Last Tuesday, the San Diego City Council voted to repeal a requirement for superstore developers to conduct an economic impact analysis after Wal-Mart completed a deceptive campaign to force the City’s hand: Put the policy on the ballot at a cost of $3 million during tough budget times, or get rid of it altogether.
Ironically, just days before the City Council decision, Wal-Mart announced it was going to build up to 12 new stores in San Diego over the next five years. Just as the world’s largest and most anti-union retailer gears up to build a dozen new stores in San Diego, the San Diego public and its decision-makers are now handcuffed from asking Wal-Mart the tough but necessary questions about their Supercenters’ impacts on local jobs and the community.
The city law in question is the Ordinance to Protect Small and Neighborhood Businesses. More than 65 percent of San Diegans who were polled said they support the law, which would have required Wal-Mart or any other superstore developer to disclose the impact of the new 90,000-square-foot store on job quality, local tax revenue, city services, small businesses and property values in the area.
In its typical raw showing of corporate power, Wal-Mart fought the ordinance because it demanded better transparency of its own business practices. Wal-Mart has devastated mom-and-pop businesses, Main Streets, and local job quality for years, and its superstores pose an even higher threat on local economies. Recent campaign disclosures show Wal-Mart’s PAC spent more than $1.2 million on misleading advertisements and high-priced lobbyists to intimidate the City Council into backing off the ordinance. Last Tuesday, their wish came true. Only City Councilmember Marti Emerald stood up for working families and local communities, as the ordinance was repealed on a 7-to-1 vote.
Just as it intimidated the City Council into repealing the law, you can count on Wal-Mart bullying its way through the permitting process for its planned 12 new stores. The community will continue to ask for answers about the impact of superstores on local jobs and businesses, but now Wal-Mart will never have to provide the answers.
Fortunately, the fight isn’t over. State Senator Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, announced the day after the City Council vote that he will be introducing a state bill that would require superstore developers to conduct economic impact reports.
We should be demanding more from corporations that want to do business in our community, not allowing them to put our communities’ local economies at risk with no questions asked. If the San Diego City Council won’t stand up to Wal-Mart, the State of California should.