Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Saturday, January 14, 2006

That Liberal Media, Part Two

Again, PARD comments in italics, supporters comments in bold:
Wal-Mart in the cross hairs

By Michelle Dupler, Daily News staff writer

Don Pelton said if residents want to know how a Wal-Mart super center would affect Pullman businesses, they can simply walk down Main Street or Grand Avenue and ask, “Does this store carry something Wal-Mart would carry?”

“You can run an impact study quickly,” Pelton said. “Just walk in and look at the inventory and see what’ll be affected. It’ll take a couple of hours.”

The notion of a fiscal impact study on the proposed 223,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pullman was at the heart of a daylong public hearing Friday at the Gladish Community and Cultural Center. The hearing was convened to weigh the merits of two appeals the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development filed against Wal-Mart’s site plan and State Environmental Policy Act checklist.

About 200 people came and went throughout the day. They heard PARD members, many of whom also are university professors with expertise in topics covered in the hearing, testify about studies that show the hidden ways Wal-Mart may cost a community money.

The public also joined the debate, which at times was passionate but always was civil.

“I think there was a very strong case for the city’s obligation to do a fiscal impact statement,” said T.V. Reed, a PARD board member. “The people testifying made it clear the national trend shows (the impact of Wal-Mart) would be negative.”

A fiscal impact statement would identify the specific effects Wal-Mart may have on Pullman, including whether the store would create jobs, whether other businesses would be harmed or helped, and whether Wal-Mart’s alleged low wages and lack of employee benefits would put a drain on taxpayers by pumping more people into government social and health services.

A study from University of Illinois showed a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Chicago put smaller stores in the neighborhood out of business, said Annabel Kirschner, a Washington State University professor in community and rural sociology. Kirschner said she has been following academic literature about Wal-Mart for more than 20 years.

“Many of these studies show a negative impact on the community,” Kirschner said.

The same study also showed Wal-Mart workers nationally earned an average of about $13,000 per year, which Kirschner claimed put them below the poverty line if trying to support a family. She also was concerned about recent reports in the media that Wal-Mart forces workers to put in extra hours “off the clock.”

Claiming that Wal-Mart should be kept out of town because it pays low wages is a false issue, said Dan Dornes, a Pullman resident and professed Wal-Mart supporter. He believes Wal-Mart mostly would employ students who already are earning minimum wage in many businesses.

“I think the record is clear they would be providing jobs and benefits above what is here now,” Dornes said.

University of Idaho criminologist Deirdre Sommerlad-Rogers testified about studies showing Wal-Mart attracts crime and therefore puts a drain on local police services. She pointed to the example of a Wal-Mart store in Lodi, Calif., that took up four times as much police time as other retail stores because of shoplifting and the high number of car thefts in the parking lot.

Pelton and others argued a Wal-Mart would do more good than harm in Pullman.

“The average Wal-Mart store does $80 million a year in business,” said Pelton, a retired business professor. That could add a lot of money to Pullman’s sales tax revenues.

Resident Carol Hayden reiterated the idea much-touted since Wal-Mart filed its application in October 2004: a super center in Pullman will stop residents from taking their tax dollars to Moscow.

“I want the truck and the buck to stop in Pullman,” Hayden said.

Other issues raised in the hearing included the proposed store’s proximity to the city cemetery and the traffic the store will generate throughout the city.

The traffic study commissioned by Wal-Mart as part of its application showed the store will generate more than 11,000 extra trips on Bishop Boulevard each day. That number is an underestimation, said Robert Bernstein, a Seattle-based traffic engineer hired by PARD.

He said the study does not take into account national data that shows Wal-Mart stores tend to generate more traffic than competing discount department stores, and does not account for additional traffic during the busy holiday shopping season in November and December.

Wal-Mart stores “kind of create a wall of traffic along the street,” Bernstein said. “The impacts need to be analyzed.”

The hearing will continue at 10:30 a.m. Friday in the council chambers at City Hall. Wal-Mart’s attorney will have the opportunity to rebut evidence presented by PARD. Additional public testimony also will be taken.
Daily News total a bit more balanced: 9 PARD paragraphs, 8 pro-Wal-Mart, but the number of anti-Wal-Mart words are much higher, 384 versus 215. Be sure to write a letter to the editor telling Michelle Dupler how much you appreciated the "balanced" coverage.

Steve McClure had a relatively fair op-ed piece. He stated:
Twelve months from now, the folks in Bentonville, Ark., will have a pretty good idea what people on the Palouse think of Wal-Mart.

We expect they’re going to hear plenty. The only real debate is whether corporate execs at the world’s largest retailer will hear it through the two proposed super centers in Pullman and Moscow or pass it along in a corporate memo as a market that got away.

The answer to that question is elusive since the people here aren’t speaking with a single voice.

Since the first super center was proposed for Pullman more than a year ago, the presence of Wal-Mart has generated some heated opinions. When a second super center plan was unveiled in Moscow a couple of months ago, the volume on the argument has only gotten louder.

There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground, and our editorial board is as divided as the community on the issue of Wal-Mart super centers.
Steve McClure strikes me as a level-headed conservative, so he might be a supporter, but I get the distinct impression that Murf Raquet and Virginia Henderson are against Wal-Mart.

In any case, it was totally inappropriate in my opinion to both put a story about Wal-Marts 3,000 miles away in Maryland on the front page of the Daily News, run a column by PARD on the day of the appeal hearing with no opposing viewpoint, and then today run that ridiculous cartoon showing Wal-Mart as King Kong destroying Pullman and Moscow while PARD and "Moscow Business" try to stop it in their little fighter planes. They should have shown a plane with "BREO" written on it trying to shoot the PARD plane down. But, as usual, BREO gets no mention in either paper. It's just PARD, PARD, PARD, PARD. That's an acronym I'm looking forward to not seeing anymore.


April E. Coggins said...

I haven't seen the cartoon but hopefully they didn't include a little fighter plane called "Pullman Business" because the large majority of Pullman businesses recognize the value of Wal-Mart and we still believe in free enterprise for everyone.

WSUStretch said...

Go back and reread the article where "Moscow Businesses" was discussed. Then go look at the types of businesses listed and the total number of businesses in Moscow. Without context, the message can be bent however the speaker wants it to (compare the # of businesses to the lawsuit dollars topic - same thing.)

Unfortunately, the media faided again to bring the facts to the front. The hearing was "SUPPOSED" to be a challenge to SEPA and Site Plan rulings. Any testimony outside of that is "hot air" :-)

April E. Coggins said...

Well then, we heard a lot of "hot air" yesterday. Very little of PARD's case had anything to do with Pullman and the specific building site plan. If you read the transcipt of the Mount Vernon hearing on Wal-Mart, which Tom has posted below, you would see about what happened yesterday. The anti's only questioned the decisions, the did not at any time try to provide proof for their beliefs. It was as if they say it, it makes it all true.

Tom Forbes said...

Agreed, WSUStretch. No mention in either paper of the failure by the EWU archaeological team to find any evidence of "lost" graves around the cemetery, a major SEPA point. There was only passing mention of traffic, stormwater, or any of the other issues listed in the PARD appeal.

Instead, we get regaled with tales of crime in Lodi, CA, the sex drive of bucks, and closed businesses in Chicago. Yet PARD claims anything we say good about Wal-Mart is not applicable to Pullman.

As Mark Workman has reiterated over and over again, it's not a vote. Yes, it's a public hearing, but that is not the be all, end all that the media keeps claiming it should be. What new, relevant information came out yesterday? It was just the same old tired arguments we have been hearing during the past year.

In my opinion, the extended public debate on Wal-Mart just keeps the community divided.

WSUStretch said...

I couldn't agree more - and PARD clearly doesn't understand the processes in the city (zoning, comp plan, other ordinances). The "public hearings" occured in the 80s and 90s through more than 100 hours of public testamony. The citizens have been heard and it unfortunately took 15 years to convince the business community nationally that we were serious about improving the living conditions, tax base and OPTIONS here in Pullman for Pullman residents. Our city, state and country are guided by various sets of laws or "rules". Pullman set that direction in the 80s after a disasterous 60s and 70s where the old city fathers did not want to see Pullman get any bigger than about 15,000 people and fought all growth (thus the malls being relocated to Moscow and both north and south bypasses shelved). Preaching to the choir again... ;-)

April E. Coggins said...

The headline on the LMT Opinion page, "Activists need to collect more than horror stories" should be saved to reuse in the headline about the Wal-Mart hearing results. While the opinion piece is not about the Wal-Mart hearing yesterday, the headline fits PARDs appeal.

Sarcastic Housewife #1 said...

I didn't get to the meeting until right at the end. I think the part that is most interesting is the fact that it is supposed to be an environmental hearing and the Daily News seemed to focus on every aspect, but the environmental impact.