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Keri's Thoughts

San Diego Saved, Big Box Ordinance Veto Overturned!

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San Diego Saved, Big Box Ordinance Veto Overturned!

Postby Keri Tom » Thu Dec 02, 2010 6:35 pm

San Diego is saved!
Today I was a witness to history. I attended a city council meeting in downtown San Diego. I promise this won't be boring, but a brief explanation is in order: This was about a land ordinance issue, making it so that large corporations who might want to do business here would have to abide by the same rules the rest of us must adhere to. The city council had already voted for the measure, the mayor had vetoed it, and council was meeting again to vote to overturn it (or not). Read that again: it was a land ordinance issue, not a "Let's block Walmart" campaign, meaning that before a big company can build here they must first do economic and environmental reports to prove how their business would benefit the community.

What was interesting yet saddening is the abuse and exploitation of some members of our society without their even realizing it.

A large group of church goers and their pastor were present. The pastor make an impassioned speech, supposed to be directed at the council members, but he mainly turned to address his parishioners. He spoke of jobs opening up, better fruits and vegetables available to our community, cheaper products available to the residents which would then allow them to save more money, more tax dollars being funneled back into the city for police, libraries, etc., if only Walmart were allowed to build bigger stores here. Everybody wins. His speech was punctuated often with his group's assent - many a boisterous and enthusiastic "Amen!" and "Tell it!" could be heard. This group was clearly in favor of the council upholding the mayor's veto, believing that Big Box stores would be a huge benefit to their community. He was not the only one to speak, but he left the biggest impression.

Two points to bring up: many managers from local Walmarts spoke, telling us how wonderful their career is. It was also pointed out that several Fortune 500 grocery companies that ranked about #175 would be the only ones to profit from this ordinance if it were overturned.

When Council President Ben Hueso finally spoke, he voiced his displeasure at these two issues: First, the majority of the vocal parishioners were African American, and he pointed out that every manager that had spoken was a white male, leading people to wonder who gets promoted in those stores and who doesn't. This received much applause from the parishioners, who 15 minutes earlier were applauding these managers! Secondly, Hueso asked what Walmart's ranking was on the Fortune 500: You might guess (correctly) that it is number one. He then mentioned that of the top 25 wealthiest in the US, 22 are Walmart founders and execs, worth about $20 billion apiece. This tidbit of news garnered much protest from this very same group that was rallying hard to defend Walmart not even a half hour prior! There was much shaking of the head, "Tsk! Tsk!" and "How shameful!"

It turns out that Walmart had made a $15,000 "donation" to this particular minister's church, and had chartered a bus to collect the people and bring them to the council meeting in order to sway the vote.

It was clear that these people had no idea why they were even there. They had to have been told: Hey, come on down, participate in local government events, make your world a better place, plus you'll get a free t-shirt. It was very sad to see that they didn't realize what had happened and that they had just been used as a pawn, a tool; that Walmart really doesn't care who goes where as long as the council chambers are full of a vociferous group that promotes Walmart and nothing else. I wonder how many went home and felt like they made a difference in their community and came away with a sense of civic pride; I hope they all did. I also hope they will realize they had just been exploited and duped into promoting an issue that was completely irrelevant to the issue at hand. It's unbelievable that something like this could still happen in this day and age.

In the end, the council members did overturn the mayor's veto, allowing small businesses to remain so; San Diego does not want the proven neighborhood blight that happens when Big Box comes to town and causes all others to close up shop.

Thank you San Diego City Council (Tony Young, Ben Hueso, Donna Frye, Marti Emerald, Todd Gloria) for looking out for your constituents; us. :D

Supercenter Veto Squashed
By Katie Orr

December 2, 2010

SAN DIEGO — You can still build a massive supercenter store in San Diego. But you’re going to have to do some additional studies beforehand. The city council has overturned a mayoral veto that would have blocked tougher regulations for supercenter developers.

There weren’t any changes of heart when it came to this ordinance that could limit the development of stores like Walmart Super Centers. The mayor made good on his promise to veto the measure. But before the veto ink was dry, the council scheduled a special meeting to override it.

Supercenters are classified as stores that sell groceries and other merchandise and are larger than 90,000 square feet. Councilman Tony Young called in from Denver to ensure the five votes were there to keep the tough environmental and economic studies in place. But that didn’t stop several of his constituents, like Ray Smith Jr., from trying to change Young’s mind.

“We need jobs, more than you can believe it. When we walk down our streets we have drugs and all that kind of stuff and no opportunity,” Smith Jr. said.

Councilmembers Carl DeMaio and Kevin Faulconer said supercenters give consumers more choice and that San Diego should welcome any tax revenue and jobs that come with them. But Young said he’s tried to get stores like Walmart to open in his district for years with no luck. He said he would still back an appropriately sized store in the Fourth District. But he said studies are needed for the bigger superstores.

“Think about Lincoln high school. You see how huge that is? That’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a huge site,” Young said.

Walmart had launched a fierce campaign against the measure. The company’s Aaron Rio singled out Councilman Todd Gloria and labor unions for backing it.

“This ordinance was written, planned and orchestrated by organized labor in a desperate attempt to protect market share for the Fortune 500 it represents,” he said.

Rio said union members who testified in favor of the ordinance work at large grocery stores who don’t want additional competition. He said Walmart may choose not to build anymore stores in the City of San Diego or it may try to force a public vote on the measure.

Gloria shook his head during Rio’s testimony and was straightforward in his response.

“This is not an emotional issue. This is a land use item. This is appropriate land-use policy and it deserves my colleagues support,” he said.

Gloria said the ordinance doesn’t prevent supercenters from opening, it just requires extra studies be done before they can. He said the measure will ensure more choice for consumers and protect small and neighborhood businesses.

In the end arguments over whether superstores were good or bad for consumers didn’t sway any council members. The five members who’d voted for the ordinance originally backed it again and the mayor’s veto was overturned.
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Keri Tom
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