Thanks to the Occupy Wall Street movement, I think anti-corporate sentiment is at an all time high. Some of that is deserved. Some of it isn’t. Last week on my Facebook page, I mentioned Walmart’s plans to build a new facility in Central Tacoma. 94 comments later, I realize this is an issue people have distinct opinions about. What struck me was that while there were people perfectly fine with Walmart’s plans, not one of them would say that Walmart was a good company that does good things for its workers and the community. I thought of writing an article about exactly how I feel about this and why I feel that way, but I decided instead to contact one of the people heading up the No Walmart Campaign in Tacoma. His name is Justin Leighton. He’s been nice enough to join me for 5 Question Friday today.
1. How did you get involved in the No Walmart in Tacoma campaign?
I have served on the Central Neighborhood Council (CNC) for almost three years years. This site, the Elks Lodge on S. 23rd and Union, has been on our priorities list to follow for some time now. During a City Council Environmental Public Works meeting City Staff were asking the Council to pass an ordnance changed which would allow a “U-turn” at Union and S. 23rd. When asked “why” staff said they didn’t know and the developers in the room said they were not in a position to say. This sent up the red flags for the CNC, considering we had not heard anything regarding that site. We usually get notices in our mail regarding developments that happen in our boundaries, and that never happened for this site. After the EPW meeting I immediately updated our Chair and we assumed the worst and the worst was true! The CNC issued a press release (here) the week Walmart was announced denouncing their plans! It’s all history from there!
2. What do you feel are the biggest negative impacts of a Walmart where the Elks Lodge used to be in Tacoma?
Traffic is the CNC’s biggest concern over all. They are planning to build a five way intersection at the corner of S. 23rd and Union. It is the CNC’s position that this area is over capacity. With four schools, Cheney Stadium and an already a overcrowded shopping center nearby this area needs a lower intensity use rather than 150,000 square foot Super Center! More over we believe strongly in a mixed-used low intensity design would be better for this location.
3. How do you respond to the argument that a new Walmart is going to bring in new jobs and help lower income families afford more?
300 jobs that are part time that pay minimum wage and offer zero benefits to their employees are not really jobs that I would argue is worth touting around town as a “win for Tacoma”. More often than not employees will look for Medicare for assistance and in some cases food stamps as well. There is a lot of research that shows that Walmart is actually a net job loss for communities once they move in. Visit our website Tacoma United Against Walmart where we have some good resources that talk about this. In addition many dislike the idea of a Walmart for pure social justice reasons. Walmart suppresses poverty from being empowered and does nothing to lift their own employees out of poverty. Moreover, Walmart is not creating a “new market” they are coming in to a crowded market and will just shift it. This will hurt the businesses that are already in the area! Look at what happened when the Tacoma Mall came to down!
4. What can people do if they want to get involved in the No Walmart in Tacoma campaign?
People can join our Facebook page No Walmart in Tacoma, visit our website www.TacomaunitedagainstWalmart.com and sign up to get e-mail alerts. We keep the website and Facebook up to date and it is the fastest way to know what action items we need people to do. We are urging people to write the Elks COO, Ron Forest at firstname.lastname@example.org and express their displeasure and how this is not what reflects our values in Tacoma. Finally we encourage people to write a letter to the editors expressing their concerns and displeasure of a potential Walmart. If you live near this site we ask that you speak up and consider appealing the SEPA. Property Owners within 300 feet of the site have standing to appeal.
5. Just so we’re not just bashing big corporations, what are some big corporations you believe have a positive impact on the community and why?
We can turn to our amazing business district in Tacoma and see what is working. The Food Co-Op is a prime example. I will continue to add that we would love to see an investment that will add value to our community. Is it walkable? Is it clean, safe and attractive? Does it add market value? We have enough “like” Walmart stores but what are we missing in Tacoma, and fill the void. Why not make it a mixed-use development with living, office space, and medical space. These are all ideas that overwhelmingly add value to our community. A Walmart will just put a 150,000 square foot one story store in the middle of a residential urban environment.
I’d like to thank Justin Leighton for sharing his views and participating in 5 Question Friday. If you’d like to find out more about the No Walmart In Tacoma Campaign, you can click on the links in this site. For more information on the Central Neighborhood Council, check out their site at: http://cnc-tacoma.com/
As always, if you or anyone you know wants to participate in 5 Question Friday, send me an email at email@example.com
– Jack Cameron
UPDATE: I don’t normally do this, but the following comment was posted with a memo from Ron Forest regarding the sale of the Elks property. I feel the memo is important enough to post in this article.
Property Sale\Update November 9, 2011
We’ve all been following the drama of the “Walmart” moratorium in the newspapers and on the web. As of now the drama has ended and the project is moving forward. The City is reviewing submittals in preparation to issue building permits and the boundary line adjustments.
What’s that mean to us? Well, as the November 1st deadline for our buyer to close on the property came and went, there were some tense moments felt by us all. We had advised our real estate team that we would be accepting other offers for the property. Our current buyer (JLO) was advised of this also. JLO had been frustrated by the delays caused by the City’s emergency moratorium on big boxes. JLO has been working very hard to push the City to complete the permitting process so the project could go forward. In the meantime we were looking at other offers for the property. JLO finally got the approval from the City. JLO needed 60 days to complete the deal with Walmart, knew we were prepared to accept another offer for the property and assumed the offer would be about the same price with a quicker closing date. So he quickly made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. They upped their current contract offer by $500K to compensate for the 2 month delay. (At $250K per month we can afford to wait for a while!)
We will continue to receive $22,500 per month, ($15K applicable but not refundable and $7500 not applicable or refundable) until we are paid the balance in January.
We have decided to hold to our decision not to tear down the Allenmore building until we have the full funds in hand. However we are looking into the possibility of beginning construction on the 3000 sq. pavilion immediately.
Ron Forest, PER, C.O.O.