  • Missed List: Once again, the world's biggest and richest retailer has failed to make it into the top "100 Best Companies to Work For."
  • Janitorgate: Wal-Mart had agreed to settle a lawsuit against it for $11 million for using illegal workers to clean its stores.
  • Sweatshops: Wal-Mart admits that nearly 80% of its outsourcing factories have serious labor rights problems.

None of this has slowed Wal-Mart's growth. To bring the growth rates to life, consider this:

If Wal-Mart grows in the next eight years as it has in the previous eight, it will control 100% of general merchandise sales in the United States; if it grows in the next 16 years as it has in the previous 16 years, it will control all of the non-auto retailing volume in the United States; if the same growth pattern for the next 24 years is like the previous 24 years, Wal-Mart will control all of the county's Gross Domestic Product.

That may have seemed like a joke in 1994, but Wal-Mart now has more sales than the Gross Domestic Product of Israel, Greece, Ireland and Egypt. A Price Waterhouse report says that by the year 2005 just 10 companies, including Wal-Mart, will control 50% of food store sales.

Thank goodness for dedicated people like Al Norman who have made it their life's work to stop the madness. He helps Home Town America fight back. Now you know who ya gonna call.


Jay Denari said...

Wow. I knew SprawlMart was evil, but not quite this evil.

Why aren't these people arrested and charged under the RICO statutes?!?

Liz Logan said...

Ditto. That site was an eye opener.

Folks do use the legal system to block the big box stores. Some towns have developed laws that limit the footprint, for example. There are lots of encouraging stories of fighting back in the articles section.

UNplanner said...

Some states also afford you better protection than others. California's environmental laws make it difficult--but not impossible--for contreversial projects like walmart from passing.

You gotta have deep pockets to play the game in this state, and even Walmart chalks up points in the Loss Column.

Walmart's California Supercenter strategy circa 2000: Open 40 supercenters across the state. Open so far: maybe 10% of that figure. Some have been scaled back and other defeated.

Notable defeats: 2004, Inglewood. Walmart loses a special election it instigated to build a super walmart in that downtrodden community. City council had previously rejected that project.

2004, Bakersfield. Walmart loses a big lawsuit when the 5th district finds its EIR's invalid on BOTH of its proposed 2 supercenter projects. City is forced to redo the process and STOP all construction in progress. Walmart is left with one store with a poured slab foundation and the other half completed. The earliest they could conceivably open up is next year.

2003-present. Visalia. Walmart has had ongoing difficulties even securing a property to seek a permit on. Existing walmart site footprint constrained. Walmart picks first location. Community protest due to traffic, a hostile planning commission (site was not zoned for that type of commercial)and the fact it is only 5 miles from an existing walmart (which it would canabalize sales from). Walmart withdraws, looks at second site. Determines that locating near an industrial park not a wise choice. Picks third site only to have landowner pull a fast one and sign with another developer. So what do they do now? Back to looking at expanding existing site, which will require demolishing an office and a church. Fortunately, the office is now mostly vacant and the church, pro walmart. Not a done deal by a long shot.

So you see, they are not invincible. Still, even in california, if you have deep enough pockets you can pretty much over come.

Jay Denari said...

the fact it is only 5 miles from an existing walmart

That's something I've never understood about their building "philosophy" (if it deserves that word): they seem to do this all the time! Just two towns from here, they're building one despite a lot of opposition. They already have one in my town, and their whole policy is to build, let the older ones go under, and refuse to sell the vacant stores so some other business(es) can reuse them responsibly. Presumably, they also write the vacant branches off their taxes, so each new building adds to OUR social service and infrastructure burden from both directions (ie in the tax breaks they usually get for building and in the amount of taxes we pay to make up for the taxes they don't pay on vacant places).