View From Lodi, CA: Joe's War Against Wal-Mart
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View From Lodi, CA: Against Sprawl In A Small Town

When you're considering how to vote on Measure R, make sure you grasp the big picture.

Given Wal-Mart's history, your vote may determine not only a single Super Wal-Mart is built but also whether, over time, two or more additional stores might be constructed.

In her recent Lodi News-Sentinel story titled "Misleading Measure R mailers hit Lodi voters", reporter Jennifer Pearson Bonnett correctly encouraged residents to "allow the facts to be their primary influence in the ballot box."

Added Bonnett, "Without a crystal ball, nobody can say what will happen to Lodi if Measure R passes."

But the facts of Wal-Mart's track record tell us exactly what we can expect. If the Super Wal-Mart is built in Lodi, the old one will close and remain empty for the foreseeable future.

Look at Stockton. At 6:00 P.M. the evening before the Supercenter opened, the old Wal-Mart closed its doors.

Wal-Mart is never satisfied. More Supercenters are planned in Galt, Manteca and Eight Mile Road.

Oklahoma City is an example of how Wal-Mart overwhelms a town within just a few years.

As is its practice, Wal-Mart started slowly in Oklahoma City by opening three supercenters on the edges of town. Then, over a four year period from 1998-2002, Wal-Mart built nine more supercenters, seven Neighborhood Markers and two Sam's Clubs.

All over the country, outraged citizens who oppose rampant, uncontrolled growth are fighting an uphill battle against Wal-Mart.

First, the anti-growth forces have to mobilize enough residents who understand the threat that Wal-Mart represents. Then, they must go toe to toe with the same pro-Wal-Mart cabal in every city: the local Chamber of Commerce, the City Council and the town newspaper.

So it is with Lodi.

The Lodi Chamber of Commerce predictably supports Wal-Mart. The Chamber of Commerce's national website states that: "When it comes to representing American business—strength and reputation matter. That's why 3 million companies of all sizes look to us to advance their interests before Congress, government agencies, and the courts."

Please note: the Chamber of Commerce promotes business interests, not yours. All the advertising paid for in the Lodi News-Sentinel should be read with the organization's agenda in mind.

Walking in lockstep with the Chamber of Commerce is the Lodi City Council. The Building Industry Association of the Delta employs John Beckman, Lodi's Mayor Pro Tempore.

According to the BIA website, the organization provides "powerful legislative advocacy." BIA also seeks to develop "local, regional, state and national 'clout' in dealing with issues that threaten our livelihood."

The City Council should have followed the example set in Los Angeles. In August, the Council proposed an ordinance that would require stores over 100,000 feet that include full grocery department to hire a consultant to examine not only issues such as potential traffic increases but also the store's economic effect on the surrounding community.

The required economic analysis would

"examine the number of jobs to be created and the level of wages a new store would pay, and compare it to existing jobs and wages likely to be pushed out due to competition. Because superstores sell groceries, shoppers are more likely to use them as their sole daily shopping center, draining customers from local strip malls with nail salons, movie-rental stores and pizza shops."[City Council Sends Notice to Big Box Stores, Copley News Service, August 10, 2004

By Alison Shackelford and David Zahniser]

Finally, the Lodi News-Sentinel wrote a disappointing editorial urging that voters "soundly" defeat Measure R. The News-Sentinel is betting that everything will work in practice just as the Wal-Mart has promised.

The editorial neglected to mention that, despite promises to find a tenant for the old store, the vast majority of "once occupied" Wal-Mart sites remain empty. Nearly 400 Wal-Marts representing approximately 35 million square feet have created the phenomenon called "the empty box syndrome."

Why would Wal-Mart treat Lodi any differently than it has treated other cities?

The editorial never mentioned the strong probability that both Food-4-Less and Safeway—employing a total of 200 people—would close when Wal-Mart opens.

Nor did the editorial address the concept of value added.

Simply put, a new Supercenter doesn't offer Lodians anything that is not already available to them.

If you are a small business owner, you should realize that a Wal-Mart Supercenter places your future at risk. Wal-Mart is in every retail business except furniture.

If Wal-Mart can put the New York Stock Exchange firm Toys 'R Us on the brink, it can wipe you out on a whim.

To support our neighbors, their businesses and to protect our quality of life, vote Yes on Measure R.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.

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