Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Resorting to character assassination

Three years ago a proposal surfaced to build a 223,000-square foot Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pullman with a 1,039-space parking lot. Many in the community spontaneously rose up to oppose this proposal, forming the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development. Wal-Mart's response was not to establish a dialogue with us but to recruit people to counter our criticism of this project.

Tom Forbes emerged as an advocate for Wal-Mart, launching a smear campaign against the reputations of PARD members. In the past three years, I have never mentioned Forbes' name publicly, taking the high road and ignoring his relentless defamation. But Forbes has not ignored me or PARD members, calling us liars, Communists, Nazis, idiots, snobs, elitists, scum, morons, and other names not fit for print.

He also has lied about me and others, insinuating, for example, that a PARD member used his position as associate dean at Washington State University to bribe the student-run newspaper into favorable coverage. A complete lie. It was even suggested by someone that I must be related to someone named Chad Lupke, a political activist, assuming if I was related to him I must be roaming the country, following Wal-Mart wherever I went, protesting it where it set roots. Another complete lie. It all culminated with Forbes publicly calling for PARD members to be "run out of town."

I live permanently in Pullman. I am not a communist. I looked up Forbes' name in the Pullman Chamber of Commerce but it was not listed there. Forbes presents himself as speaking for the local business community but owns no business I know of. Having attended Wal-Mart media briefings, he apparently undertakes this character assassination with Wal-Mart's blessing. No wonder people don't welcome Wal-Mart into their communities with open arms.

Christopher Lupke, Pullman

This wonderful example of a PARDner shooting himself in the foot with his mouth appeared in yesterday's Moscow Pullman Daily News. As you might expect, the first thing Lupke does is commit the very sin he accuses other of; character assassination. I don't know about the rest of you "recruits" but Wal Mart never asked me to do anything.

Here are some of the more humorous responses Lupke and his defenders drew in the online reader response forum
Dear Mr. Lupke,
Wal Mart did not recruit me. I rose to support Wal Mart because people like you tried to deny me the opportunity to shop and keep my dollars local. Because people like you acted as self appointed guardians of the public morality. A public which includes me. I want you to know that you do not speak for me and that I resent your efforts to do so.

I don't believe it is character assasination to say that you and people like you offend me. I find you to be morally and intellectually bankrupt, and that you are living proof that educated doesn't equal smart.

I'm surprised it took someone from PARD so long to respond to Forbes' unfair, ruthless, uncivil, immature attacks. As an observer, I have watched PARD keep the issues focused and not personalized. No matter the outcome for a Walmart in Pullman, they have used their rights and liberties and a democratic judicial system with grace.

It's funny that anyone would think that WalMart needed support when they push their way into towns. They don't need defending. It's the equivalent of rooting for a team when the outcome of the game is fixed. Why would someone do that, if not for their own attention? If someone wants a WalMart in their town, they should say so, but to fly to Arkansas to armor oneself with corporate propaganda - that's a little self-serving, in my opinion.

"Morally and intellectually bankrupt" for holding a different opinion than you? Statements like that make you look like the person you despise.

He's not wrong because his opinion differs from mine but because he supposes he has the authority to speak for the community.

So that we are clear, I speak only for myself in this matter.

I want Wal Mart in Pullman

I believe those who would exclude Wal Mart from our community to have exactly the same moral authority as those who would exclude a neighbor based upon race, religion, or income.

Pot calling the kettle black again. If that's your logic, than all of those who want another walmart in our region should be shamed for the same thing, as they would have others "run out of town" for not wanting to live in a city dictated by corporations with poor track records. What a ridiculous assumption it is to imply that only pro-walmart people have rights in our community. Your argument also assumes that prices at Walmart are actually lower than other big boxes, which is false. Walmart's prices are identical or higher than other big box stores - with the exception of MAYBE one item in a given category. I don't have a problem with all big boxes, even though they've all got their downsides, but insisting that "poor people" need to shop at a Walmart is exclusionary and disrespectful. And your last sentence is also outlandish, as I would venture that if someone other than WalMart did a study to find out who was more likely to exclude a neighbor based on race, religion, or income - it would be the pro-walmart crowd – in fact, there’ve been several comments stereotyping professors’ and their implied income in these threads by the pro walmart faction. I've never heard Lupke espouse that he speaks for the whole community - in fact, his arguments, whether I agree with them or not, have been well balanced and presented without name calling and labeling. I respect that more than those who would make assumptions about others' moral authority because they have their own reasons for not wanting another walmart in the area.

Dial the paranoia down. I have NEVER called for anyone to be run out of town in any forum. Not even criminals. I call for criminals to be handled by the justice system and put where they belong. I call for folks who say things like Mr. Lupke did to reconsider and point out exactly how I belive they are wrong. I try not to call names. I am human and I do err.

I have chosen the screen name of SNFL (Screen Name for Lupke) in hopes that he will answer my question.

Why do you feel it is your right to speak for the community? If you have ever made a statement that your anti-Wal Mart opinion is your own and that you represent only yourself, PARD and a few others who have expressed their explicit objections to you, I appologize for not having seen it.

Please note that while I may BELIEVE others feel as I do, I represent only myself.

paranoid, I'm not and I apologize if my post came across that way. I have always assumed that every poster here speaks for themselves and not for the community and have said so before, on my behalf, to avoid any confusion. I do not use my name in my postings, however, because Tom Forbes has previously attacked me with labels and names, rather than addressing the real issues at hand, and I'm tired of it, so like a lot of others, I choose to be a coward in that I don't post my name. I certainly hope no one claims to speak for the community, as no one has been appointed by "the community" to do so. After all, what would they say..."some people want walmart and others don't?" I like to read actual 'facts' from both sides of the issue and am not afraid of changing my opinion if enough compelling evidence or a well-made, correct argument convinces me otherwise. I don't like watching my community be hammered with name calling, labels, and assumptions based on their opinion of the world's largest retailer. Who would be my real hero be in this matter? Someone who came along to bring the community together - to see what we have in common on this issue - to see what we can do to keep this an affordable community that also offers places that we really want to shop - even when we don't have as much money as others. My friends and I even have differing opinions on this matter, but it doesn't mean that we sit around calling each other names, making assumptions on each other's education or morality levels, or crossing people off our x-mas card lists because of it. Even Tom Forbes could earn my respect if he genuinely made such concessions to the people in his community that he's alienated. Unfortunately, I don't think that he has the skill, nor the respect, to do so. It will have to come from someone more thoughtful than he. Perhaps the pro walmart side needs another "spokesperson?" and everyone who has an opinion on the matter can wipe their hatred clean and try to consider the "other side's" position? Maybe it would help if we could read these postings as if they were all written by our close friends. Then we might think twice about our assumptions.

On behalf of the public majority, go away PARD. What a bunch of costly idiots. Thanks Tom for all your hard work.

As one who has also been subjected to the vitriolic libel of Mr. Forbes, and chosen not to sink to his level of public discourse, I applaud Dr. Lupke and other PARD members for their numerous letters and Op Ed pieces that have addressed issues in a manner consistent with the spirit of civil free speech. A public rebuke of Forbes is long overdue. With that accomplished (thank you Chris), let's get back to the issues of responsible community and regional development. It's a big job for creative, knowledgeable people who are willing to step forth and debate the solutions we need to find. I sincerely hope it can be done with a reduction in rancour and a committment to positive, productive dialog.

Who, among PARD's members, is knowledgeable of city planning issues, economics and other issues regarding the business mix and needs of the citizens of Pullman? Even if such a mythical person existed, who among them has the RIGHT to dictate to me what legal businesses I can and can't have access to?

This is the main problem I have with PARD. Because they have some education, they behave as if they were omniscient. I don’t mean to disparage education nor do I have any prejudice against those with PhDs. I do have a problem with those that try to impress people with credentials unrelated to the matters at hand.

Actually, there are people all around Pullman who know a lot about city planning, economics, and social issues. Look around your neighborhood, and you'll see folks who have been active in civic affairs for a long time, and are knowledgeable about city ordinances, legal protocol, and planning and development procedures. PARD is a cross-section of your neighborhood. You are part of the community, too, and can take any opportunity you want to learn the processes and be part of the planning. Nobody is dictating to anyone else. The idea is to make sure that the decisions that are made will benefit the entire community over a long period of time. That takes committed folks willing to sit in committees and through city planning meetings for hours and hours, to work through community organizations for the betterment of the community. If the planning is done with the good of the community at large in mind, there will be benfits for all.

Just as I thought; no PARD member has such expertise. Your attempt at obfuscation of the issue is just tiring. I asked WHO IN PARD has the appropriate credentials (education and experience) to make urban planning recommendations and I also ask why they think they have the right to deny me access to a legitimate business within my community.

That's right. IT'S MY COMMUNITY, TOO. It's not PARD's private playground.

By delaying Wal Mart's construction, PARD has denied me access to a legitimate business.

Now I have another question for you. What organization, other than PARD, has worked "for the betterment of the community" by denying a legitimate business its right to locate within Pullman?

You wonder why PARD's legitimacy has been questioned yet you write things like your last post. Do you never stand back and look at your own product?

BTW: If you, or any other PARD member wants a say in city planning, run for office. Failing that, communicate with the Mayor or your City Council Representative. If they won't do as you ask, vote for someone else next time. If you want to teach and enlighten people about social issues, get a job lecturing in the Political Science Department. Otherwise, please spare me your attempts at social engineering.

I am still waiting for someone to explain to me what PARD has done that is 'outside the system' to delay Walmart.

No one can answer this.

Whether people like SNFL like it or not, the judicial system is part of the checks and balances that make up our system of government. We do not have a unitary form of government in Pullman. No place in the US does.

The notion that all decisions made regarding zoning are all-knowing and profoundly future-directed is absurd. PARD is perfectly within their rights litigating this case.

PARD does communicate with City officials on a regular basis. Do you not attend or watch the City Council meetings? Did you not hear of the recent panel addressing affordable housing in Pullman? It's important to know the facts before you frivolously post.

SNFL (Tom), What is your background in City Planning? What makes you such an all knowing expert? Are you a lawyer, city planner, or an economist (maybe you slept at the Holiday Inn Express last night)? Chuck is correct in stating that PARD is acting within their constitutional rights to challenge he city's planning decision. If the suit was frivolous, it would have been dismissed. You evidently think that only some citizens enjoy legal rights (the ones that agree with you). Many zoning decisions have proven to be unwise, and have been changed. By the way, you do have “access” to a Wal-Mart

IF PARD members were up front about their use of the courts (i.e. state their true intent which is to deny Wal-Mart entry rather than pretend they cared about land use and environmental issues equally for any prospective user), I would agree. From their statements, it is obvious to me that they are simply using the land use issue as a stalking horse. That makes them dishonest and morally bankrupt.

Where is PARD's opposition to all the small strip malls going in around Pullman? Do we really need more "dark store" space and another fitness center? Together, the area covered by impervious surfaces at these sites is approaching 150,000 sq. ft. At least one directly abuts a stream and has very little in the way of storm water control to prevent pollutants from entering the waterway....unlike Wal-Mart's plan. Together, they will consume as much energy as Wal Mart. Because they are small, no traffic mitigation measures were required, unlike Wal Mart.

Where are you on this issue PARD? Is Verizon "local?" How about the rip-off payday loan joints? Where's your concern for your fellow man in that? Do Papa Murphy's and Cartridge World pass the "local" test or are they all acceptable just because they aren't Wal Mart?

Guest 9:29,
I do attend and watch meetings. Don Pelton addressed PARD's "forum" adequately in a letter to the editor. It has nothing (credible) to do with PARD's anti-Wal Mart stance in any case. It is simply a tactic to give them some cover for their actions.

I am not Tom. I've never known Tom to shy away from using his name.

I do have formal education in and have been involved with planning and environmental issues for many years as a professional (no, I won't say how many or in what capacity as that would immediately identify me and I wish to remain anonymous for business reasons).

What are YOUR qualifications to speak to this issue?

I have not challenged PARDs actions on strict constitutional grounds. I have challenged their perversion of the legal system to the detriment of me, my family, and friends.

I do not have access to Wal Mart in the political jurisdiction where I live and would derive benefits from increased tax revenue.

In the US, corporations are treated as persons. Wal Mart has a RIGHT to locate anywhere it wishes so long as the area is zoned for such use. Actions to deny Wal Mart its rights are detrimental to all. Every time you degrade a right for one, you harm all.

Wal-Mart can build on Bishop Boulevard at any time they chose. Nothing in PARD’s current appeal is preventing them from building. Could it be that they are not building for their own business reasons? Recent reports show that same store sales have slowed dramatically and that most markets are so saturated by existing Wal-Marts, that most new stores just take sales from existing stores. That is exactly what will happen when Wal-Mart builds in Pullman, because many Moscow Wal-Mart shoppers will flock to Pullman (yes, tax revenues will increase for Pullman, which is good for Pullman, but for Moscow, not so much). Perhaps Wal-Mart realizes that Bishop Boulevard is a poor place for a huge store. Maybe they are planning to build south of town on US 195. Perhaps they think that now is not the time for a new Wal-Mart in the area, and they are just using the PARD appeal as an excuse. There is a reason that Wal-Mart’s share price has fallen over the last four years while Costco and Target have seen steady increases during the same period. Fact is, Wal-Mart can build on Bishop at any time.

SNFL... Cartridge World is a chain true, but it is independently owned and operated by local people.

BTW. I am for walmart but I just wanted to point this out.

I realize that. So is Papa Murphy's. I believe the management staff and employees of Wal Mart will be just as local. As Don Pelton said, if PARD cared about people and affordable housing, they would stop blocking this opportunity.

Guest 11:46,
If you have millions of dollars at stake in capital costs, would you charge ahead with no assurance you wouldn't loose that investment?

Of course Wal Mart is minding it's own interests. To do otherwise would put them at risk of becoming the next Montgomery Wards.

Guest at 12:02 pm Does that mean that PARD has valid legal points in their lawsuit? If not, Wal-Mart would not be worried about losing their capital investment.

Guest 12:59,
To thine own self be true

1 comment:

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...

Heh... well, since they've lost the war, I guess they're going to try and win a battle on a different front. Too bad they're going to lose then, too.