Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, July 31, 2006

Wal-Mart Sticks By Pullman

The following letter was received by thousands of Pullman residents last Friday:

Dear Valued Wal-Mart Customer

As you have probably heard, the Superior Court Judge's decision to review the Hearing Examiner's decision which would allow us to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pullman has been postponed.

We wanted to let you know why we believe this is a good decision, and that we expect the final decision by the Superior Court will be that much stronger in the face of the efforts of a small minority to stop the Supercenter from being built.

When the Judge reviewed the appeal of the Hearing Examiner's decision, he decided that there should be more detail in the examiner's explanation. This was not a rejection of the decision, but clearly an effort to make certain that whatever he decided, his ruling would be able to withstand additional appeals and not waste any more time.

So we are satisfied with the Judge's request of the Hearing Examiner to re-issue his decision with more detailed information, and believe that he will see the logic and wisdom in these findings.

And we expect to begin construction soon after the final appeal has been satisfied in the months ahead.

Thanks again to all of you who have written letters to the editor, attended hearings, testified in support, or have just made it clear to your friends and neighbors that you are a part of the majority of the greater Pullman community that supports the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter.

We look forward to seeing you at our grand opening next year.

And I, along with most everyone else that I know, will also look forward to that grand opening.

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More Proof

Highly reliable sources have informed me that a strip mall developer has been inquiring about available property near the proposed Wal-Mart location on Bishop Blvd. in Pullman. This developer is one that builds near new Wal-Mart Stores.

I dont know if this is the Klein Group, the Minnesota-based company I blogged about last year that specializes in building strip malls near Wal-Mart Supercenters.

This is yet further proof that the rising tide of Wal-Mart will lift all boats in Pullman's economy. More retail stores in Pullman will mean more traffic for our existing businesses and increased tax revenues for city projects. Let's see PARD continue to claim Wal-Mart will destroy our town.

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Whitman County Races Set

Last week was Filing Week for Whitman County political candidates. It's shaping up to be an interesting election season. According to Saturday's edition of the Lewiston Tribune:

Another quintet is running for the Whitman County Commission District 3 seat being vacated by Republican Les Wigen. Republicans James R. White, Jannine Henly Larkin, Michael Largent and Harmon Smith will run for their party's nomination. Nathan Weller is the only Democrat to sign up for the commission seat.

The only other race shaping up in Whitman County is between incumbent Republican Auditor Eunice Coker and Democrat challenger Nathan Horter.
You may remember that only Harmon Smith and Michael Largent received the Whitman County Republican Party's nomination for commissioner at a convention held on April 15. Jim White and Jeannine Larkin are running due to a Washington law that allows anyone to file for office using any party affiliation they choose. Both the GOP and Washington Democrats are suing to overturn this law. Obviously White and Larkin, both worthy candidates, will have a much harder row to hoe without the official support of their party. The winner of the September 19 primary will face Democrat Nathan Weller, a 24-year old political novice who works as an Assembler at Schweitzer Engineering Labs in Pullman.

Eunice Coker's opponent is also a young Democrat named Nathan, Nathan Horter, who until recently also worked in Manufacturing at SEL.

I'm hoping to get interviews with all the candidates. Of course, I have my own opinions and thoughts, but I will not be making any endorsements until after the primary, due to my official position within the Whitman County Republican Party.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Patriotism STILL the Last Refuge of Wal-Mart Haters

Regular Palousitics readers may remember Kelly Turk's inane letter to the editor back in February impugning the patriotism of Pullman Wal-Mart supporters, particularly those that have served their country:
What if it’s not good for Pullman?

The Wal-Mart issue has nothing to do with the right wing versus the left wing, or the intelligentsia vs. the, well whatever the opposite of intelligentsia is. The local businesses that would suffer due to a Wal-Mart opening seem to be forgotten by the city and the chamber. Is the chamber supporting the businesses that would suffer, that have supported the chamber all these years?

A World War II veteran brings up the issue of the location of Wal-Mart to the cemetery due to veterans buried there. That’s reason to not build a Wal-Mart here. We need to support our troops. What message does this send? My great-granddad was the blacksmith in Uniontown and many of my relatives are buried there in the cemetery. Don’t get me started as to how I would feel if Wal-Mart wanted to go in next to their resting places.

I traveled this great country of ours for 18 months, 68,000 miles, and 42 states through the back roads and the interstates. I can tell you the towns suffer a loss of identity you wouldn’t believe when the super Wal-Mart goes in. No study needed, you can look for yourself. Do we value cheap merchandise more than good factory jobs? Supporting Wal- Mart is ending American jobs because they are sent overseas.

To those groups that say, “Wal-Mart will be good for Pullman.” I ask, “What if it’s not?” If the supporters are so sure, then put up a bond that will help people that can’t make a living or whose good paying jobs end if the Wal-Mart goes in. Who among the Wal-Mart supporters will take personal responsibility if existing businesses and workers suffer due to Wal-Mart? Blogs are cheap.

Kelly Turk, Pullman
Mr. Turk regurgitated that letter for another insulting attack in today's Daily News:

Don’t ruin cemetery’s serenity

The Daily News article about Barry Hart, the cemetery sexton, “A Peace among the deceased,” brought up a couple of concerns with me. Hart states, “As time has gone by, it has become more popular (the cemetery).

People will come out here and sit and get comfort from being close to a loved one, or just to think.” Now there is a push to put a Wal-Mart parking lot next to the cemetery. Is that OK with all the supporters of Wal-Mart? Is nothing sacred but the dollar bill you save?

Over Memorial Day, my wife and I took our 8-year-old daughter to the Pullman Cemetery to show and explain to her what Memorial Day, other than being a vacation day, is about, thanking the soldiers that have died for our freedom. There were veterans there placing flags on the graves of soldiers from all the wars, and families were placing flowers and flags on the graves of their loved ones. It was very peaceful, and moving. Our daughter understood what all this meant.

The serenity of the cemetery was a big part of the effect on her. Doesn’t it bother the Wal-Mart supporters that this will be gone? Isn’t it disrespectful to treat our deceased neighbors and soldiers this way? I can’t imagine grieving over a loved one next to traffic and bright lights.

Destroying the serenity of the cemetery with a Wal-Mart is bad enough. The disrespect it shows our war dead is appalling. If you have a “support our troops” ribbon on your vehicle, and want the giant Wal-Mart next to the cemetery, please take it off. Better yet, reconsider your support of a Wal-Mart next to the cemetery. Show some respect. We can put it someplace else, like Mars.

Kelly Turk
Mr. Turk must consider the loved ones and veterans buried in the Oddfellows Cemetery on Sunnyside Hill to be less worthy of regard than those buried in the Pullman City Cemetery. If not, then where is his outrage over the close proximity of the Pullman School District Bus Garage next to that cemetery, just 15 feet or so away from some of the headstones? How about the Whitman County Rural Fire District 12 station? I'll bet it gets a bit noisy when there's a fire. Or better yet, the noise and crowds every 4th of July from Sunnyside Park, when hundreds get off the buses and walk over the grave sites?

I wonder if Mr. Turk's extensive travels took him to Arlington Cemetery, our nation's most hallowed repose for veterans. Does he realize that Arlington Cemetery is smack dab in the middle of a major metropolitan area, surrounded by interstate highways, an above-ground subway line, and office buildings and lies right in the flight path of Reagan Aiport? Again, where's the outrage?

Perhaps the veterans who fought for our freedoms might care more about free enterprise, free speech, and individual rights than Mr. Turk's elitist personal agenda against Wal-Mart.

One of the biggest reasons I am anxious to have our new Wal-Mart is that we won't have to endure any more intolerant insults from pompous asses like Turk.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Irony Alert

PARD continually cited Dr. Kenneth Stone's study of Wal-Mart's effects on small towns in Iowa in the 90's during the appeal hearings back in January. This study claimed that those towns lost 47% of their retail trade within 10 years of the opening of a Wal-Mart nearby.

What is Dr. Stone saying about Wal-Mart these days? He was recently quoted in the Baltimore Sun:
“All these malcontents, as I call them, I’m beginning to think of them as elitist,” says Kenneth Stone, an Iowa State University economist who has long followed the company. “I don’t think they speak for the average person. The local people say, ‘We want them.’
Ouch!! What do you think about Dr. Stone now, eh PARDners? Does he speak the truth still?

HT: Paid Critics

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Gordon Forgey, the publisher of the Whitman County Gazette,gets it.

In an editorial in today's Gazette, he states that growth and development comes from the private sector, not from the government or the public. The government and the public can help and support growth and development, but they cannot generate it. That takes people like Ed Schweitzer, who are willing to risk their own money. That is the point I tried to make in my response to Janet Damm. No amount of "We'd like a Costco better because they pay a living wage" or "We wouldn't fight a moderately-sized Target" will actually bring those stores to Pullman. It's all about economics, not personal ideology, personal wishes, overblown rhetoric, public hearings, petitions, or vocal "grassroots" groups.
Economic development: It all comes down to the private sector

Public money is being spent to help find and create new economic opportunities in the county. A number of publically funded efforts are under way.

Sadly, the prospects of these efforts are not good.

The county Area Development Organization is trying to get people to move back who once lived here. This is a dramatic lowering of sights from previous efforts to bring in new businesses and to actively support new projects. This was reported last week in the Gazette In the same issue, a business recruitment expert working with the port of Whitman said manufacturing prospects which might move onto the Palouse are few and far between. Outside pressures as well as limitations in this area make bringing in new business less than likely, those in charge of the efforts say.

About the only publicly funded successes have come from the development of the industrial park in Pullman. The park has proven a boon to county development and employment and has created pressure for new housing and new attitudes. Public seed money, such as the 0.08 tax grants, has been successful in generating town projects around the county.

As important as they are, they are not enough. It is an old story, but growth in the area and economic stability again come down to private enterprise and private risk taking. Public agencies, of course, have a role to play in the successful development of new projects, but ultimately their role is one of assistance rather than initiation.

The county, for instance, has played an important, active role in the gradual progress of a retail complex in the Pullman/Moscow corridor which may see fruition when all the hurdles are overcome, including opposition from the city of Moscow. The city of Colfax has played an integral role in helping to make possible a rural housing development and has taken the bold step of annexing a large tract of land to its north in order to help the development.

Still, these are private endeavors that need to go through public hoops. They are neither generated nor even solicited by public agencies. Enlightened public agencies can make such private plans achievable, but they do not often and, apparently, cannot generate them.

Private investment, in large part, is where communities should look to for new opportunities. Private investment does not happen magically. A community or an area, one even as large as Whitman County, can send out messages for this investment. One of the loudest and most important messages is that private investment will be supported by the general public. That support is most effectively communicated by a willingness and eagerness to support local businesses.
"A community or an area, one even as large as Whitman County, can send out messages for this investment. One of the loudest and most important messages is that private investment will be supported by the general public." That is why Business & Residents for Economic Opportunity (BREO) was formed, to get the message out that Pullman and Whitman County welcome private investment. Unfortunately, PARD continues to do tremendous harm to our desired image as a business-friendly location. Remember Ed Schweitzer's reaction to the "citizens against virtually everything"? No one loves Pullman more than Ed Schweitzer. How do you think outside investors view PARD's antics?

To borrow from Al "I Invented the Internet" Gore, Pullman and Whitman County have to face an inconvenient truth. As much as we love living here, to many outside business people looking to locate here, we dont' have a whole lot going for us.

The business recruitment expert referred to in the editorial above cited high housing costs and limited vocational training for trade skills as major obstacles to attracting manufacturing businesses to the Palouse. The higher housing costs are more manageable for software or high-tech workers, he stated, but that has challenges as well because technology professionals tend to be more affluent and have more options for where they want to live. In other words, why would these affluent professionals want to live in Pullman with housing prices higher than in Spokane but with considerably fewer entertainment, cultural and shopping amenities? I personally know of many professionals who have passed on moving here for just such reasons. I'm sure you do too.

The expert was probably too polite to mention our distance from an interstate highway and a major airport as other major factors,along with a high cost of living associated with limited retail choices, and an unholy alliance of left-wing academics and "I-Don't-Want-Anyhting-To-Ever-Change" good ol' boys preventing growth.

If PARD truly cared about this community, they would put their ideology aside and welcome Wal-Mart to Pullman. Any business wanting to locate here should have the red carpet rolled out for it. As I have said before, we are fighting for our future. Will we succumb to our disadvantages and decline or overcome the obstacles and succeed? You choose the side you want to be on. There is no neutral position.

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Chicago the Hip New San Francisco

The Chicago city council has approve a new big box ordinance that will require all businesses making more than 1billion in retail sales and larger than 90,000 sq ft. This is aimed at WalMart and Target. Both stores have said that if this ordinance passes they will re-evaluate building in Chicago.

Union leaders cheer after 35 council members agree to vote for this. In the next couple years they will require the stores that meet the above requirements to pay 9.25 an hour plus 3 bucks an hour benefits. So that makes the price of each employee at least 12.25 an hour.

This is why I hate specialty laws. They are trying to make a definition for something, in this case 1billion dollars and 90,000 sq ft, and treat it differently than other businesses. So we are now treating businesses differently under the law. I hope laws like these go to the supreme court and get ruled unconstitutional.

The other thing I think WalMart should do is open a new business model called a "strip mall". It would be several smaller stores, say 89,999 sq ft, that all share the same parking lot. One may have clothes. One could be groceries. And one for general merchandise. They would get around the definition of the ordinance.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Pullman Grows, Budget Shrinks, PARD To Blame

There was a story in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News about Pullman's growing budget crisis:

Skyrocketing employee costs will leave the city of Pullman feeling the squeeze of budget cuts in 2007, despite some unexpected gains in property and utility taxes.

Pullman Finance Director Troy Woo wore a dour expression as he gave his mid-year financial report and year-end projections to the City Council Tuesday night, including an estimate the city will end 2006 with about a $500,000 deficit that will have to be covered by cash reserves.

That’s about half the deficit Woo had expected when the budget was adopted in December, meaning the city will end the year with about $2.6 million in its coffers.

That number most likely will drop by about $1 million by the end of 2007, Woo said. He estimated the city’s cash reserves will be depleted by 2009.

Woo’s estimates have historically been slightly more conservative than reality. Expenditures for the first half of the year were about 49 percent of the projections in the 2006 budget. Current estimates put total expenditures for the year at about $12.9 million, or about 96 percent of the $13.4 million budgeted for the year.

Revenues are up slightly because of unexpected bumps in property and utility taxes, largely because of the boom of new construction the city has seen over the last couple of years, Woo said.

Total general fund revenues through June 30 were slightly ahead of projections, coming in at about $6.3 million, or 51.8 percent of budget projections for the year. Woo expects to end 2006 with a total of about $12.5 million, or nearly $300,000 higher than the $12.2 million anticipated when the budget was adopted in December.

Another positive sign comes from a comparison between 2006 and 2005. By June 30, 2005, revenues were at about 49 percent of projections.

There is little cause for celebration despite some positive gains, Woo said.

“At mid-year, it’s looking like a tough budget year for 2007,” he said.

New construction appears to be slowing, although Woo is hopeful the city will see a bump in sales tax from projects at Washington State University and the Pullman-Moscow Highway expansion. Any construction done within city limits is taxable to the state, and Pullman gets a piece of the pie, he said. The biggest cause for alarm in 2007 is a projected $292,803 increase in employee salaries for cost-of-living raises. Raises are tied to the consumer price index for Seattle-Tacoma-Bremerton, which jumped to 4.6 on July 1, Woo said.

The national consumer price index is 4.2 percent, City Supervisor John Sherman said.

Another $116,397 will pay for 9 percent increases in employee health insurance premiums, and $101,836 will fund state-mandated increases to employee pension schemes.

Woo calculated the city will need to somehow bring in an extra 4.2 percent in income in 2007 to meet its rising employee costs.

“I think it’s more likely (2007) will be a budget that is reduced and not one of expansion,” Woo said.
Let's recap shall we? Another $500,000 will have to come out of the city's cash reserves, which will be depleted by 2009 and budget cuts forecast for 2007. This at a time when Pullman is experiencing record growth and construction. The city council last night approved FOUR new subdivisions. And as I reported recently, Pullman will be adding 500 new jobs over the next few years.

What's wrong? Simple. Washington has no state income tax, relying instead on property and sales taxes. Property taxes can only go so far, as Pullman is already maxed out on the rates. Sales tax from new construction, as pointed out in the article above, comes and goes in spurts. No, the problem is that Pullman continues to suffer from retail sales tax leakage, which affects the general fund.

Infrastructure demands (streets, sewer, fire, police, etc.) will continue to grow with the increased population and increased work force, but Pullman will continue to fall behind more and more in its budget needs as those residents and workers take their retail sales tax dollars elsewhere.

Simple economics. A Pullman Wal-Mart Supercenter, based on an anti-Wal-Mart group's own numbers, would generate annual sales tax revenue of $552,500. Combine that with annual property tax revenue estimated by the Whitman County Assessor’s Office at $229,000, that's $781,500. Throw in utility, B&O and other taxes, and we're talking about close to a million extra dollars a year for the general fund. Problem solved.

But, not so simple to PARD. They are putting their own left-wing, elitist ideology and intellectual vanity above the city's best interests. If PARD had not appealed the city's decision to approve Wal-Mart, we wouldn't be facing this problem. As it is, the city has already spent $20,000 badly needed tax dollars to fight thie frivilous appeal, with tens of thousands more yet to come.

Be sure to thank a PARDner when the budget gets cut next year.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Damm It, Janet

I don't know who the PARDners think they are fooling. With Don Orlich's letter to the editor last Friday and now Janet Damm's in today's Daily News, it is obvious that they have asked members to write in and bitch about the city repaving Bishop instead of their own street, no doubt trying to distract the public from their own costs to taxpayers.
I am so glad to see that someone besides myself (Don Orlich, Opinion, July 21) [Please] noticed other streets in Pullman are more deserving of repair than Bishop Boulevard. What about Crestview Street between Grand Avenue and Lincoln Middle School? How many parents and school bus drivers have wondered about this road’s condition when they saw Bishop being resurfaced? I don’t believe this section of Crestview has been completely repaved since Bishop was paved the first time. It has only been patched over the years, and very poorly patched I might add.

What about High Street between Dexter and Paradise streets? I am sure the other hills in Pullman have some streets just as needy as these I have mentioned on Pioneer Hill.

How about having developers who benefit from improved street access kick in a portion of the financing? This would have solved the “ring road” problem we have now on Military Hill near the high school and the new housing development. It looks a lot like the proposed Wal-Mart on Bishop is driving city priorities more than meeting the needs of all residents.

Now, to correct the fuzzy math of Don Pelton (Opinion, July 21) who, in his continued attempt to sell our community on the unwanted Wal-Mart, says that rival Costco (which pays the kind of decent wages Wal-Mart does not) would never come to Pullman because our residents don’t make enough money.

How does Pelton explain, then, that Costco already located in Clarkston, a town with a lower per-capita income than Pullman’s? And anyone who has ever been to the store in Clarkston knows his claim that it appeals mostly to affluent customers is just plain silly.
Damm's letter was so lacking in respcet, honesty, logic, facts, and qute frankly, intelligence, I immeditately penned a response:
I am afraid it is Janet Damm (Opinion, July 24) that is guilty of using fuzzy math, as well as fuzzy logic.

Clarkston does not have a "lower per capita income" than Pullman. According to the latest official figures from the State of Washington, the median household income in Pullman is $23,198 versus Clarkston at $29,100. Just across the river, the median household income in Lewiston is $40,871.

According to the International Council of Shopping Centers: "The median age of Costco’s members is 51.8, and they have a median income of $85,000. That’s well above the U.S. medians of 35.6 and $41,000. More than 42 percent of Costco members earn upwards of $100,000 yearly, versus just 12.2 percent nationwide."

As a warehouse club, Costco's business model is entirely different than Wal-Mart. Costco targets professionals and small-business owners who buy in large quantities for the business and home. There happen to be more small businesses in Lewiston-Clarkston than in Pullman-Moscow.

Costco's business model, along with higher median age and median incomes, easily explains why Costco chose the L-C Valley and why it is extremely unlikely it will locate in Pullman.

If PARD members Janet Damm and Don Orlich so fervently desire an alternative to Wal-Mart in Pullman, all they need to do is come up with the millions in capital to build their own. Until then, perhaps the economics and demographics are best left to those who are professionals.
I didn't have space to get into the basic problem that Damm's argument about Clarkston having less per capita income than Pullman directly contradicts Chris Lupke's editorial in which credited Clarkston's high per capita retail sales with the wonderful "living wages" that Coscto pays. You can't have it both ways. Oops. It proves once again the PARD elitists will say anything to keep from having to deal with the plebians at Wal-Mart.

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"The concept of a living wage is a fraud"

More on the living wage insanity, this time from Michael O'Neal in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
During the past decade, the “living-wage” movement, led by an organization called ACORN, or Association for Community Reform Now, has won victories in scores of U.S. cities, including Baltimore, Los Angeles, Detroit, New Orleans, and of course, San Francisco.

The preferred tactic of living-wage proponents is ballot initiatives that force municipal governments to require any firm contracting with the city to pay its lowest-paid workers a wage pegged well above the minimum wage — typically $10 an hour or more.

The concept of the living wage, though, has about as much connection to economics as blowing bubbles has to spinach, for it tries to impose on markets someone’s sense of morality — of what should be. But when government tries to dictate the operation of any market, including the market for labor, it’s not a market anymore. It’s qualitatively no different from the old Soviet-style Five-Year Plans that created poverty, unemployment, low productivity, and cynicism. These campaigns succeed, though, because who could be against a “living” wage? A guy’s gotta live, no?

The chief argument of living-wage advocates is that U.S. poverty rates have not appreciably declined. But this argument fails to take into account the enormous number of immigrants, many of them unskilled, that the nation’s economy has absorbed — 13 million in the 1990s and another 7.9 million from 2000 to 2005, the highest five-year immigration rate in American history. Among adult immigrants, 31 percent haven’t completed high school, three-and-a-half times the rate for nonimmigrants. That poverty rates have actually declined slightly since 1990 (from 13.5 percent to 12.7 percent, according to the Census Bureau) demonstrates that a free labor market can raise — or push — people out of poverty, even when they start from virtually nothing.

Further, defining “poverty” is a slippery business. According to the Census Bureau, 40 percent of the people ACORN and its clones refer to as the “working poor” own homes, 70 percent own cars, 66 percent have air-conditioning, and nearly 100 percent have televisions. Now hold your letters. Even the most flinty-hearted economic conservative doesn’t want anyone to live in squalor. Struggling, no doubt, but “poor?” Poor by whose standards and by what metric? More to the point, poor for how long? In 1988 a Stanford University think-tank began tracking the economic progress of California’s lowest-income workers. The researchers found that by 2000, 88 percent had moved on to higher-paying jobs, realizing inflation-adjusted income gains of 83 percent to more than $32,000 a year. Not untold wealth, but nothing to sneeze at either.

Then there’s the argument that a person can’t support a family on the government-mandated minimum wage. This is twistification, for most minimum-wage workers aren’t supporting families. Census data shows that 85 percent of minimum-wage workers fall into one of three groups: young entry-level workers who still live with parents or other relatives, people who live alone, or second-income earners with a working spouse, so that the annual household income of families with a minimum-wage worker averages more than $45,000.

Here’s the irony of the living-wage movement. A few years ago, California filed suit against an organization in the state that was paying its workers less than the minimum wage. The organization countered with the same argument many businesses rightly use: Paying even the minimum wage would drive up payroll costs and force the organization to cut its workforce. The target of California’s suit was no predatory corporate giant. It was ACORN itself. In Detroit, living-wage regulations were so onerous that one organization decided not to renew its contracts to provide housing services to the city’s poor. A carnivorous corporation? It was the Salvation Army.

Meanwhile, study after study has shown that the result of living-wage schemes is the evaporation of jobs — the very jobs that provide a toehold in the labor force for young, unskilled workers willing to punch in on time every day and do their jobs well. But living-wage proponents who wander the murky corridors of Marxist class-warfare thought can’t see these facts.

The concept of the living wage is a fraud. It’s a feel-good slogan that makes proponents feel warm and fuzzy but threatens to play its own small role in transforming the American economy from the “little engine that could (and does)” into the “little engine that stalled.”

"'Big box' proposal draws heat"

Attention Justice League, Spokane City Council and all other anti-Wal-Mart do-gooders: The people in whose name you supposedly are carrying out your jihad don't want to be helped. They are smart enough enought to realize the unintended consequences of your social engineering.

From last Tuesday's Chicago Tribune:
More than a dozen church and community leaders ratcheted up the rhetoric Monday over a proposed city wage ordinance for big-box retail stores, saying the measure would hurt economically depressed areas.

The group, made up of leaders from predominantly African-American communities, said the measure would scare big retailers away from the city because it sets a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum.

"Why aren't we doing all we can to attract businesses?" said Dr. Leon Finney of the Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church. "Many of these jobs in retail are starter jobs.... I'm more interested in having a job than a living wage."

But supporters of the measure weren't buying their argument. They enlisted politicians and experts from other cities with similar ordinances who said their areas experienced little, if any, economic fallout.

The ordinance, expected to come up for a vote at a July 26 City Council meeting, has prompted Target officials to put their building plans on hold, further incensing critics of the measure. Wal-Mart official said last month that the plan, if passed, could alter the company's plans for building additional stores.

"Some say, 'Oh, they will build it, this is a lot of talk,'" Bishop Arthur Brazier said at the meeting, held inside the Apostolic Church of God on the South Side. "But experience tells me that is not the case."

"This is going to be very harmful to the city of Chicago," Brazier said, "to the African-American people who want jobs and Wal-Marts."

At least a dozen people, representing ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, and local labor unions in support of the measure passed out pamphlets to motorists outside the church.

"These big predatory monsters are not welcome here unless they come in and pay us a living wage," said Toni Foulkes, ACORN spokeswoman and member of Local 881 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. "These companies are not only destroying Chicago ... but the U.S., the world."

The ordinance would apply to stores with at least 90,000 square feet and annual sales of $1 billion across all operations. A minimum wage of $9.25 an hour plus $1.50 an hour in benefits would take effect on July 1, with increases every year until 2010. A $10 wage and $3 benefit minimum would become effective then, after which annual cost-of-living increases would apply.

About 40 stores in Chicago, including outlets such as Target, Sears, Home Depot, Nordstrom's and Marshall Field's, would be affected.

Supporters of the proposal set up a telephone conference call Monday afternoon in which politicians and experts from across the country weighed in about their experiences with such ordinances.

David Coss, mayor of Santa Fe, said retailers and the Chamber of Commerce were concerned about the effect on businesses after the New Mexico city passed a living wage law three years ago.

"The Wal-Mart in Santa Fe has never skipped a beat," Coss said. "At least here in Santa Fe they have learned to live with the law after all."

Coss said the chamber predicted employers would flee the city for the surrounding area, "and that just hasn't happened."

In fact, Coss said, Wal-Mart has won permission to build its first super center in Santa Fe. The Santa Fe ordinance requires all businesses with 25 employees or more to pay workers at least $8.50 an hour. Under the ordinance, the wage rose this year to $9.50.

Chicago Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th) said the pattern and practice of the large retailers in other communities leads her to believe that their threats to not build stores "are disingenuous and disrespectful of the city and its residents."

Lyle said the city represents more than $1 billion of untapped buying power to the retailers. "Make no mistake, Wal-Mart and Target will open stores in Chicago, because the money is here," she said.
HT: John Ruberry

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Helmet and Seat Belt Laws

Gee, maybe Idaho should repeal the seat belt law to match the over-18-no-motorcycle-helmet law. Then we could read even more stories about people dying from being ejected from their cars.

Idaho could change its motto to be similar to New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die." IdahoƂ’s could be "Bike and Drive Free and Die." If you think this is funny, take a look at the people (no helmets) on motorcycles on the front page (Daily News, July 17), the sad story on Page 3 about the Pullman couple who were killed in a motorcycle crash (no helmets), and "Idaho stands as a haven for helmetless bikers" on Page 4.

Add to that the helmet story on the front page of Sunday's Lewiston Tribune. What part of death rate statistics and accident news stories resulting from not wearing helmets or seatbelts do people not understand?

You can be sure that everyone who has either died or suffered severe injuries never imagined it could happen to them.

Karin Clifford, Moscow
What part of personal choice and freedom does Karin not understand? Does wearing a seat belt in a car and a helmet on a motorcycle save lives? Yes. No doubt about it. But the question is should the government limit the citizens to only safe activities? Should the people be free to choose a path for their own life?

I think that people should be free to make decisions about their life. If on the way to skydiving, bungee jumping, andclifff diving I should have the freedom to not wear a seatbelt.

If I want todrivee a motorcycle down a freeway and feel the air running through my hair I should be able to. The one thing those statistics she cites does not show is how many of those helmet-less riders CHOSE to be helmetless. That was what they wanted to do. They knew the risks involved and chose to not wear one.

Let me live my life, Karin, and you live yours. You can wear your seatbelt, I wont stop you. But don't make me buckle up, unless I choose it on my own.

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Tale of Two Letters

There were two letters about Wal-Mart in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News today, but as different in nature as can be.

Don Pelton, a retied WSU Business professor and BREO member Don Pelton wrote a very erduite and economically-sound dismissal of PARD's continual canards about alternatives to Wal-Mart, especially Costco:
Costco bad fit for local market

Supporters of the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development often suggest alternative firms to replace the planned Wal-Mart in Pullman. Most often mentioned is Costco — a firm that better fits the business and social agenda of PARD.

Like Wal-Mart, Costco builds huge box stores and both use their enormous economic power to pound down the prices paid to suppliers in order to offer the lowest prices to consumers.

Both stores are already in the local market. Wal-Mart in Moscow intends to build another store in Pullman. The Costco store that serves this area is located on Fifth Street in Clarkston. If each store already has an outlet locally, why would either want to build another store? Indeed, for Costco, I know of no information that suggests it has any intention to build another store in the Pullman-Moscow-Lewiston-Clarkston area.

The annual median income of Costco shoppers is about $70,000. Thus the market for Costco is primarily limited to the most affluent one-fifth of shoppers. In contrast, the median income of Wal-Mart shoppers is about $38,000 and the median income level in the Pullman-Moscow area is less than $40,000. If we eliminate all students and their families, the most affluent 20 percent of the population including babies will total perhaps 3,000 persons. If each of these shops once a week at Costco, daily customer counts would be about 430. At Wal-Mart in Moscow, about 2,500 persons plus children shop on an average day. Costco would not be a viable business.

Thus, another Costco is a zero fit for the Pullman-Moscow market. I will cover Wal-Mart in another letter.

Don Pelton, Pullman
Then there was a letter from another retired WSU professor and PARD activist, Don Orlich. As usual from the PARDners, it is filled with negativity, childish name calling and sarcasm, and venomous personal attacks:
Residents need a real voice

Bishop Boulevard has been resurfaced on the city of Pullman’s “accelerated” schedule to placate the “Arkies” of Bentonville. However, taxpayers living in the 500 block of Dilke get to “eat dust.”

The new water main has been operational for almost one month and the decision-making gang at City Hall seemingly has put Dilke Street on the “get around to it when we feel like it” list. Just walk about on this street to measure the depth of dust on parked cars, lawn chairs, sidewalks and rooftops.

Drive by and “feel” the ride.

Perhaps we need a major change in Pullman’s city government so residents may have a real voice in determining the priority of services paid for by tax dollars.

Donald C. Orlich, Pullman
The difference is clear.

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While Moscow pursues its "New Cities" agenda , dense urban infill, and building apartments in grain elevators and PARD pushes for "smart growth" in Pullman, the little towns of Colfax and Palouse know what people really want. People don't move to the Palouse for "Manhattan-style living," they move here for big homes and wide-open spaces.

Colfax and Palouse and both declining agricultural towns that desperately need more people to reinvigorate their tax bases and school systems.

According to last Tuesday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
The Colfax City Council unanimously voted to annex about 1,200 acres into the cityiin an attempt to draw development to the north end of town.

With the council’s decision, the McDonald family plans to sell 300 acres to Arizona Land and Ranches.

The development company plans to build upscale mini-farms on lots of 20 acres and larger. All the homes will have foundations and wood construction, a well and septic system.

“I like to call them gentleman’s farms,” said Dan Fulfs, a member of the McDonald family and owner of the land. “The plan is to work with the city to get the right ordinance and zoning.”

Colfax City Administrator Emily Adams said the goal is to allow for growth but not destroy the rural atmosphere of the city. By building rural residential areas, the city can avoid the tight lots that Adams said are characteristic of Pullman.

This article appeared in The Boomerang back in May:
Darin Watkins, County Planning Commission Member, came to the Palouse City Council meeting April 25 to discuss the Whitman County Planning Commission land use policies. He urged the city council to look at the policies regarding cluster housing and see if this is something the city would interested.

Watkins is interested in the growth and development of Palouse, as his family members have been long time residents and his children currently attend the school. Cluster housing is generally based on five acres plots, for single residential homes and often professionals are looking for this type of housing. Since it is all "supply and demand" developers might be interested in Palouse especially since there is a lack of housing available here.

A planning commission is in the works for Palouse and Councilman Rick Wekenman said this would be a good topic for them to consider.
Universities are supposed to be assets for towns, but as Pullman and Moscow's left-wing academicians halt any and all forms of growth, the surrounding communities of Lewiston, Clarkston, Colfax, and Palouse are outhustling us and starting to kick our butts.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

It's not about Whitman County Development...

The Weekend Daily News editorial (Opinion, July 15 & 16) was partially correct – the mutual aid agreement in question is not a political football. However, the agreement is not needed to allow cooperation among area firefighters. The fire in Troy this past weekend illustrates this. Nine fire jurisdictions faced that fire without the existence of any mutual aid agreement.

What this agreement does is codify existing procedures and common sense. It also spells out who will be responsible for payment for fire suppression chemicals. What this agreement does not do is make cooperation among area fire departments possible. We already have that ability.

The city of Moscow is trying to look to the best interests of its residents with regard to development in Whitman County on our western border. The Moscow City Council is working to mitigate adverse effects this development might have on our city. Among those issues are safety concerns. I would like to see Whitman County address those concerns. Not with the proposed mutual aid agreement, but with a plan that will work if our resources are already engaged elsewhere. Will Moscow cross jurisdictional boundaries to offer aid to our neighbors? Of course it will. With or without this agreement. We are, after all, civilized people, and civilized people help their neighbors.

Aaron Ament, Moscow

Soooooooo... it is not a political football? You are not holding it up for political reasons, but instead you are holding it up because the Moscow City Council doesn't want building to happen in Whitman County. Thanks for clearing that up.

What Do 500 New Pullman High-Tech Jobs Look Like?

If you haven't been on the north end of town in a while, I'll show you:

Schweitzer Engineering Labs' new corporate headquarters and conference center, 168 new jobs

Schweitzer Engineering Labs' manufacturing expansion, 300 new jobs

Isothermal Systems Research's expansion, 31 new jobs

Of course, this is great for Pullman, as these businesses will pay property, B&O, and other taxes.

The flip side is that Washington has no income tax and half of those 500 new workers won't live or shop in Pullman, sending their property and sales taxes somewhere else.

Pullman desperately needs to continue its housing growth and add more retail options to capture the full benefit of these new jobs.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Target: Hypocrisy!

Remember how PARDners TV Reed and Leilani Alamillo once said that PARD would welcome Target to Pullman? Specifically, Reed stated "A Target, if of modest size and located away from Bishop Boulevard, will cause far less disruption and will actually accomplish the stated goal of super-center backers to bring people in from Moscow and even Lewiston." Alamillo said "I also have been asked the question, 'If Target was planning to build in Pullman would there be the same opposition?' The answer is no. I think Pullman would welcome Target with open arms."

Remember how in Chris Lupke's latest screed he threw up Costco as a model store versus Target? Why the change of heart? Read on!
Target: Wal-Mart Lite

by Kari Lydersen, Special to CorpWatch
April 20th, 2006

Shopping in a Target store, you know you’re not in Wal-Mart. But the differences may be mostly skin deep.

Targets are spaciously laid out and full of attractive displays and promotions. While many people associate Wal-Mart with low-income, rural communities perhaps dominated by a prison or power plant, life-size photos throughout Target stores remind you that their customers are a lively, beautiful cast of multi-cultural hipsters.

“Their image is more upscale, more urban and sophisticated, sort of a wannabe Pottery Barn,” said Victoria Cervantes, a hospital administrator and documentary-maker in Chicago who regularly shops at Target. “I’m not sure if their customers really are more upscale. But that’s the image they’re going for. They have a very good PR campaign.”

In contrast to this image, however, critics say that in terms of wages and benefits, working conditions, sweatshop-style foreign suppliers, and effects on local retail communities, big box Target stores are very much like Wal-Mart, just in a prettier package.

Of more than 1,400 Target stores employing more than 300,000 people nationwide, not one has a union. Employees at various stores say an anti-union message and video is part of the new-employee orientation. At stores in the Twin Cities, where Target is headquartered, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union Local 789 has been trying for several years to help Target employees organize, with little luck.

“People ask what the difference between Wal-Mart and Target is,” said UFCW organizer Bernie Hesse. “Nothing, except that Wal-Mart is six times bigger. The wages start at $7.25 to $7.50 an hour [at Target]. They’ll say that’s a competitive wage, but they can’t say it’s a living wage. We know a lot of their managers are telling people, ‘If we find out you’re involved in organizing a union you’ll get fired.’”

Wal-Mart has about 3,800 stores nationwide and another 2,600 worldwide, employing about 1.6 million people. Target plans to open at least 600 more stores by 2010, for a total of about 2,000 in 47 states. Like Wal-Mart, a typical Target sells a wide range of consumer goods including clothing, household items, office supplies, toys, sports equipment, furniture, art, and electronics; and the stores often have photo laboratories and pharmacies. About 160 SuperTargets nationwide also sell “upscale” groceries, as the company’s website describes them, and often contain banks, Starbucks, and Pizza Hut Express outlets. Total revenue was up 12.3 percent in 2005 – $52.6 billion compared to $46.8 billion in 2004.

Wage Slaves

A survey by the UFCW found that starting wages are similar in Targets and Wal-Marts -- possibly higher overall at Wal-Marts – and that Target benefits packages are often harder to qualify for and less comprehensive. (Target’s media relations department refused to comment on its wages and benefits policies; individual wages and benefits policies are not included in their annual report.)

“We know that Target and Wal-Mart are constantly checking each other out and seeing how cheap they can get by,” says a UFCW statement on the website Targetunion.org, urging Target employees around the country to post their wages.

A Target employee who asked that his name and store location be kept secret said he can barely make ends meet on his salary of $8.40 an hour.

“After three years, I have received less than $1 an hour in raises. I started at $7.65,” said the worker, adding that he does love his job because of camaraderie with his co-workers. “We are never compensated and rarely even recognized for meeting our goals.”

The starting wage he describes would put a single parent with two kids working full time at Target just slightly above the poverty line; someone with more children or working fewer hours would fall below the poverty line.

Compare that to Target CEO Robert Ulrich, who earned $23.1 million in 2005, according to Forbes, making him the second-highest paid CEO in the retail sector. That’s more than 1300 times as much as the worker we spoke to.

Sweat on the Racks?

Meanwhile a glance at labels on a few racks of stylish $20 cardigans and capri pants shows that, like Wal-Mart and most major clothing retailers, Target itself sources its products in India, Indonesia, Guatemala, Mexico, Bangladesh, Kenya, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and other low-wage, developing countries.

In October 2005 representatives of a Mexican labor federation protested outside a Bronx Target to call attention to alleged child labor and illegal worker lockouts at a Mexican factory that supplies the store’s Halloween costumes.

“The way the global garment industry is, there are so few factories that respect workers’ rights that there is no way Target gets its clothes from workplaces where workers’ rights are being respected,” said Allie Robbins, national organizer of the group United Students Against Sweatshops.

Race to the Bottom

Target doesn’t differ from most major clothing vendors; you usually have to seek out small specialty companies to find union-made, American-made textiles. But as one of the country’s major retailers, Target is an industry leader, fostering and profiting from the U.S.’s general culture of consumerism: We buy, buy, buy at ever lower prices in a market system sustained by very low-paid, non-union workforces in impoverished countries.

Even as American consumerism thrives, however, there is growing public awareness and critique of the problems it spawns. Wal-Mart is becoming a lightning rod for the public’s increasing dissatisfaction and animosity. A recent study by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell showed that 63 percent of people would oppose a Wal-Mart opening in their community. Groups such as Wal-Mart Watch, several documentarians have harshly critiqued Wal-Mart’s working conditions and its effects on communities and international labor standards.

But somehow, perhaps because of its relative small size compared to Wal-Mart, Target has largely avoided negative publicity.

In fact, it benefits from anti-Wal-Mart anger, a fact that isn’t lost on company officials.

Media reports describe Target executives booing and hissing at a Wal-Mart logo during sales meetings and calling it the “evil empire.” While communities often fight tooth and nail against new Wal-Marts, residents usually welcome Targets, as local governments offer the corporation generous tax breaks and subsidies to locate in their area.

That is what happened last fall in West St. Paul, Minn., where a new Target reaped $731,000 in local tax breaks, while 30 miles away, Ham Lake was fighting Wal-Mart’s efforts to open a superstore. The Target in downtown Minneapolis received $68 million in public subsidies, according to the Star Tribune newspaper. In Chicago in 2004, a city-wide coalition formed to oppose two proposed Wal-Marts and the fight roiled the city council for months. Meanwhile at least three new Target stores have been built in the metro area in the last several years.

Target definitely works hard on its image. Last summer it became the first company to sponsor an entire issue of The New Yorker, with 17 pages of ads. With a 2005 advertising budget of $1.028 billion, it regularly takes out full page ads in major daily papers and magazines, promoting the company’s products, and sophisticated image as well as its charity work. The company’s website says that 96 percent of Americans recognize the Target logo, “more than the Swoosh or Apple.” Unlike Wal-Mart’s low-budget, cluttered decor, Target sports artsy, larger-than-life photos of everything from cleaning products to desserts to women in lingerie. It is the exclusive marketer of specialty items such as the Roots “retro-futurism” official gear for the 2006 Winter Olympics. Target’s website notes that its average consumer has a median household income of $55,000, and 43 percent have completed college.

“It’s like they’re trying to be Marshall Fields or something,” said Chicago high school student Stephanie Evans, shopping for a bikini for spring break. “But it’s really the same things as at Wal-Mart, just at higher prices.”

The first Target discount store opened in Roseville, Minnesota, a suburb of St. Paul, in 1962. It was run by the Dayton Company, which originated in 1902 with a retail store called Goodfellows owned by George Dayton in Minneapolis. Along with the discount stores, Target Corp. runs Target Financial Services, which manages the Target REDcard credit card.

Target: We Train the FBI

Perhaps Target’s oddest singularity is the fact that it boasts one of the nation’s top forensics labs at its company headquarters. A product of its efforts to stop shoplifting and property destruction at its stores, its mastery of surveillance and investigative technology and strategy is now eagerly subscribed to by law enforcement agencies nationwide, including the FBI. The company provides training for police and federal agents on investigation and prevention of everything from arson and robbery to smuggling.

Target does more proportionately for the community in the form of community grants and charity than Wal-Mart does, and spends considerably less boating about it. According to the company website, which says Target donates more than $2 million a week to local and national non-profit organizations. The company gives grants of $1,000 to $3,000 to community organizations, and shoppers can donate 1 percent of Target REDcard charges to a local school. The website says more than $154 million has been donated to schools since 1997. The company also runs Target House, a luxury residential facility in Memphis where families can stay while their seriously ill children are treated at a nearby medical center.

In comparison, Wal-Mart, with revenue of $288 billion in 2005, donated $200 million (or 7/100ths of a percent) to charities and organizations in 2005, according to its web site.

While many customers and employees praise Target’s charity efforts, critics counter that the company would have more positive impact on communities by providing living wage, stable jobs to local residents.

Following the general trend in retail and the U.S. job market as a whole, Target relies on part-time workers. This schedule may work well for some students and retired people, but it contributes to a dearth of full-time, fully benefitted, stable employment – especially in communities reeling from the store’s impact on small local businesses.

“If I needed a full time job I couldn’t afford to work here,” said "Rosa" a 57-year-old who works part time at a St. Paul Target near her house. (Her name has been changed because she fears retribution.) “It starts at $7.50 an hour and you only get a 50-cent raise once a year. So how long will it take you to even get to $10 an hour! You can’t live on that.”

Diversity Dilemma

Target’s website says diversity is a core value for employees and customers. It says Target is above national averages in employing minorities, both in the overall workforce (21 percent) and managerial positions (38 percent).

But that may depend on the store. Hesse said that some of the many Somalis refugees employed in the Twin Cities stores complain about cultural insensitivity and discrimination.

“Entry level management people just don’t know how to handle it, they seem to be insensitive to immigrant workers,” said Hesse. “In one store, there’s a lot of friction between managers and Somali workers. They hire these young white boys as managers, and then they run a crew of Somalis with a very condescending attitude.”

An African-American employee at the flagship Roseville, Minn. store (who asked that her name not be used for fear of retribution), said she feels as if she constantly suffers racial discrimination. She said there are no black supervisors on the overnight shift she works. “There are a lot of Somalis working on the overnight shift, but no Somali team leader.” She said she is tired of young white “team leaders” repeatedly telling her to work faster or do things differently.

“It’s the same conversation over and over,” said the middle-aged woman. “They treat us like we’re kids. And they’ll approach you in front of other crew members, not in the office or somewhere private.”

She thinks she was unfairly given a document from management saying she needed to increase her work speed.

“I feel like I was discriminated against because I’m black,” she said. “I talked to white co-workers who I was working side by side with, and I could see I was working just as fast as them. I asked them if they had to sign the paper [from management] saying they were too slow and they did not. The majority who got the "guidance" slips were Somali or African-American like myself.”

Beat the Clock

Workers generally complain about a pressurized and patronizing work atmosphere where they are constantly pressed to work harder and faster and at the same time to act cheery and invested in the store’s success. The company’s website boasts that workers will respond with “cheetah-like” speed within 60 seconds to customer calls on the red phones throughout the store.

Rosa said employees are constantly exhorted to get shoppers to sign up for Target REDcards; some stores have weekly quotas. “They’ll have little employee promotions, it’s so ridiculous, you’ll get candy or a liter of pop if you get two people to sign up,” she said.

She said the store is generally understaffed and workers are expected to do numerous jobs at the same time.

“You’re running around, feeling like you’re being pulled in every direction,” she said. “There’s never enough people on the sales floor. You’re getting calls to come up to the cash register, to do pulls [of merchandise] in the back room, to deal with returns at guest services, all at once. And the whole time you’re constantly picking up and folding stuff, getting things off the floor. At my age it’s a really hard day, on your feet the whole time on these linoleum floors. I’m aching when I get home. I have to take Ibuprofen just to be able to sleep.”

John Hayden had a similar experience working in a Target distribution center near his home in Oconomowoc, Wisc. After quitting his Target job in 2002, he was diagnosed with a hernia which he blames on lifting up to 700 boxes a day.

“It was hard work,” said Hayden, who was in his late 50s at the time. “We never produced enough to keep the middle managers happy. I think they plan it that way – they always want more.”

Could it Be Different?

In today’s market, could retail really be any different? Fair labor advocates think so. Hesse notes that in several unionized grocery stores in the Twin Cities, hourly wages hover around $13 to $17 an hour, roughly double Target’s. Now SuperTarget’s sale of groceries threatens the survival of union grocery stores.

Even other major big box retailers have managed to pay significantly higher wages and achieve higher employee retention. The prices at Costco Wholesale Corp., the nation’s fifth largest retailer, are competitive with those at Target and Wal-Mart, but it pays full-time employees an average of around $16 an hour along with generous health benefits.

Costco pulls this off by offering fewer brands of each item, keeping infrastructure costs low and forgoing advertising; and the company also benefits financially from low employee turnover. Labor advocates also note that The Container Store is known for decent wages and good working conditions.

“We’ve turned into a nation of consumers, not citizens,” said Hesse. “We need to make retailers and employers bring back the old social contract where if you work hard and give them full time, they have to treat you with some degree of dignity and pay you enough that you don’t need to worry about your basic needs all the time.”
Where to begin? Other than the usual union socialist claptrap, this article offfers some interesting illuminations.

First, how embrassing for Reed and Alamillo that they supported this terrible, evil store coming to Pullman.

Could PARD, those defenders of the community, have been duped into supporting greedy cpaitalistic Target over Wal-Mart, as happened in West St. Paul and Chicago? Or perhaps PARD was just cynically throwing out a red herring to WSU students they know want a Target, all the while hating both Target AND Wal-Mart?

It is clear from the rhetoric above that NO retailer can please the capitalist-hating socialists other than upscale, unionized, Democratic-donating Costco.

In any case, PARD has not mentioned Target in a while, perhaps because of the influence of their Daddy Warbucks, the UFCW. If they do so again, I will be sure to remind them of this article.

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The Unions Strike Out Again

The Maryland law , pushed by the AFL-CIO, requiring Wal-Mart to pay more on health care benefits for its employees, passed with great fanfare earlier this year, is now officially dead. It was struck down by a federal judge who ruled ruled that the law "imposes legally cognizable injury upon Wal-Mart."

Similar legislation fizzled in 26 other states, including here in Washington.

Unions just ain't what they used to be. Where have you gone Jimmy Hoffa?

Meanwhile, Spokane citizens had better pay attention before they pass a "living wage" ordinance aimed at Wal-Mart.

HT: Chris Abraham

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"Open Mike" Night In Pullman

Mike McGavick, Republican candidate for U.S. Senator, is traveling the state in his RV and visiting with Washington residents in more than 40 towns and cities.

This evening, the big red RV stopped at Kruegel Park in Pullman for a barbecue and meet-and-greet.

Mike was introduced by none other than our Once and Future Governor, Dino Rossi, a personal hero of mine!

Then Mike came up and spoke for a while and took some questions from the large crowd of 150. Some highlights on his positions: For a strong national defense and supports the war on terror. Against activist judges. Feels the House's immigration bill is too strong but that the Senate bill is not strong enough. Favors stronger border security, including a fence on the Mexican border, no Social Security benefits to illegal aliens, and a guest worker program that penalizes illegal aliens. Wants to see the health care system and Social Security reformed. Believes in limited government, free enterprise and free, but fair, trade. Srongly dislikes negative campaigning and the current partisanship in DC. Supports a Constitutional ban on flag burning. Will not allow the Snake River dams to be breached on his watch.

However, the former Safeco CEO is not totally in lockstep with the national party, as behooves a Washing-ton GOP candidate. He said no senator from Washington could vote more than 90% with his/her party (like Cantwell) and still be a good representative of the state's interests. McGavick is against cuts to Pell Grants proposed by the Bush Administration and says more grants are needed to encourage students to study math and science so we can compete in the global marketplace. He thinks a green card should be issued along with a student visa so foreign students can keep the knowledge they have learned here. He thinks that the No Child Left Behind Act needs reform to be more flexible. These answers seemed to throw off the Democratic ambush questions.

Even though this event was attended by many local GOP luminaries, such as Representative David Buri, Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers, Whitman County Prosecutor Dennis Tracy, State Representative candidates Steve Hailey, Tedd Nealey and Joe Schmick, and County Commissioner candidates Harmon Smith, Michael Largent, and Jeannine Larkin, it was open to everyone.

In fact, the local 'Rats held a somewhat lame "silent vigil" nearby. Mike invited 'em up for hot dogs and hamburgers, but they just stood there holding their signs.

Heck, PARDner and anti-WASL activist Don Orlich even stopped by to ask Mike a question about the No Child Left Behind Act. Somehow I doubt Orlich, a staunch member of the Whitman County Democrats, will be voting for Mike.

Mike has his own Democratic "stalker" named Kelly, who videotapes every McGavick public appearance, waiting like a vulture for some gaffe. Mike said his campaign would never shadow Maria Cantwell in such a way.

All in all, it was a great evening. Getting to meet Mike and Dino personally was a highlight, along with getting a chance to finally talk face-to-face with Daily News reporter Michelle Dupler in person.

The Truth Is Out There

This article from the Billings Gazette is an important one.

It talks of a man, Bill Gates, who has extensive knowledge of Wal-Mart's effects on small towns because his job for 17 years was to set-up and manage new Wal-Mart stores.

But Gates is hardly a flack for Wal-Mart. He left the company because he didn't like the direction it took after Sam Walton's death. His comments to the Worland (WY) Women's Business Roundtable were not approved in advance by Wal-Mart, as the company requested. He spoke only as an "ex-employee interested in helping fellow business owners deal with the challenges ahead."

Here is a summary of Gates' presentation:

  • There are pros and cons to Wal-Mart coming to town. Some stores will likely see more business from increased local traffic, while others will have more competition. Well, in Pullman, the only stores that will even vaguely be in competion with Wal-Mart are SkopKo, Dissmores, and Safeway. Those are all national chain stores, so who really cares? Plus, those chains already compete in other markets with Wal-Mart Supercenters. They'll just mark down their prices 15-20%, and continue to do just fine.

  • Wal-Mart is more than willing to work with a community and give them what they want, but the community has to tell Wal-Mart what they want (and I might add in a nice way). Fighting Wal-Mart is a sure recipe for failure. As my grandmother used to say, you can catch more flies with sugar than with salt. This is the lesson Moscow never got. But luckily the Pullman City Council did.

  • The best way to compete against Wal-Mart is to carry items they don't and focus on customer service. This could apply to most every business in downtown Pullman, which tend to be niche type stores.

  • Wal-Mart brings a lot of people into town and existing businesses will benefit from that. TOWNS WITH A NEW WAL-MART CAN EXPECT A 15 PERCENT INCREASE IN BUSINESS. THAT'S ONE FIVE PERCENT. Is it any wonder that most businesses in Pullman support a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pullman?

  • Wal-Mart can be tough on small town pharmacies. Again, no big deal for Pullman. There is only one even vaguely Mom-and-Pop pharmacy in town, Sid's Professional Pharmacy. And Sid's has great locations up by the hospita and a drive-thru on the north end of town. The other pharmacies are all national chains: ShopKo, Rite Aid, and Safeway.

  • 85 percent of workers hired by Wal-Mart will work full-time at a starting wage $2 AN HOUR HIGHER THAN THE MINIMUM WAGE, with benefits available after 180 days on the job. So much for PARD's lies.

  • Stores in smaller surrounding communities suffer the most when a new Wal-Mart opens. Businesses in the anchor town will see a drop in business for the first six to nine months, but sales will pick up after the newness factor wears off. Again, I think we're talking ShopKo, Dissmores and Safeway.

  • There's tons more evidence just like this out there. All any local reporter has to do is a little leg work to find out the truth, rather than simply parroting the proaganda and lies that PARD feeds them.

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    Lost on What Mutual Aid is...

    Board not thinking clearly

    You missed the point entirely in your weekend editorial (Opinion, July 15) regarding the mutual aid pact for fire and police protection.

    Of course, Moscow should help its neighbors with emergency assistance if needed.

    However, Moscow should not subsidize the creation and maintenence of a shopping mall located in Washington on the Pullman-Moscow Highway.

    I thank the council members who raised this issue and did not blindly sign the mutual aid pact. Council members Linda Pall and Aaron Ament were asking the right questions. They want to be assured the owners of this new mall are not going to rely on Moscow for fire and police protection. Emergencies, sure. Regular protection, no, they should pay for that themselves.

    Why should Moscow taxpayers pay for regular protection for a mall that pays no taxes to Idaho or Moscow or Latah County?

    I applaud council members Ament and Pall for thinking clearly and asking appropriate questions.

    It’s time for the Daily News editorial board to do the same.

    Bill London, Moscow

    It seems to me those people who are writing letters like the one above have no clue what a mutual aid agreement is or what it does. Moscow and District 12 have had these agreements for years. There have been many car accidents right near the border where D12 came out and took care of business.

    There also have been times where resources were low and Moscow was asked to come and help. But that is the point. D12 did not stay at home and ask Moscow to take care of the problem. D12 came to the problem, took care of as much as they could with their resources, then called for help when help was needed.

    The city council is doing nothing more than trying to make as issue out of the Hawkins Development. They could careless about the mutual aid agreement.

    I would like to point out something that I made bold above... I agree Moscow should not support it. A mutual aid agreement does NOT support it... I would like to also point out that "Moscow should not oppose the creation and maintenence of a shopping mall located in Washington on the Pullman-Moscow Highway."

    The Truth? You Can't Handle the Truth!

    This just keeps getting funnier. The UFCW's "Wake Up Wal-Mart" has just put up a new web site in response to Working Families for Wal-Mart's "Exposing the Paid Critics" site.

    Scotty, you'll love this. The new site is called "A Bunch of Greedy Right-Wing Liars Who Work for Wal-Mart", and the URL is
    . Palousitics doesn't seem so bad in comparison, does it? : )

    It seems the moonbats just don't like to have the truth exposed. As I have experienced personally, they immediately resort to epithets like "Extremist", "Boob", "F****ing Lunatic", and "Senator Joe McCarthy" whenever you have the temerity to challenge them. That's the problem with the PARDners and their ilk. No sense of humor.

    What a scandal that Wal-Mart is giving more to Republicans than Democrats! The shock! The horror! Why Republicans are right down there with child molesters! And the Democrats NEVER have any scandals, as we all know. It's a wonder Wal-Mart donates to the ANY 'Rats at all, given how they are howling for Wal-Mart's destruction.

    The unions and groups like PARD are their own worst enemies, as Cynthia Hosick so amply demonstrated a few months back.

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    HT:Chris Abraham

    Journalism 101

    It seems almost every town experiencing growth in the Northwest has a "grassroots" group bitching about that growth.

    Bayview, up in Kootenai County, is no exception. A new group called the "Bayview Community Council" was recently formed to "give citizens more of a voice in the development process." The Spokeman Review ran a story about this group last Saturday. Herb Huseland, a resident of Bayview who has a blog called "Bay Views," took exception to the coverage and has some very salient comments that apply to our local media and its coverage of our merry band of growth-hating scoundrels, PARD:
    Bayview has been somewhat quiet recently, unless you count the remarks of disidents starting up their very own community club, because they couldn't control the Bayview Chamber of Commerce.

    Well, that brings up another subject. A staff reporter working for the Spokesman-Review, interviewed several people that, I've never heard of, that stated the Chamber is representing business only, and not the community. Not true. While there are about five businesses that have membership in the Chamber, about 90% of the membership is are individuals.

    The problem is in the quality of reporting. If all you interview are of the opposition, then what you have is a newsroom editorial, instead of information. I realize that "If it bleeds, it leads" does dominate, slanting opinion by either not trying to interview others, is not news...It's just the opinion of a very few.
    "Fair and balanced" means presenting EVERY side of the issue, even if you have to get up off your ass and find the other sides. Repeating a press release verbatim without fact checking, not digging deeper, or simply giving a group free ink/air time to spout their propaganda is just lazy, biased, or both. Michelle Dupler of the Daily News is one local reporter who seems to know how to do it right.

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    We Can Find a Better Neighbor Revisited

    PARD was selling bumper stickers at last year's Lentil Festival ( I can't wait to see their booth this year) that read "We Can Find a Better Neighbor". Bad timing for PARD, as usual, because just a week or so later Wal-Mart was widely praised for its response to Hurricane Katrina.

    Now comes news that the Wal-Mart has been named by Forbes magazine as the #1 most generous corporation in America.

    In 2005, Wal-Mart donated $245 million to charities and organizations, most at the local level.

    In this area alone, Wal-Mart has donated $1000 to the Moscow School District and $500,000 to protect 28,000 acres of forest near St. Maries.

    As part of Supercenter grand openings, Wal-Mart also tends to throw large amounts of cash at local organizations, such as what happened in College Place last year.

    So, the bottom line is that we couldn't possibly hope to find a better neighbor than Wal-Mart

    Maybe that bumper sticker should read "We Can Find a Better Catch Phrase"

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    HT: Chris Abraham

    Monday, July 17, 2006

    Oh, Brother

    Just saw this at paidcritics.com. No comment necessary.

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    The Leak Gets Bigger and Bigger

    As PARD searches for a place in the UFCW/Crazy Al Norman Wal-Mart Haters Hall of Fame and Moscow plays around with big box, living wage and other business-unfriendly ordinances while threatening to let shopping centers in Whitman County burn down, the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley retail economy continues to grow and develop. Hot on the heels of the grand openings of Ross Dress for Less, Famous Footwear and Pier One Imports and plans for an Eddie Bauer at the Nez Perce Plaza in Lewiston comes word from KLEW TV of another retail store, Liquidation World, opening in Clarkston:
    A new store at the Clarkston Center was the place to be Thursday.

    Shoppers filled the store, and cars flooded the parking lot as Liquidation World opened its doors to the public. The new store replaces the Lewiston Orchards location, with four times the space and the largest clothing section of all 110 stores.

    With items flying off the shelves and into carts, one loyal customer stopped to say why she thinks the move was a good choice.

    "We used to shop when they were located in Lewiston all the time and really enjoyed shopping there," said Lori Allison. "But, it was getting too small for them. And, so, this facility looks like it's a lot bigger and they'll be able to handle and carry more merchandise, so it will make it more fun to shop. So, I think this is an ideal location for them."

    Store Manager Loretta Meisner said she is excited about the new location.

    "We've been up in Lewiston for 11 years now," said Meisner. "We kind of grew out of that place, so we're opening up a whole new big store. It's four times bigger than the store we had up there. It looks like a brand new retail store. We have 3,500 square feet of clothing coming in. We have a huge furniture department now. We get our stuff from insurance claims, hurricanes, closeouts. We have an insurance claim from a big pharmacy."

    And what does Meisner say the best part of the store is?

    "The bargains," she said. "All my shoppers in town are really excited about coming to our new location. We've got a lot of good deals you could never find anywhere else."
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    Color Me Flabbergasted

    Why? Because liberal columnist Tom Henderson has just published an editorial in the Lewiston Tribune with which I almost completely agree:
    Spokane effort just a jihad against big-box stores

    Death to Wal-Mart! Death to Wal-Mart!

    The retail giant may seem too massive to slay, but if it can't be killed, the angry mob amassing in Spokane at least wants to force it to pay higher wages.

    Like so many crusades, however, this one is long on ideology and short on practicality.

    Members the Peace and Justice Action League are collecting signatures to get a measure on the local ballot to force Wal-Mart and other big-box store retailers to give workers a big raise over Washington's minimum wage.

    The state minimum wage is $7.63 per hour. The initiative would force retailers to pay $10.30 per hour. That's if the store provides health insurance. If it doesn't, the required wage would be $12.58 per hour.

    A case can made for increasing the minimum wage. It certainly can be made in Idaho, where the state minimum wage reflects the federal minimum of $5.15 per hour. That's pathetic.

    But if the minimum wage is increased, it should be increased across the board. Singling out big-box retailers serves no purpose other than some people's vendettas against discount stores.

    Rather than be put at a competitive disadvantage, retailers would simply locate outside the city limits -- hurting sales tax revenues while contributing to roadside sprawl.

    Spokane has the power to establish its own minimum wage laws, but by focusing on a certain kind of retailer, the measure could keep the city in court for years.

    Bad ideas for initiatives have a way of spreading. This one could be particularly seductive given widespread hostility toward Wal-Mart, Target and their brethren. Such stores definitely raise many economic and social justice questions.

    "This is about family values and the future of Spokane," said Rusty Nelson, leader of the Peace and Justice Action League.

    If so, then it's a battle people should wage with their brains and not their emotions.
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    Sunday, July 16, 2006

    "National Wal-Mart Appreciation Week Kicks Off in Atlanta"

    A press release from Americans for Wal-Mart:
    ATLANTA – Celebrating the widespread appreciation of Wal-Mart by the American people, americansforwalmart.org has declared the week of July 17 – 22 “Wal-Mart Appreciation Week” across the United States.

    “Wal-Mart’s enduring commitment to everyday low prices has reduced the cost of living and boosted the standard of living for all Americans, and we thought it was about time to say thanks,” explained Luke Boggs, executive director of americansforwalmart.org, an independent consumer campaign not affiliated with or funded by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

    “We want to give Americans a chance to show their appreciation to Wal-Mart, and people can participate by simply shopping and saving at their local Wal-Mart store,” Boggs said.

    The Atlanta-based group expects Wal-Mart Appreciation Week to be among the largest mass participation events in American history, with more than 125 million people taking part nationwide. That would make this week’s event roughly 25 times as large as Hands Across America (1986) and 250 times as large as Woodstock (1969).

    “With more than 125 million American customers per week, Wal-Mart has many, many times more fans than critics,” Boggs said. “We wanted to make sure the voice of Wal-Mart’s customers is heard loud and clear in support of America’s leading retailer and our free market system.”

    Visitors to americansforwalmart.org can download commemorative Wal-Mart Appreciation Week bumper and lapel stickers. Customers can share their own Wal-Mart appreciation stories at stories@americansforwalmart.org.

    “Despite the relentless efforts of professional rent-a-critics, Wal-Mart remains overwhelmingly popular with the American people – and for good reason. Americans love saving money, we support free competition, and we know the difference between a bargain and a cheap shot,” said Boggs.

    “Wal-Mart’s focus on low prices saves the American people $263 billion per year,” said Boggs, citing a 2005 study by Global Insight that examined the overall pricing impact of the popular retailer. “Wal-Mart is creating more than $2,300 in annual savings for every family in America,” Boggs said.

    Boggs will kick off Wal-Mart Appreciation Week Monday morning in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart store in Metro Atlanta, where he will thank Wal-Mart employees for all they do to help American families. Other local consumers will discuss why they like shopping and saving at Wal-Mart.

    Boggs plans to visit Wal-Mart stores in five cities across four states over the course of the week. In addition to Atlanta, the cities include Knoxville, Tenn. ; Cincinnati, Ohio; Nashville, Tenn.; and Birmingham, Ala.

    An independent, grassroots consumer effort not affiliated with or funded by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., americansforwalmart.org is the sole and founding campaign of Americans For Free Enterprise, a Georgia-based nonprofit. Visit the group online at www.americansforwalmart.org.

    The executive director of americansforwalmart.org is Luke Boggs, an Atlanta writer and proud Wal-Mart customer. Boggs has written about Wal-Mart for publications including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, DSN Retailing Today and Human Events. He recently spoke about Wal-Mart on a panel at Columbia University.
    Now if we only had a Wal-Mart in Pullman that we coukld appreciate.

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    Why We Fight

    I have learned from a highly-reliable source inside Pullman City Hall that PARD will never quit until all possible appeals have been exhausted. They are planning to use Pullman as an example of how other small-towns can fight Wal-Mart.

    How do you like that, Pullman? Our tax dollars are being used to subsidize TV Reed and Company's intellectual vanity? The PARDners want to be enshrined in Crazy Al Norman's Hall of Fame. It has nothing to do with "fighting for Pullman's residents," traffic, dead children and grannies in the streets, bankrupting Mom-and-Pop, or any of that other billious B.S. they spout. This is strictly a fight against Wal-Mart for ideological reasons, a therapy for despondent local liberals dealing with Bush Derangement Syndrome.

    The problem is that PARD has been a complete failure at every step. What have they accomplished? Have people outside the WSU Department of Liberal Arts flocked to join them? Do they enjoy the support of the local businessses they have vowed to protect? Have they got the backing of the schools and the hospital they are supposedly protecting? Have they convinced local elected officials of the worthiness of their cause? Have the papers been filled with angry letters from more than just a handful of people? Could they convince voters to elect their members to the City Council? The answer to these questions is a resounding "NO!!"

    What success can PARD claim? A 10,000 petition signature. Please, that thing is more bogus than a $3 bill. PARD's argument has been overwhelmingly rejected in a college town that leans liberal and always votes Democratic. Look how much resistance there has been to PARD in Pullman. If they couldn't make their in case in Pullman, they would never stand a chance in another small town.

    The irony is that their "child" group, No Super WalMart in Moscow, was much more successful than PARD, mostly by doing the exact opposite of what PARD did. The only reason we don't have a Wal-Mart in Pullman yet is because the UFCW funded attorneys got involved. On it's own, PARD would mever have the tens of thousands of dollars required to prolong this battle.

    We will continue to fight PARD and call for them to drop their lunatic appeals because we believe in Pullman and what's good for its citizens. We do not want Pullman to turn into some national battlefield in the class war over Wal-Mart. We don't want outsiders who live here only temporarily and don't understand our history and issues to come in and dictate where we can or cannot shop. We do not want our future sacrificed on the altar of a professor's left wing, out-of-the-mainstream beliefs.

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