Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Flight 93

I have been watching Flight 93 on A&E. So many different thoughts are going through my mind. I may have to vent about it on the radio show. But foremost are two:

1) We have a short memory. If people, like Cindy Sheehan, would watch this and remember what the big picture we could be more unified in what needs to be done. Speaking of Cindy Sheehan, she was arrested today.

2) Terrorists who kill civilians. People as they go about their day. I want to say "Get a life, you have zero respect from me, and I hope you burn in Hell." But that is just not as strong of a statement as I would like to make.

PARD's Cost To Pullman So Far

Since PARD filed its Site Plan appeal last October, Pullman has lost $233,716.33 in sales and property tax revenues.


Where's The Outrage Redux?

From today's Seattle Times:
At Boeing's annual leadership retreat earlier this month, the company's top lawyer delivered a devastating worst-case assessment of the potential damage that still looms from the company's recent ethics scandals.

General Counsel Doug Bain's unflinchingly direct speech offers an extraordinary look at the inner workings of a powerful company as it struggles to recover from scandal, retrieve its reputation and ensure ethical behavior in future.

"Was there a culture of win at any cost?' Bain asked his audience, some 260 top Boeing executives gathered in Orlando, Fla. "We now know what that cost is."

Bain tallied the severe sanctions he said are possible from two major scandals on Boeing's defense side and for alleged breaches of export laws. Boeing faces possible indictment by U.S. attorneys on both coasts, and the Department of Justice's assessment of damages exceeds $5 billion, he said. In addition, Boeing could be barred from government defense contracts or denied export licenses for both military and commercial sales, he said.

Bain also said 15 company vice presidents have been pushed out for various ethical lapses in recent years. "I found that to be an astronomically high number," he said.

The chilling litany seemed designed to get the attention of any Boeing executive remotely inclined to zone out during all the talk about ethics.

"There are some within the prosecutors' offices that believe that Boeing is rotten to the core," Bain said, according to a copy of the speech provided to The Seattle Times by a company insider. "They talk to us about pervasive misconduct and they describe it in geographic terms of spanning Cape Canaveral to Huntington Beach to Orlando to St. Louis to Chicago. They talk about it in terms of levels within the company that go from nonmanagement engineers to the chief financial officer."

Bain's remarks appear to contradict the widely held expectation that the government sometime this year will agree to a global settlement of the major scandals — with Boeing paying a fine in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and escaping further indictments. But people familiar with Boeing's position cautioned that a settlement on such terms is still expected.

Boeing spokesman John Dern said Bain was trying to shock his listeners into paying careful attention to ethics — not predicting legal outcomes.

"Bain's talk was intended to be provocative," said Dern. "There was a feeling it was vitally important for people to understand the worst-case potential for what could happen to the company."

Bain, who became general counsel in 1999 and is also a Boeing senior vice president, told the audience that his talk reflected "the perspective of the prosecutors and what they have told us," rather than Boeing's position on the legal issues.

He appeared to take the "scared straight" approach, personalizing the scandals for his executive audience. "These are not ZIP codes," Bain said, as he rattled off the federal prisoner numbers of Darleen Druyun, formerly a top Air Force procurement officer and then a Boeing executive, and Mike Sears, former Boeing chief financial officer.

Repeatedly he asked whether ultimate responsibility resided at the top — with his audience.

"Our jobs as the leaders of this enterprise is to establish a culture that ensures there is no next time," Bain said. "The bottom line is, we just cannot stand another major scandal."

"Dr. Death"

Among Bain's audience was Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney, who was aware in advance that the speech would be a downer.

"Good morning," Bain began. "As I walked up here, I think I heard Jim McNerney mutter, 'Here comes Dr. Death.' "

Bain said McNerney had asked for "a candid assessment of our major scandals and how we got there." Bain proceeded to deliver.

He launched into summaries of Boeing's two major scandals and their repercussions.

"The U.S. attorney in Los Angeles is looking at indicting Boeing for violations of the Economic Espionage Act, the Procurement Integrity Act, the False Claims Act and the Major Frauds Act," he said.

"The U.S. attorney in Alexandria, Va., is looking at indicting us for violation of the Conflict of Interest Laws. And both are looking to throw in a few conspiracy and aiding-and-abetting charges, for good measure.

"When we first met with the Department of Justice to see if we could resolve this, it's their view that Boeing's actions have tainted the [Air Force space rocket] EELV contract, the NASA 19-pack contract [a 2002 contract for up to 19 Delta rocket launches], and 27 Darleen Druyun-related contracts. Their estimate of damage is $5 billion to $10 billion."

The Los Angeles attorney's office is investigating the Lockheed Martin documents scandal. In 1997, McDonnell Douglas, which merged with Boeing later that year, hired away an engineer from Lockheed for its Delta space-rocket program. The engineer brought with him thousands of pages of documents containing proprietary pricing information that allegedly helped Boeing underbid its rival and win the biggest share of an Air Force rocket contract.

The Virginia attorney's office is dealing with the Pentagon procurement scandal. In 2002, then-CFO Sears offered a job to Druyun while she was acquisitions officer at the Air Force. She later admitted favoring Boeing on contracts as payback for personal favors, including the hiring of her daughter and son-in-law.

"How come in the year 2000 nobody said, 'Should we really be hiring the relatives of our chief procurement officer of the largest customer we have on the defense side?' " Bain asked.

The first scandal led to Boeing being stripped of the launches it had won, worth about $1 billion, and suspension from further rocket contracts for 20 months. Three employees have been indicted on felonies.

The second sent both Sears and Druyun to jail, forced the resignation of then-CEO Phil Condit and jeopardized major defense contracts, including the Air Force tanker program that would have secured up to 8,000 jobs in Everett.

"If this never happened, we'd be selling tankers to the U.S. government and Italy would not be our only customer," Bain said.

Bain also displayed a list of five areas of State Department concern over Boeing's export of various sensitive technologies. These have cost the company $50 million in fines, he said, not counting an ongoing investigation of charges that Boeing Commercial Airplanes illegally exported a restricted gyroscope embedded inside 737 jets.

"The State Department's view of Boeing is, we just don't get it," Bain said.

Settlement talks

Boeing spokesman Dern said global-settlement talks on the two defense scandals are continuing. He added that the $5 billion to $10 billion figures mentioned by Bain "have never been proposed by the government as part of any discussions" of a settlement.

A lawyer experienced in defending companies in criminal cases agreed that a much lower settlement is likely.

"That's funny money," said Victoria Toensing, a partner in Washington, D.C.-based diGenova & Toensing. "The government tries to make it the worst of what it could have been. They use it as leverage."

Boeing already has lost well in excess of $1 billion in revenue through canceled and suspended contracts stemming from the two defense scandals. A person close to the negotiations, who requested anonymity, said the anticipated size of a settlement is on the order of $500 million.

The largest prior settlement of a procurement scandal by a defense contractor was in 1991 when Unisys agreed to pay $190 million.

Spokesmen for both U.S. attorneys offices declined comment.

Toensing also said the Department of Justice (DOJ) has become more cautious about indicting companies since the 2002 indictment of accounting firm Arthur Andersen put the company out of business.

Still, Bain, speaking to his inside audience, vividly focused on the legal threats and possible penalties pending.

Those also include "a presumed denial of export licenses ... both on the commercial and the government side," as well as loss of security clearances, a possible resuspension on bidding for space contracts or even total debarment from all government contracts on the defense side, he said.

"We have been trying to resolve these things," Bain said, referring to the ongoing settlement talks. "We have not been successful yet. It is my hope we will be."

Bain repeatedly urged his audience to look inward.

He said 900 of the formal ethics cases brought to the company's Office of Ethics and Business Conduct in 2005 were found to have substance.

He cited an employee survey in which 26 percent of those surveyed said they had observed abusive or intimidating behavior by management.

And of the 15 Boeing vice presidents terminated for ethics violations over the past few years, Bain said two had been ousted for committing crimes and the rest for offenses ranging from expense-account fraud to sexual harassment.

Boeing spokesman Dern said the large number of internal ethics complaints reflects well on Boeing's compliance system.

"We are working hard to promote a culture where people feel like they can raise issues formally and they trust the system," he said. The result is "an ethics system that is working every day and uncovering issues."

As for the employee survey suggesting a high level of management intimidation, "Those are troubling numbers," Dern said. "And numbers that we are working to lower."

At the end of his speech, Bain had one upbeat line.

"I really feel that we've turned the corner and that there's a renewed emphasis and energy on doing the right thing," he said.

Still, as Bain apparently intended, the questions he'd raised and left unanswered hung in the air.

"Do we have a culture of silence? ... "

"Where was management throughout this?

"Is the problem the rank and file? Or is the problem us?"
Okay TV, where are the petitions to never fly on a Boeing jet again? If we don't fight them, they'll never learn a lesson.

It's just Wal-Mart that has all the legal problems and "dirty tactics", right?

Monday, January 30, 2006

PARD's Cost To Pullman So Far

Since PARD filed its Site Plan appeal last October, Pullman has lost $231,718.84 in sales and property tax revenues.


Yes Virginia, There is No Santa Claus

Virginia Henderson wrote the following op-ed piece in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
The Pullman Planning Commission has a problem. It wasn’t — and isn’t — prepared for the record-setting new home-growth rate that shows no sign of slowing.

That needs to change and fast.

Consider the nightmare on Larry Street one snowy day last December. Traffic was backed up a quarter of a mile at Larry and Hall Drive. Larry is the only street leading in and out of the new housing subdivision near the high school.

That day, a car got stuck in the snow.

The congestion wasn’t unusual. Parked cars often block roadways, causing all sorts of mayhem when a football game or other event is going on at the high school.

Resident Marcus Crossler asked commission members last week what would happen if there should be a crisis at the high school. Emergency response personnel might find their path blocked. Or, what if there’s a fire and trucks can’t get through?

He didn’t get a satisfactory answer.

Commission member Leonard Streva put it this way: “Our problem here in Pullman is we’re an old community that has lain dormant, but all of a sudden we’re expanding ... these problems will be taken care of, but it’s going to take time.”

Time isn’t something Pullman has.

Tough decisions must be made when there isn’t a second arterial road to connect a development. Planning Commission Chairman John Anderson said that’s expensive for developers. While City Code requires two ways in and out of a development, the $100 per linear foot cost to do that is prohibitive.

That’s too bad.

A spendy secondary access road should be the developers’ problem, not the residents’.

Anderson said some of the developments popping up around Pullman wouldn’t happen at all if the city required major road building.

Here’s an idea. These subdivisions shouldn’t “happen.”

They should be allowed only after developers satisfy the law. Otherwise, they can wait until the infrastructure reaches their land.

The people responsible for ensuring the city’s thoughtful and safe growth should be looking out for residents, not developers.
I live off of Larry Street in the same "subdivision" as Mr. Crossler. I was there the morning this incident took place. His accounts of the snowy intersection debacle are VERY overexaggerated.

From the National Weather Service Spokane Office:
The first 20 days of the month [December 2005] saw temperatures below freezing in Spokane and many other locales. Many of those days saw high temperatures barely reach 20 degrees. This cold weather pattern resulted from a strong ridge of high pressure centered along the west coast. The Inland Northwest was on the cold and dry side of this ridge. Thus the first 20 days of the month was dominated by cold and dry weather. The lack of storm systems was troublesome to mountain locations, as the early snow that fell in November was slow to accumulate during the first half of December. Throughout this cold, dry period many valley locations had a modest snow pack of 3 to 12 inches on the ground, and it looked like a white Christmas was all but a certainty.
The City won't start plowing streets until there is at least four inches of accumulation. After that first snow storm, it was too late. With temperatures not rising above freezing for weeks, the snow on the road was compacted into a solid sheet of ice several inches thick. A fresh coat of frost from the freezing fog every morning didn't help matters. It was too cold for de-icing chemicals to work. About all the City could do was keep putting down gravel.

Anyone that lives up here knows that the intersection at Hall and Larry can be treacherous. It is built on a slope. Heading eastbound on Larry, you go up a small incline before stopping at the sign. That's a recipe for fishtailing. I have studded snow tires, have been driving in snow my whole life, and I almost got stuck. Even four-wheel drives were having trouble. I saw the lady Mr. Crossler was talking about get stuck. I don't know if she had snow tires or not, or if she was an experienced winter driver. But it was no big deal. A couple of guys got out of their cars and pushed her out of the way. The total delay couldn't have been more than five minutes. No life, limb, or property was ever in any danger that I could see. The way into our development was wide open the whole time. People were able to go around her.

Sheesh. Why the hysteria? Don't people like Virginia Henderson and Marcus Crossler understand that we live on four steep hills in an area prone to ice and snow in the winter. This is Washington, not Florida. Ever wonder why there are all those big rigs driving around town? It's not to contribute to global warming, I can tell you that. Why do some people insist that the government have a solution for EVERY one of life's little hassles?

As far as the street parking goes, I agree that it probably needs to be stopped. There is plenty of parking at the high school for baseball and football games. I think it is a vestige from the days when Larry ended at the high school. It doesn't cause "mayhem", but some teenage boy running across the street is going to get hit one day or someone is going to lose a car door.

What does the weather have to do with the City building roads anyway? Normally, Larry Street is NEVER congested. Busy sometimes, yes, but no gridlock. These people whining about Pullman "traffic" need to get out more. I suggest the Renton S-curves on I-405 on a rainy Friday afternoon. That'll give you some perspective.

Even more shocking than the lack of knowledge about climate and traffic exhibited was the complete silliness of recommending that the City build roads BEFORE a housing development is built. Did Ms. Henderson read the bit about $100 per linear foot. That would mean a road like Larry Street from Hall to its current end would cost the City HALF A MILLION DOLLARS. How could we ever afford to build all these "roads to nowhere", on the off chance that a developer may build there? And forcing developers to pay for all the secondary access road construction would make housing in Pullman even more unaffordable than it is now.

Yes Virginia, there is no Santa Claus with a big wad of highway funds tucked in his sleigh. Mr. Streva is right. Growth will pay for itself. With those record number of houses last year will come a record amount of property tax revenue. Now if we can just get Wal-Mart built, we can start to recapture that $92 million in taxable sales revenue we lose every year. Then maybe we can build some streets. See how it all fits together?

Where's The Outrage?

From today's Daily Evergreen story about the WSU Board of Regents meeting:
The meeting ended with an announcement detailing a court ruling which said WSU engaged in unfair labor practices in 2002. The brief statement was read by court order after WSU dropped an appeal to a ruling in favor of Washington Federation of State Employees Bargaining Unit 3 in September.

The WFSE accused WSU of violating workers’ rights and discriminating against them.
AND WSU does not offer benefits to part-time employees working under twenty hours.

"Or how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me cast out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote that is in thy brother's eye." - Luke 6:42

Sunday, January 29, 2006

PARD's Cost To Pullman So Far

Since PARD filed its Site Plan appeal last October, Pullman has lost $229,721.35 in sales and property tax revenues.


'Rat Finks

As I reported last week, the unholy alliance of Democrats and labor unions are out to ruin Wal-Mart (and consumers) in Washington by forcing it to pay 9% of its payroll towards health care. This is all just a facade to force Wal-Mart to unionize, as the local fights (i.e. Pullman) are failing miserably.

The unions lust after Wal-Mart’s 1.3 million U.S. workers and their dues to reinvigorate the dying private sector labor movement. They will stop at nothing to force Wal-Mart to accede to the their demands. The ‘Rats, for their part, lust after all those union dues that will be coming their way at election time, in addition to being able to tout a “victory” in the health care crisis. Like the ambulance-chasing attorneys, the ‘Rats want to get the government’s snout deep into Wal-Mart’s trough. And let’s face it; they have a few political debts to pay off to the unions, starting with the 2004 gubernatorial election and the rejection of I-912.

This effort was running into a few roadblocks last week, with editorials in the Tacoma News-Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, and even the ultra-lib Seattle P-I condemning the proposed legislation.

Naturally, it was time for a leak to the press!!!! Someone on the ‘Rat-controlled House committee considering the bill leaked a copy of a confidential state report that detailed the numbers of employees of large Washington companies using state health care to the Seattle Times. The Slimes, which can always be counted on to carry the Red Banner of Socialism forward, printed a story Tuesday that used this confidential information to discredit Wal-Mart. Elitist columnist Danny Westneat joined in Wednesday to pile on further.

Here are some of my thoughts on the “facts” about Wal-Mart’s health care numbers:

  • Funny, when something confidential gets leaked from the White House (i.e “Plamegate”) we get special prosecutors, grand juries, and indictments. Ah, but since the ‘Rats did the leaking here, I doubt Queen Christine will lift a finger.

  • The numbers of Wal-Mart employees on Medicaid are TEN times that reported three years ago. Hmmmmm, I smell a ‘Rat. No one knows the source of the numbers, the methodology used, etc., etc.

  • The Slimes piece only trumpeted the fact that Wal-Mart’s numbers were twice that of the second place company (ironically enough unionized and PARD darling Safeway), but these were only RAW numbers, not percentages of overall employees. That HAS to be the determining factor. Of course Wal-Mart will have big numbers. They are the biggest retail employer in the state. How many employees are covered under spouse or family member’s policy? How many employees refused health coverage that was offered? How many were on Medicaid?basic Health BEFORE they started working at Wal-Mart? These are all important things to consider that the Times article flippantly did not include (or perhaps the leaked report did not cover).

  • For example another PARD darling, Target, has 814 employees on Medicaid. No mention was made in the article of how many employees Target has in Washington. Ditto with Fred Meyer. So I did some rough estimates. Target averages around 200 employees per store. There are 31 Target stores in Washington. That equals 6,200 employees. So possibly 13% of Target employees are on Medicaid. The percentages could be even higher than that. To quote TV Rerun, “Where’s the outrage” over that? Didn’t we just read recently “PARD wouldn’t fight a Target coming to Pullman”? HYPOCRITES!!

  • Perusing the table of employers with employees on Medicaid and Basic Health in the Times, it reinforces what everyone’s common sense already tells them. Fast food (15% of McDonald’s employees are on Medicaid), retail, and temping are not the best jobs in the economy. I speak from experience, having done all three at one time in my life. These jobs for the most part are entry-level or transitional. The low wages and benefits reflect the low skills required and expendable work force.

  • Earlier this week, Ford announced massive layoffs and plant closings. Can’t people see what happens when you let big labor dictate wages and benefits, not the market? One of the things that have stung Ford and other American car makers the most are the union provisions that workers replaced by technology get to keep their “jobs”. This has meant that tens of thousands of workers making salaries in excess of $50,000 a year spend each day watching DVDs.

  • There is always a price to pay down the road for that kind of policy, and now Ford is paying it. If this Wal-Mart legislation succeeds, the people of Washington will be paying it also. Wal-Mart will be forced to lower total employment and wages. It will also be forced to raise prices. Contrary to liberal urban legend, Wal-Mart cannot afford to pay more in wages and benefits because its business model uses very low profit margins, around 3-4%. It makes up for this in volume. But the key to Wal-Mart’s success is keeping costs down. If Wal-Mart if forced to pay more for health care, then it will be forced to raise prices and lower wages to compensate. Wages and benefits come out of the same pot, as each worker is worth a certain amount of total compensation. As benefits go up, then wages will go down. Therefore, this legislation will most disproportionately impact those people on low- or fixed-incomes that the ’Rats claim they are protecting.

  • Total compensation, including wages and benefits, is a contract that is worked out between employer and employee. When did good benefits become a “right” versus a privilege? By what legal basis does the government intervene in this contract? Insurance of any kind is up to the individual.

  • Mark my words. This legislation starts us on a slippery slope that will result in the ruination of many small businesses in Washington. If someone doesn’t like the benefits that Wal-Mart offers, then they can go work at Costco or somewhere else. No one puts a gun to anyone’s head forcing him or her to work at Wal-Mart. And yet, Wal-Mart always has a steady stream of job applicants. Why?

    Let’s say, however, that the numbers in the Times are correct. Does that mean Wal-Mart is an evil company? Hardly. The information below is from Jason Furman’s paper “Wal-Mart: A Progressive Success Story”. Remember, Furman is a Democrat himself, the former Director of Economic Policy for the Kerry-Edwards 2004 campaign. I passed this on to Michelle Dupler for her Daily News story on the wrap-up of the appeal hearing. Due to a glitch, my comments didn't make it into the paper.
    "Wal-Mart’s health benefits are similar to or better than benefits at comparable employers. Some key comparisons are summarized in Table 2." (click to view larger version)
    "Wal-Mart is relatively unusual in that it offers health insurance both to full- and part-time employees. By comparison, only 60 percent of firms economywide offer health benefits and only 17 percent of firms offer health benefits to part-time workers. Target, for example, does not offer benefits to people working less than 20 hours per week. Wal-Mart, however, has longer waiting periods for eligibility for benefits than many other firms, 6 months for full-time workers and 24 months for part-time workers.

    Wal-Mart pays about 70 percent of the cost of health benefits, similar to the retail industry and somewhat below the national average.

    Substantially more Wal-Mart employees are eligible for health insurance than in the retail sector as a whole and even slightly more than the nationwide total. Wal-Mart employees, however, are less likely to take up their health insurance.

    As a result, 48 percent of Wal-Mart’s workers have health insurance, compared to 46 percent in the retail industry as a whole. Dube and Wertheim find similar results. They adjust health coverage to match Wal-Mart’s geography and find that 45 percent of retail employees and 53 percent of large retail employees have employer-sponsored health insurance. The retail industry has lower employer-sponsored health insurance than the economy as a whole, a fact that reflects the generally lower compensation in the retail sector and the greater likelihood that a retail employee will be covered through a spouse’s more generous employer-sponsored policy.

    Wal-Mart reports that 548,000 of its employees have health insurance, covering a total of 948,000 people. Some 34 percent of Wal-Mart employees are offered health insurance but choose not to enroll, either because they are covered through another family member, prefer to be on Medicaid than pay the premium, or choose not to have health insurance.

    In total, as shown in Table 4, 5 percent of Wal-Mart employees are on Medicaid, which is similar to the percentage for other large retailers and is comparable to the national average of 4 percent. The children of Wal-Mart employees receive Medicaid and S-CHIP slightly less often than the retail sector as a whole and slightly more than the national average. The fraction of children is relatively large, reflecting the expansion of public health coverage for children in low- and moderate-income families. The fact that Wal-Mart employees top the Medicaid rolls in a number of states is simply a reflection of Wal-Mart’s enormous size, not the higher likelihood that its employees will be on Medicaid.""For some Wal-Mart employees, Medicaid is the sensible choice. A family policy costs $1,800 annually for a Wal-Mart worker, similar to the cost for other retailers. A Medicaid eligible worker has the choice of taking home an additional $1,800 in take-home pay and being insured through Medicaid or taking home less pay and instead getting Wal-Mart’s insurance. The beneficiary of choosing Medicaid is the worker – who gets to keep an additional $1,800 – not Wal-Mart (see the further discussion of this issue below).

    Wal-Mart workers, like other workers in the retail sector, are paid less than the economywide average wage. They have to pay for food, housing, transportation and numerous other costs. It is not surprising that in a choice-based system they would choose to get more money in the form of wages and less in the form of health benefits.

    Moreover, our fiscal system gives much less of an incentive for low-income employees to get employer provided health insurance. High-income employees face a lower marginal tax rate on health benefits than wages. For low-income employees it can be the exact opposite.

    Consider a company that wants to compensate a woman in the 25 percent bracket with an additional $3,000. If she chooses to get it in the form of wages, she will pay 25 percent in taxes and keep the remaining $2,250. If she chooses to get it in the form of better health benefits, she will get a $3,000 policy. Compare that to a low-income mother. She is in the 0 percent tax bracket so she would keep the entire $3,000 if she gets wages. But if she gets the $3,000 in the form of health benefits, she will lose her Medicaid. This is like a large effective tax on the provision of benefits."
    So, Wal-Mart's Medicaid and Basic Health numbers tend to be higher because employees choose to decline company-sponsored insurance they are otherwise eligible for. But overall, that ability to choose makes Wal-Mart, in my opinion, a superior retailer. You can't fault the company for the health care decisions its employees make. I'd be willing to bet that Wal-Mart's health care plan is better than any other retailer in Pullman. Even WSU does not offer benefits to employees that work less than 20 hours a week.

    Lost in all this debate is the fact that the state is competing with Wal-Mart for health care, and as pointed out in the Furman paper, the state is winning. Wal-Mart critics can't blame workers for doing something that makes the most financial sense for them. Democrats are the ones that have pushed for more spending on health care programs for low-income families, and now liberals like Annabel Kirschner are "outraged" that people are actually using it. It's a bit ironic.

    Watch those "Big- Box" Campuses

    Well I visited Wal-Mart today and when I was checking out I asked the cashier how he liked Wal-Mart he said: ”Well it is OK, I don’t mind working here. I get paid better than my friends that work on the campus.” (now he did not say which campus and I did not ask.)

    I went on to ask about benefits and he said he worked part time but that he had not work a full year yet so he was not eligible for benefits yet. It did not matter to him since he was still covered by is dad retired military. He told me that fulltime employees can get it in a matter of a few months of starting work. Now do any of the campuses pay ANY part time employee benefits, I don’t think so. T.V. “Re-Run” Reed you need to get after these “BIG Box Campuses”.

    So now we need T.V. “Re-Run” Reed to get his dog and pony show after those “BIG Box Campuses” and just let the companies that pay completive wages alone.

    PARD – Please let our town grow, drop your appeal now for the best of Pullman & Whitman County.

    It Was Necessary to Destroy the Village in Order to Save It

    From Thursday's Whitman County Gazette:
    Having approved a small county sales tax increase in September, voters will likely face another sales tax proposition, identical in amount, in the March election. Whether the proposition stays on the March ballot hinges on a local agreement on how the new revenue will be administered and spent.

    The county's new sales tax rate of 7.7 percent took effect Jan. 1. The March proposition would move it to 7.8 percent.

    The extra tenth of a penny on the dollar will be earmaked for emergency communication systems.
    The immutable law of economics rears its ugly head again. The law of economics may not be as obvious or immediate as say the law of gravity, but the consequences are just as certain.

    Pullman is growing, faster than both the state and national averages. That growth has put strains on both police and emergency services. But that growth is not paying for itself, as half of every dollar spent in Pullman is spent outside of Pullman and Whitman County. Again I say to those who claim that we "already have a Wal-Mart just eight miles away", does anyone in Moscow or Latah County pick up the phone when you dial 911?

    Whitman County's retail sales tax base is one of the lowest in the state and our property tax rate is limited by initiative, so guess what? The increased costs are going to have to come out of our existing businesses. And out of you, the consumer.

    If PARD had not fought Wal-Mart, the Supercenter would already have been constructed by now. Does anyone believe that this tax increase and the one before it would have been necessary if we had Wal-Mart now? Of course not.

    Sales taxes are the worst kinds of taxes. They are regressive in nature. They impact most those least able to afford it. And every sales tax increase in Washington drives that many more people over to Idaho to shop, furher increasing our economic imbalance.

    Chris Lupke was quoted as saying in The Inlander , "People have to decide how strongly they feel about it...and if they feel strongly about it, you fight them. And only by fighting them will they ever change." Is your personal grudge match against Wal-Mart worth all this Chris? When is enough enough? Is PARD going to have to destroy the village in order to save it?

    Saturday, January 28, 2006

    PARD's Cost To Pullman So Far

    Since PARD filed its Site Plan appeal last October, Pullman has lost $227,723.86 in sales and property tax revenues.


    "Wal-Mart saga continues"

    From Thursday's Whitman County Gazette, another great article by Joe Smillie:

    After a day and half of testimony from the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development (PARD) witnesses and community members, CLC Associates had their say in the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pullman. CLC is the firm that was hired to develop the Supercenter’s site plan. The second day of hearings took place last Friday at Pullman City Hall.

    After PARD’s final witness, CLC brought to the stand the team of engineers who designed the Supercenter site plan. CLC’s witnesses, as well as Pullman public works director Mark Workman, testified that the plan meets or exceeds city standards for development.

    A fiscal impact study commissioned by Wal-Mart was entered into the record by Bill Reid, a Portland-based land use strategist. PARD had been clamoring for a fiscal impact study, and seemed to be caught off guard by Reid’s statement.

    The fiscal impact study was the first piece of Pullman-specific research presented in the case.

    “The development of a Supercenter would help capture retail sales tax in Pullman,” said Reid, who estimated $92 million was “leaking” into Moscow and Spokane businesses.

    Reid’s report stated that the Supercenter would have little to no impact on the specialty stores in downtown Pullman and suggested Wal-Mart would keep shoppers in town, boosting business throughout the city.

    “I found only 12 percent of downtown businesses would effectively compete with Wal-Mart,” said Reid.

    “Our customers already spend half of every dollar out of town,” said Joshua Coke. “If we can survive that, we can certainly survive Wal-Mart.”

    Reid said the Supercenter would provide approximately $42,000 in yearly sales tax revenue for Pullman. (No, that's what the City study found. Reid said that was low by a factor of 15 or so. He estimated around $500,000 in yearly sales tax.)

    PARD’s attorney, Brian McGinn asked Reid about the effects of the proposed Moscow Supercenter on Pullman’s Wal-Mart. Reid was unconcerned with the proximity of the other store.

    “Wal-Mart will not open a store unless they are convinced it will make money…and for a long time,” added Reid.

    Lighting from the proposed store was another issue at Friday’s hearing. Testimony was presented in the first hearing round in which it was noted that prolonged exposure to light caused shrinkage in deer testicles.(*LOL* Anybody ever see that Seinfeld episode about "shrinkage"?)

    Wal-Mart’s principal design engineer, Dean Logsdon, testified that lighting used by the store was specifically designed to meet the city’s lighting ordinances and to restrict “fugitive light.” Logsdon also noted that the landscaping on the site would keep light from escaping the lot.

    The public comment period was more even-handed than it had been in the first hearing. Several community members expressed their support for the Supercenter, including county appraiser Jim Hawks (actually Hawkes), who estimated Wal-Mart will pay about $328,000 in property taxes. Hearings have been carried over to this morning, Jan. 26, at 10 a.m. in the Gladish Auditorium. Hearing Examiner John Montgomery will make his decisions within 30 days of the conclusions of the hearings. His decision may be appealed by either party in Whitman County Superior Court.

    Ethical Opposition, Part 2

    Thanks to April for reminding me of some more "ethical opposition" that PARD has conducted:

  • PARD's "expert witness" threatening to call the police because Ray was exercising his First Amendment rights.

  • Comparing free enterprise to crack houses and child pornographers. Strongly insinuating that if left unchecked by groups like PARD, Pullman residents would be flocking to those establishments.

  • Very ugly, personal attacks on Terry Day and Chuck Millham.

  • The silly assertion that Wal-Mart paid off Pullman Regional Hospital with dirt.

  • Presumptuously denouncing Wal-Mart on behalf of people and entities who actually welcome Wal-Mart.

  • Knowingly misleading the public and calling for City Council members to break the law.
  • Friday, January 27, 2006

    "Pullman awaits Wal-Mart decision"

    From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:

    Hundreds of residents watch proceeding, express opinions on proposed super center

    By Michelle Dupler, Daily News staff writer

    The fate of the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pullman rests in the hands of one man after three days of impassioned testimony and volumes of written comments.

    Hearing Examiner John Montgomery closed the public hearing in two Wal-Mart appeals at a little after 1 p.m. Thursday after about two hours of public testimony and closing arguments by attorneys representing the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development and Wal-Mart. The public also had the opportunity to comment Jan. 13 and Jan. 20, following testimony by witnesses for PARD and Wal-Mart.

    Wal-Mart submitted its application to build a 223,000-square-foot store and 1,000-car parking lot on Bishop Boulevard in October 2004. Local residents formed PARD in January 2005 to oppose the retail giant’s plans.

    At issue in the appeals is whether or not Wal-Mart’s site plan application and State Environmental Policy Act checklist meet city and state laws. PARD alleges the Wal-Mart store will have serious negative effects on the environment, traffic and Pullman’s economy. The citizen group believes the city was wrong to decide the proposed store won’t have a significant impact on the surrounding community.

    Both the city of Pullman and Wal-Mart have defended the site plan and SEPA checklist, saying the documents meet all applicable standards.

    The only comments Montgomery can consider in his decision must be related specifically to environmental, fiscal and traffic issues.

    Hundreds of residents turned out over the course of the three hearing days to watch the proceedings and express their opinions. PARD members and those who oppose Wal-Mart provided a higher volume of testimony because of their role in the appeal process, but Wal-Mart supporters also showed up in strength to let Montgomery know they will welcome the store with open arms. (Bravo Michelle! It is worth noting, however, that the volume of PARD's testimony was enhanced by its repeat nature. Reed, Hosick, Hooks, Hammond, et. al. in the PARD leadership testified at least three or more times.)

    Two major issues emerging during the three days dealt with fiscal and traffic impacts from the proposed store.

    Fiscal impact

    A cornerstone of PARD’s platform has been the call for an independent fiscal impact study of how a Wal-Mart Supercenter might affect existing businesses in Pullman, including downtown retailers and national chain stores such as ShopKo, Rite Aid and Safeway.

    PARD members have cited numerous academic studies that show Wal-Mart tends to drive away other businesses when it moves into a town or neighborhood, including research by Iowa State University professor Kenneth Stone on how Wal-Mart affected rural Mississippi.

    John McCullough, the attorney for Wal-Mart, surprised PARD on Jan. 20 by introducing a report by Bill Reid of Portland-based consulting firm Johnson Gardner alleging that about 12 percent of businesses in downtown Pullman would be in direct competition with Wal-Mart. Reid testified he was commissioned to perform the study by CLC Associates, the engineering consulting firm representing Wal-Mart during the application and appeals process. Reid did not inform PARD or the city of the results until the hearing.

    Reid’s report stated Pullman’s downtown has evolved over the last 20 years into a niche retail market, meaning many businesses don’t carry the same kinds of low cost, mass appeal items a Wal-Mart would sell.

    Reid said local businesses might benefit from the presence of a Wal-Mart because the super center might stem “leakage” of shoppers to markets in Moscow, Lewiston and Spokane. Reid projected Pullman residents spend about $92 million in outside communities that could be spent locally instead. That represents about 49 percent of the $187.9 million Reid calculated is available for local spending.

    “Those are dollars not being captured by existing retailers,” Reid said.

    Reid also projected a Wal-Mart store would bring in about $500,000 in sales tax revenues for the city of Pullman each year.

    Gregory Hooks, a PARD member and Washington State University sociologist, on Thursday questioned Reid’s methodology and conclusions.

    “Overall, the Johnson Gardner report minimizes the range of existing stores likely to be harmed by Wal-Mart,” Hooks wrote in a comment submitted to the hearing examiner.

    “This stands in sharp contrast to the empirical findings and conclusions reached in peer-reviewed studies currently available.”

    Reid conceded at the Jan. 20 hearing that his study does not account for Wal-Mart’s possible impact on public services, such as police or fire, or on social services, such as welfare assistance and Medicaid. Hooks said these represent serious flaws in Reid’s report. He called for the city to commission a third-party study that would address these issues. (I don't remember Bill Reid's exact words last Friday, but Johnson Gardner DID look at public service costs. Look under "Links" to the right for the fiscal impact study. It's on the next to last page. The study didn't look at welfare and Medicaid, as those services are provided by the state, not the City, but it did address wage impacts. That's right above the public service costs.)

    The Seattle Times reported Tuesday that two state reports show 3,180 out of about 12,000 (it's actually 16,000) Wal-Mart workers in the state of Washington receive health care through Medicaid or the state’s Basic Health Plan. About 1,800 of those workers are full-time employees. The report didn’t address how many of those employees already were receiving state assistance and did not break down what kind of assistance it is. For example, children with severe disabilities qualify for Medicaid regardless of parental income.

    Still, those employees are a drain on taxpayers who are forced into subsidizing Wal-Mart workers (ironic to hear a "liberal" call low-income workers a "drain") , whether they shop at the store or not, Annabel Kirschner said in a telephone interview Thursday. Kirschner also is a WSU sociologist who testified on behalf of PARD on Jan. 13, but could not attend Thursday’s hearing.


    Wal-Mart commissioned a traffic impact analysis as part of its application. The report projected an average of more than 11,000 extra car trips on Bishop Boulevard each day once the proposed store opens. PARD members have expressed concerns about the additional traffic, particularly given the store’s proximity to Pullman Regional Hospital, a senior housing complex and two schools.

    PARD attorney Brian McGinn, in closing arguments, identified flaws in the traffic study. He cited a lack of consideration of additional traffic during the busy December holiday shopping season (Huh? Has he been here in December? It's a ghost town.) and the failure to include the intersection of East Main Street and Bishop Boulevard in the study.

    Wal-Mart supporter Carroll Hayden gave his opinion on the traffic issues Thursday, suggesting holiday traffic is not a significant issue because much of the population of Pullman leaves town during the holidays.

    The intersection of Bishop Boulevard and Main Street also is a non-issue in Hayden’s opinion because he doesn’t believe a significant amount of traffic will be coming west from Moscow to shop at the new store. Hayden is not a traffic engineer. (but neither is the PARD attorney)

    The next step

    Montgomery will have 30 days to wrestle with the relevant issues raised during testimony and in public comments. If he decides in Wal-Mart’s favor, the company will be able to proceed with construction of the store. If he decides against Wal-Mart, the company may be asked to make changes to its application to correct any deficiencies identified by Montgomery.

    Montgomery’s decision can be appealed to the Whitman County Superior Court by PARD, Wal-Mart or the city of Pullman.

    PARD's Cost To Pullman So Far

    Since PARD filed its Site Plan appeal last October, Pullman has lost $225,726.37 in sales and property tax revenues.


    Ethical Opposition?

    There’s a story in the latest edition of the Inlander magazine, the preferred birdcage liner in the Inland Northwest, about Wal-Mart’s latest fight in opening a Supercenter on the South Hill of Spokane.

    There are several quotes in the article about Pullman from the PARD Minister of Disinformation, Chris Lupke.
    Down in Pullman, this week marked the third meeting to gather public testimony on the proposal for a 225,000-square-foot Supercenter. The Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development (PARD) had called for an independent economic study to verify Wal-Mart's claims of positive economic impact on Pullman. Last week, Wal-Mart offered its own economic impact study, but PARD continues to call for the study, with their key word being "independent."

    PARD member Christopher Lupke, a professor at WSU, says the fight has become ugly: "It's convulsing the town. Some people are saying we should be run out of the community, that we're communists and un-American. It's shocking. I've never lived in a city where there was less opportunity to speak in a public manner about a project this big.

    "We're critical of Wal-Mart, but we have tried to be ethical in the way we express our opposition," Lupke adds. "In the long run, we can change Pullman, but this is coming on very, very fast."
    Oh, where to start? First of all, the economic impact study WAS AN INDEPENDENT STUDY. Johnson Gardner is NOT a part of Wal-Mart; they were just hired by CLC, the developer, to conduct the study. THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT PARD HAS BEEN CALLING FOR THE PAST SEVEN MONTHS!!!!!!!! Now suddenly when a study says something positive about Wal-Mart, it’s time to totally discredit it. So predictable.

    “Convulsing the town”? Hardly. A couple of dozen PARD diehards at most are the only ones left carrying on the fight.

    “Communists”? “Un-American”? Hey, if the shoe fits. James Krueger just reminded us earlier this week in a letter to the editor that PARD does not consider either property rights or free enterprise as important in the debate over Wal-Mart. What else would you call it?

    Lupke shouldn’t be shocked at the opposition PARD is encountering. Were they that clueless as to how bad the city’s financial situation was and how badly Pullman needs to expand its retail sales tax base? If they weren’t in Moscow so much helping fight the Supercenter there, they might open their eyes and see the reality.

    However, I suppose Lupke has some basis to be shocked. There have been very few anti-Wal-Mart groups, especially in the Northwest, that have had to deal with such an organized opposition. Poor PARD. They triumphantly and prematurely proclaimed last May that they had “clearly won the battle for public opinion”. Those days are long gone. Now, PARD is defensive and bitter, complaining about the “ugliness” and “incivility” of the fight and how they are constantly being attacked.

    You want a city with more public conversation Chris? Move over to Moscow. The downtown zoning issue there has been debated for over a year now. Do you think that has made Moscow more or less divided? It has made Moscow much more divided. Public hearings on Wal-Mart accomplish nothing. It is the most divisive issue in America today, other than the Iraq war. Too much talking just exacerbates the situation. Everyone has said their piece, now shut up and let someone decide. And by the way, it ain’t gonna be PARD that decides. Sorry. If PARD wants to “change Pullman in the long run”, try getting elected to City Hall. Oh wait……

    “Coming on very, very fast”? As opposed to what? Glaciation? Continental drift? Give me a break. This process has taken ten times longer than in other cities in Washington where Wal-Mart has opened. And it’s all PARD’s fault.

    Finally, my favorite Lupke quote, "We're critical of Wal-Mart, but we have tried to be ethical in the way we express our opposition".

    Let’s catalog PARD’s “ethical opposition”, shall we:

  • Soliciting funds from outside special interest groups that care nothing for Pullman’s future, only their own political agenda.

  • A 10,000-signature petition that contains large numbers of signatures from people who don’t even live in Pullman.

  • A “petition” from local merchants demanding an economic impact study that was circulated under highly dubious circumstances.

  • The use of taxpayer-funded resources at WSU to further PARD’s cause, including facilities, computers, printers, internet and e-mail, not to mention the time of salaried professors.

  • Indoctrinating WSU students with anti-Wal-Mart propaganda and suppressing free speech in classrooms.

  • Dangling Target out as a red herring to lure people away from supporting Wal-Mart.

  • Stating that Wal-Mart would destroy the public education system.

  • Blaming the city’s financial woes on Wal-Mart supporters.

  • Attacking city government as somehow being in cahoots with Wal-Mart.

  • Spreading irresponsible and hysterical lies about Wal-Mart desecrating/raping/deflowering/fill-in-your-favorite-hyperbole-here the
    Pullman City Cemetery, which they have dishonorably compared to Normandy and Arlington Cemetery.

  • Spreading further reckless lies about Wal-Mart traffic leading to dead school kids and grannies lying in the streets, along with feverish babies dying on the way to the Emergency Room.

  • Insulting the vast majority of Whitman County residents by saying the “lower socio-economic class is attracted to Wal-Mart” so therefore “crime will go up”.

  • Ridiculously asserting that Wal-Mart will ruin the sex lives of Pullman residents.

  • Claiming Wal-Mart would kill all the fish in the Palouse River and flood the town.

  • Lying and blaming Wal-Mart for the proposed increase in Pullman water and sewer rates.

  • The use of mounds and mounds of unsusbtantiated and one-sided anecdotal evidence that has nothing to do with Pullman.

  • And then this little slam job from a letter in today’s Moscow-Pullman Daily
  • Keep downtown parking

    From an interview in the Jan. 12 Daily News article “Traffic flow plan draws ire on Grand Ave.,” and from a letter to the editor in the Jan. 14 issue, I see that April Coggins wants it both ways. She wants on-street parking in front of her business and a Wal-Mart Supercenter larger than all retail space in the downtown area.

    Why do you think the city of Pullman wants to take away on-street parking on both sides of Grand Avenue for two blocks where it intersects with Main? Haven’t you read Wal-Mart’s own traffic study stating that if they build there will be more than 11,000 more trips on Bishop Boulevard every day?

    Don’t you think many of those vehicles will be coming through the center of Pullman from the north? How can downtown businesses not be affected by this Wal-Mart Supercenter when the city clearly wants to eliminate downtown street parking in order to help deal with increased traffic Wal-Mart would cause?

    “Parking lots are not reasonable for many people. Even if people are physically able (to walk), it’s not attractive for many customers,” Coggins said. How far do you think you will have to walk at the super center’s 1,000 space parking lot?

    Let’s keep downtown on-street parking and build more modestly sized stores on Bishop Boulevard.

    Janet Damm, Pulman
    This is nothing new of course. Anyone that has the temerity to support Wal-Mart or challenge PARD publicly in the newspaper quickly gets a retaliatory attack from the "champions of free speech".

    I could go on and on and on. Basically, PARD will do or say anything to keep Wal-Mart out of Pullman (or Moscow or anywhere else for that matter) It’s a jihad. If you think of something else, please let me know and I’ll add it.

    If this is their idea of “ethical opposition”, then the only thing I’ll ever agree with Chris Lupke on is that PARD should be run out of the community.

    "Public hearing closes on Pullman Wal-Mart"

    From today's Lewiston Tribune:
    of the Tribune

    PULLMAN -- A public hearing on proposed construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter here ended Thursday after more than two days of testimony stretched over three weeks.

    Hearing examiner John Montgomery, a Spokane lawyer, said he likely would return a written determination within 14 days to either uphold or deny a citizen group's appeal of city decisions to allow construction of the super center. He could also offer modifications to the city's findings or call for more research.

    Regardless of what Montgomery decides, Wal-Mart, the city of Pullman, and the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development have a right to appeal the decision to Whitman County Superior Court.

    Wal-Mart attorney John McCullough of Seattle closed his portion of the hearing by reasserting the claim that the world's largest retail company had satisfied all requirements placed on it by the city.

    Attorney Brian McGinn, who represents PARD, begged to differ, contending that, among other things, many traffic and economic questions remain unanswered about the proposed 223,000-square-foot store along Bishop Boulevard.

    T.V. Reed, spokesman for PARD, said he and other citizens opposed to the super center never wanted the city to treat Wal-Mart differently. But he said city officials failed to hold Wal-Mart to standards outlined in the city comprehensive plan.

    Laura McAloon, Pullman city attorney, disagreed. She said the city continues to hold Wal-Mart to the same standards all businesses must meet.

    Reed and others said the city needs to conduct an independent study to determine the economic impact on the community.

    But McAloon said the city can only review what financial impact the Wal-Mart Supercenter might have on city infrastructure and services, not the economy of the private sector.

    Of particular concern to Reed and other PARD members was a Wal-Mart-funded economic study unveiled last week. Bill Reid, a private consultant, reported an estimated 49 percent of Pullman's potential retail sales is lost annually because of "leakage" to other towns like Moscow, Lewiston and Spokane.

    Reid said a new Wal-Mart store would tap into that leakage, bring increased sales taxes back to town and, in the process, "raise all boats" in the private sector.

    But Gregory Hooks, a Washington State University sociology professor, harpooned Reid's study as a late-hour ploy to "advance the interests of corporate executives and those who own stock in this large corporation based in Arkansas."

    A number of residents who testified Thursday agreed with Hooks, while others didn't.

    Alex McDonald, a WSU engineering student, said the Wal-Mart study erroneously assumed that students spending elsewhere figured in the amount of retail leakage. "It's only a few rich kids who buy stuff here locally," McDonald said. Most students, he claimed, buy their clothing and supplies in their home towns before coming to campus each year.

    Susan Johnson, a house mother at a WSU sorority, disagreed. She said most of the women in her house shop out of town, and many at the Wal-Mart store in Moscow.

    Dennis Wendt, a Pullman business owner, agreed with Johnson, saying WSU students go elsewhere to buy many items like plants, mirrors, furniture, microwave ovens, refrigerators and other appliances.

    Ann Borgerson testified that she's had a change of heart about Wal-Mart. "I confess that I've shopped at Wal-Mart for an awful long time," she said. But she said the products she bought were usually inferior and she's now concerned about "the people who make the goods."

    The Pullman hearings came amid Wal-Mart proposals to build super centers in neighboring Moscow and north in Spokane.

    Reed charged that the company is willing to saturate markets and lose money in the short run to prevail down the road when competition is forced out of business.

    He likened Wal-Mart paying for an economic study to hiring "foxes to count the chickens."
    "Foxes counting the chickens"? I'll agree that Reed's statement has something to do with chickens alright, but more along the lines of something you shovel out of the henhouse.

  • From Christoper Lupke's letter to the editor of the Daily Evergreen on January 13: “The Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development (PARD) would like to see Wal-Mart commission an independent fiscal impact study of our local economy, as they have agreed to do in other comparable communities across the nation. What do they have to fear from such a study?”

  • From PARD's Press Release of January 12, 2006: "Requiring Wal-Mart to pay for a fiscal impact study is another possible outcome, given the fact that Wal-Mart has agreed to do this elsewhere when compelled."

  • From a letter to the editor of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News by Cynthia Hosick last August: "As a 32-year Pullman resident and former downtown business partner, I firmly believe that Wal-Mart owes Pullman an economic impact study before they enter this marketplace."

  • And let's not forget the infamous "Nineteen Pullman Merchants" petition created by Citizen Hosick that said, "The timing is perfect to request that Wal-Mart fund such a study as part of their entry in to the Pullman retail community."

  • This same demand has been echoed repeatedly for the past six months in letters to the editor. So PARD gets EXACTLY what they want, and as I predicted, because it did not agree with them, they immediately start condemning it. ENOUGH OF THIS HYPOCRISY!!!!

    "Wal-Mart discussion ends with public testimony"

    From today's Daily Evergreen:

    After this hearing, the examiner will have 30 days to make a decision.


    After both lawyers presented closing arguments, people on either side of the Pullman Wal-Mart issue testified until the final minutes of the hearing Thursday.

    Jack McCullough, the attorney representing Wal-Mart, closed by arguing that the appellate, Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development, made a lot of claims but did not have any facts because they did not conduct any studies to refute Wal-Mart’s findings.

    “It isn’t enough to raise mere flaws and emissions because even if such flaws and emissions existed,” McCullough said, “they didn’t present enough information to show adverse impact.”

    The arguments raised by PARD about the impacts Wal-Mart has had in different towns were not relevant to this case, McCullough said.

    “Reports and studies of other locations and jurisdictions are not relevant to determining impact here,” McCullough said.

    McCullough said the only conclusion the hearing examiner can come to is to deny the appeals.

    PARD attorney Brian McGinn refuted McCullough’s closing arguments and said the two lawyers had a different understanding on who had the burden of proof.

    After the attorneys finished their closing arguments, the examiner opened the hearing for public testimony.

    Carroll Hayden attended two of the hearings. The community showed they want Wal-Mart when they elected City Council members who support economic growth in November’s elections, he said. It would give people a place to shop in Pullman so they don’t have to leave the city, he said.

    “Let the Wal-Mart truck and the Whitman County buck stop at Pullman,” Hayden said.

    Gregory Hooks testified and said he felt like the opportunity for public comment came too late to make an impact.

    “I haven’t done a study,” Hooks said about the possible negative impacts of Wal-Mart on Pullman. “The city didn’t ask me to do a study because the city wasn’t talking to me.”

    Lia Wilson testified and said she and her family shop at Wal-Mart because it is more affordable for them. She would like Wal-Mart to come to Pullman so she can support the city by spending money in Pullman rather than Moscow.

    Pullman Public Works Director Mark Workman said he thought the hearing went well.

    The hearing examiner will have 30 days to make his decision, Workman said. He can either affirm the decision, remand the case for further information or reverse the decision based on a number of reasons outlined in the City Code. The Pullman City Code may be accessed at http://ci.pullman.wa.us/.

    Thursday, January 26, 2006

    This Guy Needs Some New Material

    Highly quotable University of Idaho Assistant Professor of Agricultural Economics Stephen Cooke is at it again.

    Cooke, if you remember, is the originator of "the only thing worse than having a Walmart is not having one" and "Walmart has a split personality, or as I like to say, it’s the little girl with the little curl. When they’re good they’re very, very good and when they’re bad they’re horrid.”

    In an NWPR story today about Northwest communities "battling Wal-Mart (what about "battling for Wal-Mart"? Oh well, this is NPR after all) , Cooke is quoted as saying “I think communities tend to either embrace it and then sort of let Walmart run roughshod over them, or they reject it, and then they don’t get the advantage of having the employment and the low prices.”

    Professor Cooke seems to think that there can be a "middle ground" on Wal-Mart, as exhibited recently in a inadvertently hysterical letter to the editor. Unfortunately for Cooke, just as there is no such thing as being a "little bit pregnant", there is no such thing as a "middle ground" with freedom.

    PARD's Cost To Pullman So Far

    Since PARD filed its Site Plan appeal last October, Pullman has lost $223,728.88 in sales and property tax revenues.


    Blinders and Buggy Whips

    My reponse to Barbara Feil's letter that Scotty references below:

    More power to ya Barb. Unfortunately, no one else seems to agree with you. Every year, they are taking $92 million in taxable revenue over to Moscow, Lewiston, Clarkston, and Spokane. That costs the city $720,000 a year in sales tax revenue. Why is that? Well, this ain’t Walton’s Mountain and ShopKo and Dissmores ain’t Ike Godsey’s General Store. There are PLENTY of other retail options within close driving distance that have much better selection and prices than what Pullman stores offer.

    To wit, this morning I needed a set of headphones with a ¼” plug for my radio show. ShopKo was out, so they lost the sale. My money went to Wal-Mart and my tax dollars went to Idaho instead.

    “If I want clothes, I go to Goodwill or Ken Vogels.” (Dr. Evil voice)Riiiigggghhhtt.

    Regardless of your elitist tastes being opposed to “giant, ugly big-box stores” (Have you even seen the exterior plan? Wal-Mart will be the nicest store in Pullman), that’s where people want to shop. The days of horse and buggy are long gone. We can either get some big box stores in Pullman or we can all head over to Moscow with tin cups and ask for donations for our parks, streets, police and firefighters. Wal-Mart could easily bring (Dr. Evil voice again) One MILLLION dollars a year in tax revenues to Pullman.

    Meanwhile, all those Pullman stores you mentioned have been competing with Wal-Mart in Moscow for the last fifteen years. At least if we turn Pullman into a shopping destination like Moscow, those Pullman merchants will be much better off than they are now.

    Do you find it the least bit ironic that a fair amount of the Pullman businesses you mentioned are national chain stores (Safeway, Dissmores, Les Schwab, Shopko & Rite-Aid)? What is your interest in protecting their monopoly? Who cares if they fight it out for our business?

    Speaking of shame, Safeway moved into a big new store a few years ago and their old store at Wheatland Mall is still a vacant eyesore. Where’s the shame over that?

    I would suggest, Barbara, that you are the one wearing blinders. You can hide behind aesthetics and personal tastes, but the immutable laws of economics will not be ignored. You are free to keep on shopping at Ken Vogel Clothing (bad news, Goodwill is moving to Moscow, see what I mean about economics?), but if you don’t mind, the rest of us would like to keep Pullman from going under.

    And by the way, you could be quite brief when listing the places to shop and eat in Pullman.

    Do you buy your underwear at Goodwill too?

    If I want building supplies, I go to the Grange or Pullman Building Supply. If I want food, I go to Safeway, Dissmores or the International Food Store. If I want gas or car parts or tires, I go to one of many gas stations in Pullman, Les Schwab or Heritage, or the parts store on Grand (they put my windshield wipers on for free).

    If I want to have a dining experience, I go to one of the many fine restuarants [sic] in Pullman. If I want clothes, I go to Goodwill or Ken Vogels. If I want shoes or drug store items or entertainment items, or electronics or other household products, I go to Shopko or Rite Aid. If I want pet supplies, I go to B. Bill's or Shopko.

    If I need prescriptions or photos printed, I can think of several places to go in Pullman. If I want plants or gardening supplies, I go to SYG, the place towards Palouse, or Prairie Bloom.

    In short, I can get anything I want or need in Pullman without having a giant, ugly big-box store and parking lot being built. And shame on you people who say there is nowhere to shop in Pullman. Do you wear blinders when you drive around? I shop many other places in Pullman, but in the interest of brevity, will not list them all.

    Barbara Feil
    And if you want building supplies they don't have, you go to Lewiston or Spokane. If they don't have the auto parts you want, you go out of town, if they don't have the electronics you want, you go out of town.

    In short, though you are able to get what you need, that does not mean that everyone can get what they need in Pullman. I wont buy underwear at the Goodwill.

    The Appeal Hearing is Over

    I wasn't able to make the hearing today as I was doing The PES radio show on KZUU with Scotty.

    I have heard there was a tremendous turnout of people who want Pullman to grow and develop, many who had not attended the previous two sessions. Our numbers continue to grow, while the numbers of the nattering nabobs of negativism dwindle. The truth is on our side.

    Please post your stories from today's hearing.

    Wonderful Job Tom!!!

    Let me be the first to say you did a great job on the radio today Tom! Being thrown to the wolves and all you ran the show great. You had a lot of topics ready to go and it was great fun to listen to you and it was clear you were very well prepared for the show.

    I think this will be the greatest season of the The PES to date!

    Everyone can listen in live Thursdays from 11am to 1pm on 90.7FM in Pullman/Moscow or on the web via www.kzuu.org. Shows are typically archived at the shows website www.thepes.com.

    Once again, great show Tom!

    Wednesday, January 25, 2006

    PARD's Cost To Pullman So Far

    Since PARD filed its Site Plan appeal last October, Pullman has lost $221,731.39 in sales and property tax revenues.


    Concerns over Moscow's Wal-Mart

    Let me try to answer some of your concerns.

    Why does Moscow need another Wal-Mart? What exactly is the Wal-Mart supercenter going to add to our consumer options that are not available at the existing Wal-Mart or at other Moscow stores?

    It will not "be another" Wal-Mart, it is a new Wal-Mart. The Super Wal-Mart is a bigger store with more things to make it one stop shopping including possible a tire store and a grocery store.

    What will happen to the "old" Wal-Mart building if a new one is built? Is it going to be empty and an eyesore as it was in Idaho Falls?
    Is it an eyesore now? If it is not now, how will it become one? I would think the building could be used by Target. Or Costco. Or maybe made into a mini-mall.
    Third, I'd admit the figure given for insurance was quite reasonable for the individual employee - but how does that change if there are dependents to insure?
    Is this a concern before you will allow a business to be built or come into existence?
    As far as Wal-Mart employees patronizing other businesses in the area for food super Wal-Marts have a food court/fast food area.
    Are you saying the only thing downtown areas have to offer are food options? Are we to believe this whole fight is to save McDonald's from Wal-Mart? Costco also has a food court with really cheap food. Oh wait, was that even a question?
    On a personal note, I am disappointed that I've recently moved to an area that was appealing to me specifically because of its strong and diverse business community and cultural/educational opportunities (minus many "big boxes"), and I find that attractive element is to change.
    Is that a question as well? You had questions, but that is more of a comment, I think. But Troy Idaho does not have big box stores because they have no real population base, nor is it a destination for shopping. Moscow is a destination. Us Pullmanites are trying to make Pullman a destination for those who live in Whitman County, but we are fighting with other Pullmanites who would prefer we send thousands of tax dollars to Moscow.

    I am not anti-growth, just more selective. I would rather encourage new and different businesses - a box Target or Costco - than replicate a business that is already in existence.
    Good for you. Now get your own money and open one of those places. While Wal-Mart is using their own money, I suspect they would prefer to open up a Wal-Mart.

    Despite the fact a Wal-Mart Supercenter would indeed provide additional jobs, one must at the same time consider the potential jobs and businesses it would impact negatively.
    Is there a problem with unemployment in Latah County? According to PARD there is. And according to PARD a Pullman Wal-Mart would hurt Latah county and us, in Whitman county, should care. We should not open the Pullman Wal-Mart. So while there is a need for employment that is not being met with the current businesses, new and/or expanded businesses need to open.

    Regardless of what businesses are around, consumers have the same amount of money to spend today as they did yesterday and building any new businesses would redistribute money spent, not increase it.

    Jenette Dunworth, Troy
    I don't agree with it. I have more disposable income. I can spend even more than I have spent. With more businesses to spend my money at, I could add to the money that is around to spend. I am sure others are in the same boat.

    Also, there is a fair amount of money that goes to Lewiston, Spokane, and out-of-the-area businesses on the Web where money is spent. Having more local places will allow that money to remain here. Surely, you don't want me to spend in Spokane when I could redistribute the money locally. But I bet that would not bother you.

    I am sure what you meant is money within the community would go to Wal-Mart rather than the stores that are currently getting it.

    Let's look at that. Staples, Wal-Mart, and Office Depot sell many of the same items. Yet all three are still in business. In fact, with both Office Depot and Staples coming after Wal-Mart, why wasn't there a big outcry that those stores would take away from Wal-Mart, which was already there? What about Ken's Stationery? They were hurt by Staples and Office Depot. Yet there were no calls for economic impact studies and no hearings. They just came in.

    Hastings came in and hurt the record stores in the mall. There was an outcry from the business owners of those stores in the mall. But I don't remember the letters to the editor.

    What does a salesman or a cashier make at Hastings? What do they make at Staples? What kind of insurance benefits do they have for the employee and the employee's family? People would probably need to look up that information because there is not a big effort to get them shut down and stop them from opening up.









    Tuesday, January 24, 2006

    PARD's Cost to Pullman So Far

    Since PARD filed its Site Plan appeal last October, Pullman has lost $219,733.90 in sales and property tax revenues.


    Fair and Balanced?

    The Daily Evergreen is looking for feedback. News Editor Annette Ticknor said:
    We, as student journalists, must ask ourselves daily: Is this important to the reader? Is this the best way to tell people of our community’s stories? Is this story accurate? Fair? Balanced?

    And if you don’t see that, call us on it. These are standards you should hold us to as a newspaper.

    Call me an idealist, but I think the sole purpose of the Evergreen is to provide members of our community with a diversity of ideas and information so readers can make informed decisions and converse about issues.
    Here's what I told her:
    I find it ironic that the same day that you run a column that says we in the community should expect accuracy and fair and diverse coverage, you did not run a letter to the editor from a WSU student ennumerating the benefits of Wal-Mart to Pullman that you PROMISED would be in today's edition. You chose instead to run a "Street Talk" piece about Wal-Mart that was mostly negative.

    This is not surprising. Your story on the recent appeal hearing completely neglected to mention the results of the fiscal impact study, despite your paper being provided with a press release to that effect.

    This is not the only letter to the editor that has been squashed. Two recent letters in support of Wal-Mart were never published either. Two vitriolic letters from Wal-Mart opponents, however, were published yesterday, despite the Evergreen's policy of focusing on issues not personal attacks.

    This has been the Evergreen's policy since Wal-Mart announced plans to build in Pullman.

    It is your right, of course, to take a strong anti-Wal-Mart stance. Just please spare us all the talk about free speech and journalistic integrity.
    Is it any wonder that between the coverage in the Evergreen and the indoctrination from professors that students say "I hate Wal-Mart"?

    Let Annette know how you feel at news@dailyevergreen.com

    A Little Birdie Told Me

    That Walgreen's is looking at the new Lowe's development.

    The Palouse could definitely use a 24-hour full-service pharmacy.

    Monday, January 23, 2006

    Wal-Mart Grocery Stores

    This is an article by Lea Thompson who is the Chief Consumer Correspondent for NBC News. This is a list of supermarket chains and their rankings for a survey conducted by Dateline.

    The list

    From the supermarket chain that kept things cleanest, to the one with the poorest performance in our survey, here’s Dateline’s "Supermarkets Sweep." This is a list where nobody wants to be number one. (From the fewest violations to the most):

    10) Food Lion. The grocery chain that did best in our survey? Food Lion. For every 10 inspections, it averaged 8 critical violations: that’s less than one violation per inspection.

    9) Wal-Mart and Save-a-Lot. Not far behind we had two chains tied for ninth place? Wal-Mart and Save-a-lot. Over 10 inspections both averaged 9 critical violations.

    Save-a-Lot’s biggest problem, according to the inspection reports was selling food with expired labels or damaged packaging. While the chain did well in our survey, in one report from one Save-a-Lot in Eatonton, Georgia, a health inspector found 60 expired products for sale. Two months later, that number had doubled to 129.

    As for the world’s largest retailer? Wal-Mart’s biggest problem in its grocery sections seemed to be keeping food at the right temperature. One of its stores had a real strange problem: birds, live ones. In Madison, Indiana, health inspectors told Wal-Mart it had to get rid of the birds flying around the store.

    7) Costco and Sam's Club. Tied for seventh place, Costco and Sam’s Club. Both averaged 12 critical violations — that means a little more than one violation for each inspection.

    According to health reports, Sam’s Club didn’t provide adequate hand washing facilities for its employees. Some sinks were broken. Others had no soap.

    As for Costco, one of its Brooklyn stores was cited in 2004 for a rodent problem. We visited the store three times in the past year and every time found mouse traps. But the most common violation, one out of every five found by health inspectors involved temperature. On 56 occasions, in many different stores an inspector found food on sale that was stored in what’s known as the danger zone.

    Nelken: The danger zone is the range of temperature from 41 to 135. And once you get in the middle of that, that’s where bacteria rages and reproduce.

    5) Winn-Dixie. Next, as we go from fewest violations to the most, at number five is Winn-Dixie. For every 10 inspections, the chain had 14 critical violations and the stores received most of their citations for storing toxic chemicals such as cleaning supplies near food.

    4) Kroger. With even more problems, at number four, Kroger— they an average 17 critical violations.

    When Dateline paid the chain a visit in Sugarland, Texas we found a number of expired products: cheese and milk. But the problem health inspectors noted most often at Kroger was one we couldn’t see. On 91 different occasions, inspectors cited Kroger stores for having improper food equipment, such as dirty meat slicers.

    Nelken: Every time we slice the food we’re passing that bacteria on to that slice of cheese or meat.

    The next three chains had more problems than the rest of the pack in 2004. In fact, for every 10 inspections, each of them averaged more than 20 critical violations, that’s an average of more than two critical violations for each and every inspectors visit.

    3) Publix, on average, had 22 critical violations. Dateline visited two stores in Florida and found flies crawling over the fruits and vegetables. But according to inspectors, the most frequent problem for the chain was the way it stored toxic chemicals.

    2) Albertsons. For every 10 inspections, 24 critical violations. And a lot were for improperly stored toxic chemicals.

    1) Safeway. Finally, in the spot no store wants to be number one in Dateline’s “Supermarket Sweep?” Safeway.

    For every 10 inspections, Safeway stores received 25 critical violations— on average, two and a half critical violations for each inspection.

    The biggest problem, according to inspectors? Temperature violations. For instance, “Dateline” recently found this Safeway in D.C. selling fried chicken that wasn’t hot enough to keep bacteria from growing. And over two visits, “Dateline” also found dirty floors, broken packages of meat, and the store itself in a state of disrepair with wires hanging from the ceiling of the produce section.

    We should mention that 25 percent of the stores in our survey had no critical violations at all in 2004.
    I thought this was very interesting in light of how many PARDners are concerned with what will happen to Safeway if a Super Wal-Mart opens in Pullman. Sounds like a competition for cleanliness to me.

    An Open Letter to James Krueger

    James, this is getting out of hand and your latest letter to the editor of the Daily Evergreen is an absolute insult. How dare you suggest that those of us supporting the freedom of consumers to decide for themselves somehow lack concern for social and personal responsibility. Let me ask you, James, what do you define as responsibility? What does it mean to care for “one’s fellow man?” Where do you draw the line? Where is your crusade over the low wages and lack of benefits for the hundreds of student employees working in Pullman? I haven’t heard it. Did I miss that letter to the editor? When did you come out to denounce the trade practices of Starbucks? The corruption and violence surrounding the petroleum products you put in your car? What about the plight of the produce harvesters? Do you eat fruits and vegetables, James? If I searched your cupboards, would I find only organic, fair-trade products?

    We lack “sense and shame,” do we? Why should we be ashamed? We respect the legal process and the public input that went toward the development of the Comprehensive Plan that calls for commercial development on Bishop. We respect that consumers can make their own choices and shouldn’t have to be burdened and “shamed” by the supposed moral superiority of you and your ilk. We respect the choices of the voters of Pullman who favored Wal-Mart supporters by a three to one margin. We have been sensitive to the needs of those on fixed incomes, for whom the savings of a discount retailer makes a massive difference. We have not resorted to scare tactics predicting the death of children, desecration of the remains of our lost loved ones, and destruction of the local economy. We have not been dishonest. You know the results of the economic impact study, James. You know that it specifically states that downtown is vibrant and not in danger of the “blight” or “failed businesses” that you mention in your letter. You know this, James, but you said it anyway. I am insulted and I am angered by your righteous indignation and accusations. You’re an educated man, James. I expected better.

    PARD's Cost To Pullman So Far

    Since PARD filed its Site Plan appeal last October, Pullman has lost $217,736.41 in sales and property tax revenues.


    Uncle Buck Speaks

    Uncle Buck Viagra, an expert in the dating habits of nocturnal cloven-hoofed field-dwelling mammals, apparently now fancies himself an expert on land use law. He shared some of that knowledge in a letter in today’s Daily Evergreen:
    "Pullman is polarized over Wal-Mart. The two sides talk past each other. They do so because the foundations of their arguments are fundamentally different."
    Pullman is NOT “polarized” over Wal-Mart. For example, Uncle Buck’s wife, The Trolley Conductor, lost last year’s City Council election by 15 percentage points. This in the ward that will be most impacted by Wal-Mart. The vast majority of people in this town want a Wal-Mart, or they are at least not opposed to it. Any “polarization” we are experiencing is because PARD continues to spout outrageous and irresponsible lies that Wal-Mart will kill kids, shutter stores, desecrate dead bodies, and ruin our sex lives.

    Yes, the foundations of our arguments are fundamentally different. The members of PARD, like Uncle Buck, are jihadis, embarked on a Holy War. No amount of truth, logic, reason or facts will change their mind. Witness the recent fiscal impact study that was just revealed. It conclusively proves that all the things that PARD claims are untrue. Yet, they began to attack the study at the hearing before even seeing it, just because it doesn’t fit with their radical ideology.
    "One side uses moral compassion to emphasize child safety in the streets, employee exploitation, generation of city blight, failed businesses, pollution, and the desecration of cemetery solitude that the proposed Wal-Mart will bring.

    The arguments from the opposing side encompass property rights and an apparent new constitutional right to shop in disregard of community and responsibility to one’s fellow man."
    Well, PARD has finally publicly come out against private property rights. We all knew they were Socialists, and now we have the proof.

    As far as the Constitution goes, what crass hypocrisy! These are the same people that say there is a Constitutional right to gay marriage, abortions, and all sorts of other things the majority of Americans find morally repugnant. But now suddenly we can’t shop where we want? At least Jim Fisher, another liberal, got that point right.

    I’m sure the members of PARD rail against the “Religious Right” for trying to impose their brand of morality on others, yet that is exactly what these “Liberal Leftists” are trying to do to us.

    This is why Justice wears a blindfold and holds a scale. The land use law that is being addressed in the current Wal-Mart appeal hearings does not provide for “moral compassion”, thank God. The law is supposed to be objective. “Moral compassion” is subjective.
    "The Pullman politicians and their city managers have adapted the latter view with an eye on potential tax revenues. They view Moscow as an enemy and have failed to study the costs of their actions to other political entities, e.g. Whitman County, Colfax, State of Washington, or consider the long-term adverse pernicious effects that a one-store town will have on WSU and other institutions."
    Of course, the Pullman government wants tax revenue!!!!! That’s what a government does!! Only an elitist college professor would dismiss the budget needs that we have or how half or our taxable revenue is being exported out of town. No one hates Moscow, but we do compete with them, like it or not. In business, there are winners and losers. PULLMAN HAS BEEN A LOSER THE LAST 30 PLUS YEARS. I’M SICK AND TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT MOSCOW. THIS IS PULLMAN!! LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT!! Of course, Uncle Buck did not list Moscow and Latah County as “political entities”. But as far as Colfax, Whitman County and Washington go, the new study has shown they will benefit as well. And there are no “long-term adverse pernicious effects” either.

    And talk about rich hypocrisy!! The effects a “one-store town will have on WSU”? HA!! Isn't that what we have now with ShopKo? And how about the effects a “one-university town have had on Pullman”? The problem now is that we are not economically diversified enough. The largest employer in town pays no property tax, its employees pay no state income taxes, half of its employees live outside of Pullman and pay no property tax here, and students and visitors spend half their money outside of town. Don’t believe me? Check out the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
    "They apparently lack sense and shame. We can do better.

    James Krueger, Pullman Resident"
    We did do better, Uncle Buck. That’s why your wife is not sitting on the City Council now. Voters have more sense than you give them credit for.

    Sunday, January 22, 2006

    PARD's Cost To Pullman So Far

    Since PARD filed its Site Plan appeal last October, Pullman has lost $215,738.92 in sales and property tax revenues.


    Saturday, January 21, 2006

    "What Do We Lose by Doing More Study?"

    One of TV Rerun's more memorable quotes yesterday in referring to conducting even more unrequired and illegal studies about a Pullman Wal-Mart was, "What do we lose by doing more study?"

    I'll tell you exactly what we lose TV.

    An economic expert testified yesterday that a Pullman Wal-Mart could do up to $70 million a year in business, resulting in some $500,000 a year in sales tax revenue for the city of Pullman.

    Further information from the Whitman County Assessor's Office was submitted by Jim Hawkes.

    Pullman property tax rate is $16,4361 per thousand of appraised value. The estimated appraisal of the Wal-Mart Supercenter is $20,000,000.00.

    $20,000,000.00 X .0164361= $328,722.00

    $78,146.00 goes to the City of Pullman
    $18,238.00 goes to the hospital
    $9,958.00 goes to Emergency Medical Services
    $9,958.00 goes to Pullman Metro Park District
    $112,784.00 goes to the public schools

    Total for Pullman is $229,084.00

    $35,334.00 goes to Whitman County
    $8914.00 goes to the Port of Whitman

    Total for the county is $44,248.00

    The State of Washington gets $55,390.00

    $500,000 + $229,084 = $729,084 per year from a Pullman Supercenter in sales and property tax revenue alone. That comes out to $1997.49 every day that PARD's endless and frivilous delays are costing Pullman.

    Total Tax Revenue Lost Since PARD's Site Plan Appeal was Filed: $213,741.43

    I will be updating this figure every day until PARD drops their appeal or their appeal is rejected.

    Wal-Mart presents surprise impact study

    From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
    More public testimony, closing arguments set for Thursday

    By Michelle Dupler
    Daily News staff writer

    Members of the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development have clamored for months for a study on the economic impact that the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter will have on the city of Pullman.

    In a surprise move, Wal-Mart gave PARD what it wanted during the second day of hearings on the retail giant’s development application. The first day, Jan. 13, was packed with public comments both supporting and opposing the application.

    Bill Reid, a land-use economist with Portland-based consulting firm Johnson Gardner, presented the results of a study he performed showing Wal-Mart is unlikely to affect most businesses in town. His study also showed the super center is likely to reduce the projected 49 percent leakage of shopping dollars from Pullman to other communities.

    Wal-Mart filed an application to build a 223,000-square-foot super center on Bishop Boulevard in October 2004. PARD formed in January 2005 to fight the controversial retailer’s presence in Pullman.

    That fight has included filing two appeals to Wal-Mart’s site plan and State Environmental Policy Act checklist. A consolidated hearing on the two appeals began Jan. 13 and continued Friday. PARD presented about a day and a half of testimony from members and paid consultants about issues ranging from traffic and stormwater to the proposed store’s proximity to the Pullman cemetery.

    Concerns also have been raised about noise and light pollution, including a much-discussed claim by Washington State University Professor James Krueger on Jan. 13 that light pollution could cause Pullman men to become impotent. He based the claim on research involving deer.

    The cornerstone of PARD’s argument has been the notion that a Wal-Mart Supercenter will drive small retail businesses, and larger businesses such as ShopKo and Safeway, out of town. They have cited reams of academic studies and mountains of anecdotal evidence to support their claims, but until Friday, no one had presented data specific to Pullman.

    Reid’s study focused particular attention to Pullman’s downtown retail sector. He identified 83 retail or retail-service businesses in the central business core, but only 10 that would be in direct competition with the retail giant by selling the same goods or services.

    “Pullman’s downtown is like a lot of other small and historical downtowns in the Pacific Northwest,” Reid said. “It doesn’t serve as a primary retail center for residents.”

    The evolution of Pullman’s downtown as more of a niche retail market means many businesses won’t be in danger from a Wal-Mart, he said, adding the relatively few empty storefronts he observed were an indication of a “surprisingly vital” downtown.

    Reid also noted the “leakage” of retail dollars from Pullman to Moscow, Lewiston and Spokane as a reason he thinks Wal-Mart will provide more benefit than harm to Pullman. Based on the number of households in Pullman and sales- tax data from the Washington Department of Revenue, Reid calculated that Pullman residents spend about $92 million in outside communities that could have been spent locally. That represents about 49 percent of the $187.9 million Reid believes is available for local spending.

    “Those are dollars not being captured by existing retailers,” he said.

    Reid also projected a Wal-Mart store would bring in about $500,000 in sales-tax revenues for the city of Pullman each year.

    PARD’s attorney, Brian McGinn of Spokane, questioned Reid’s methodology, asking if he had studied the effect a Wal-Mart store would have on local wages or how Wal-Mart’s labor practices might affect the community. Reid said he had not studied those issues.

    McGinn also questioned whether Reid had considered the impact of having two Wal-Mart Supercenters in the region, with a store having been proposed in Moscow in November.

    “I wouldn’t characterize Wal-Mart in Pullman as competing with Wal-Mart in Moscow,” Reid said. “They will not open a store unless they are confident it will make money.”

    The hearing was adjourned after an additional two and a half hours of public testimony. More public testimony and closing arguments will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Gladish Community and Cultural Center.

    Hearing Examiner John Montgomery is expected to make a decision on the two appeals within 30 days after the conclusion of the hearing. If he decides in Wal-Mart’s favor, the company will be able to proceed with construction of the store. If he decides against Wal-Mart, the company may be asked to make changes to its application to correct any deficiencies Montgomery identifies.

    Montgomery’s decision can be appealed to the Whitman County Superior Court by PARD, Wal-Mart or the city of Pullman.