Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Saturday, January 14, 2006

That Liberal Media, Part One

I have italicized all the PARD quotes, supporter quotes in bold:
Proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pullman prompts lots of talk

By DAVID JOHNSON of the Tribune

PULLMAN -- Dan Smith said he plans to spend thousands of dollars shopping at the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter here.

But Robert Grunewald said he'd probably sell his plot in the Pullman Cemetery for fear of being buried adjacent to a Wal-Mart loading dock.

Annabel Kirshchner testified that Wal-Mart has a history of driving local businesses out of town and paying employees a pittance in wages and benefits.

But Dan Dornes said he thinks Wal-Mart will bring in new shoppers and employees won't suffer any more than some working at Washington State University and other Pullman businesses.

So it went Friday during a 10-hour public hearing on an appeal lodged against the City of Pullman by a group opposed to Wal-Mart's plans for a 250,000 square-foot supercenter on 28 acres adjacent to Bishop Boulevard.

"Would you want to spend eternity at the ass-end of a Wal-Mart?" asked Grunewald, who together with his wife, Marjorie, told hearing examiner John Montgomery that the city's cemetery -- and the people buried there -- deserve better.

Most of the testimony centered on requests from residents and members of the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development (PARD) that the city conduct an in-depth study on the fiscal impact of a new Wal-Mart on other local businesses.

Other PARD concerns include health and safety issues, potential encroachment on the city cemetery, and flood and pollution dangers from storm runoff.

Montgomery, a Spokane attorney, was appointed by the city to make a decision on whether to uphold the city's determination that Wal-Mart had satisfied environmental and infrastructure concerns, had met construction conditions and is cleared to start building.

Company representatives have indicated work could begin this spring.

If Montgomery sides with PARD on the appeal, the city would be forced to reassess the situation.

City Attorney Laura McAloon told the Lewiston Tribune that the city is charged with considering infrastructure, zoning and other construction matters, not fiscal impacts on other businesses.

But T.V. Reed, a spokesman for PARD, said a Wal-Mart Supercenter warrants more concern on the part of city officials.

"We have never dealt with a project of this scale," he told Montgomery. Reed said there's a "desperate need" for government to protect the integrity of the community.

James Krueger, a neurobiologist at WSU, warned that the supercenter, with its huge bank of lights on a hill at the south end of town, could result in sleep depravation problems for surrounding residents. He called for a "thorough" analysis of the situation.

The same concerns voiced here have been echoed 8 miles away and across the border in Moscow, where Wal-Mart has proposed building a second supercenter.

Several Pullman residents testified that putting two huge stores so close together sounds like a recipe for at least one going under and a community left with an empty retail cavern.

Wal-Mart officials have already indicated they plan to close their current store located in Moscow if the supercenters are built. Moscow officials continue to work on an ordinance requiring conditional-use permits for big box stores.

"We are anxious to preserve the quality of life here in Pullman and avoid the blight of empty buildings," Robert Grunewald said.

Kirshchner compared the advent of Wal-Mart to the arrival of a business elephant in town. She said a zookeeper must make different arrangements to keep an elephant compared to a mouse.

But Smith turned the analogy around, suggesting that "a zoo full of mice won't get any visitors, but a zoo full of elephants will."

Dornes said he recently went downtown and assessed the local business situation.

"I found myself hard pressed to find any businesses that would be impacted," he said. He suggested that the biggest negative impact of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pullman would be for towns such as Moscow, Lewiston, Clarkston and Spokane that might lose shoppers.

The hearing is scheduled to resume Friday at 10:30 a.m. in the Pullman City Council chambers.
That's 10 PARD paragraphs (283 words) to 5 (125 words) for Wal-Mart supporters. Nothing like good "balanced" coverage.


WSUStretch said...

At least the LMT writer "tried" to steer the purpose of the article back to the real issue - SEPA and Site Plan determination challenges.

Dale Courtney said...


This has been a long-standing critique of mine to the Daily News as well as the LMT.

Let's say that there's a protest and 500 people show up. 10 for side A and 490 for side B. The DN and the LMT have this idea that "balanced coverage" means 5 quotes from each side.

But that's completely misleading and unbalanced.

But they don't see it that way.


April E. Coggins said...

I would portray the hearings as very pro-Walmart in attendance and very anti-Walmart in speeches. This was PARD's opportunity to make their case in a civil and unimpeded manner. Hopefully, we will be given the same opportunity this Friday.

I was at the hearings during the entire day. I found the reporting to be pretty accurate. If we compared the testimony cut vs. the testimony given, we definitely won in the press. I especially appreciated Michelle Dupler's comment that the hearing was passionate, but always civil.