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FEATURE NEWS

MONROE’S MAYOR & CITY COUNCIL: “Have lied to the public about Walmart”
Claims former Monroe councilman
SkyValleyChronicle.com Exclusive

March 08, 2011




At corner of US Highway 2 & Kelsey St., Monroe community members protest on Sat. Feb 12, 2011 a planned Walmart store just a few hundred feet from that location. Chronicle photo. CLICK TO ENLARGE
(MONROE, WA) -- At a Monroe city council meeting February 1, Diane Elliott of Monroe, a member of MPAC (Monroe Preservation Action Committee) said she was bothered because “I’ve been lied to. I feel the council has lied to all of us regarding the sale to Sabey-Walmart…we’ve heard (for a long time) “Oh Walmart’s never going to come to town it’s been voted down” but in fact…someone at the council said “Oh no, we’ve always known it was going to be a Walmart.”

“To me this is unacceptable. Whether you think we’re stupid or you know better than we do, I just don’t get it,” said Elliott who told the council they could have come to the community and told the community they were thinking about bringing Walmart in and asked the community their opinion of it.

Now former Monroe city councilman and one time mayoral candidate Mitch Ruth says, in effect, Elliott was spot on with her observation and comments: she has been lied to as has the entire Monroe community been lied to on the subject of Walmart coming in to the city, claims Ruth in looking back at the history of how the city arrived at where it is today in the Walmart controversy.

“Monroe’s mayor (Robert Zimmerman) and council have continuously, intentionally by design lied to the public by omission and/or commission. Clearly they have said (in the past) that Walmart is not on the table when they have been directly asked in open session on tape by members of the public about Walmart they sidestepped the issue and they never respond. These are elected public servants who have an obligation to truthfully respond to the people they serve. They need to remember that. They serve the public…they do not rule them,” said Ruth in a wide-ranging interview with SkyValleyChronicle.com about the history of Walmart seeking an entry point in Monroe.

THE EARLY DAYS: IT WAS ALWAYS WALMART. THE PUBLIC WAS SAND BAGGED SAYS RUTH

Ruth was a councilman during the early days of the initial vision of the North Kelsey Street shopping area and during the early days when Seattle developer David Sabey came to the council with ideas about bringing in a “tenant” for land at the north Kelsey Street location next to the Galaxy theater.

Ruth claims the current mayor of Monroe, Robert Zimmerman, and a majority of the city council have strong political and ideological reasons – as well as egos getting in the way – for wanting Walmart to come into the community and that they have been less than candid with the public about those reasons.

“They (the council and mayor) said that it wasn’t Walmart when there was really time and opportunity for the community, who has been so against this for so long because of the impact…when there was time and opportunity (for the community to organize against Walmart) they lied by commission and omission, deceiving intentionally the public so that the public would not become alarmed and organized," said Ruth.

Ruth says councilwoman Tuttle, for example, argued with him and others saying, “it’s not Walmart” that’s coming in.

“I said, how can this be so? When I was on the council it was Walmart (that Sabey wanted to bring in). I said, I don't care folks what you say…the original PowerPoint presentation that Sabey brought to the council was titled “Monroe Walmart!”, said Ruth.

“Do ya think it’s Costco?” said Ruth sarcastically. “Its Walmart, It’s always been Walmart. I know that,” said Ruth emphatically.

Ruth said some of the council people who have remained silent on the issue were given the information (that Walmart was coming in as a Trojan horse of sorts under the Sabey cloth) in executive session.

“Well, once you receive information in executive session you are prohibited by law from breaking that confidence. Well, we also know there are ways to manipulate others and some of these people involved are very darn good at manipulating others and using the political system to their benefit. I also happen to disagree with that,” added Ruth.

A CONSERVATIVE WHO EDUCATED HIMSELF ABOUT WALMART

Ruth said that in the early days he couldn’t have cared less about Walmart coming in but someone begged him to educate himself on the effects and impacts a large Walmart store would have on existing businesses and jobs in the community and so he went and started reading.

Once he did that, he says he could no longer in good conscience be in favor of a Walmart coming in – even though by nature he is a conservative and does not like government meddling in such matters.

But he said he came to realize a store the size and nature of a Walmart was not a legitimate, level playing field competitor for the existing businesses here; it was instead a massive, unequal force of nature that left destroyed businesses and jobs in its wake across the land.

“When I was done (educating myself about Walmart) I went Oh my God! The high cost of cheap goods. For every retail job that Walmart creates, 1.5 local existing living wage jobs in retail are lost,” added Ruth.

The existing market data on Walmart’s march through other communities supports the contention that Walmart destroys more family wage jobs that it creates, destroys numerous small businesses in it’s immediate marketing area, which in turn destroys the taxes those businesses paid, and does not create more overall revenue in a market but cannibalizes the revenue that had existed in the businesses that were lost after Walmart came in.

At the end of this article is information from a January of 2010 study by The Center for Community Planning & Development at Hunter College in New York, and the Public advocate for the City of New York Bill De Blasio that is a review of all the available literature dealing with the impact of a Walmart store on a given economy.

LOCAL CITIZENS AND BUSINESS OWNERS SHOULD COME FIRST

Ruth said that as a public official one has to consider first the local people who invested their lives and money and futures here in Monroe to create the businesses and the jobs and the current tax base in the first place.

The former councilman seems angry that, in his view, the people of the community have been misled by the current mayor and council which, in effect says Ruth, has put the community behind the 8-ball and playing catch up to try and stop the Walmart juggernaut that now is traveling down the tracks at high speed with a great tail wind at its back thanks to the mayor and council.

“There’s very few people left on that council, between the mayor and council, that really understand what’s going on with this situation and the impacts and I don’t understand how and why they can be so ignorant,” said Ruth.

So why in Ruth’s view, knowing the history of this project, would the current mayor and a majority of the council be so hell bent on bringing in a giant retailer that might have a devastating impact on the community for years to come?

In Ruth’s observation, it has much to do with rigid, hard-core political ideology, egos and little to nothing to do with actual real-world data that shows what happens when a large Walmart store comes into a small community.

“You have to look here in the context in which they are operating. There is a majority between the mayor and council who are extremely conservative in a very core, fundamental context. They are not concerned about too darned many social issues, I think that’s clear. They claim to be so pro business, yet they’re throwing the baby out with the bath water.

They say, “Well but it’s not government’s role to pick winners or losers.” Oh yes it is! You (an elected official) represent the people of this community! This is not a normal situation…but to prove that they are right they will throw the boots to this entire community,” added Ruth.

‘This (a Walmart store of that size opening at that North Kelsey Street area) will unalterably change the future in a negative way, socially and economically, for this community for decades to come,” claims Ruth.



***** THE IMPACTS WALMART HAS ON LOCAL AND NATIONAL ECONOMIES *****

In January of 2010 The Center for Community Planning & Development at Hunter College in New York, and the Public advocate for the City of New York Bill De Blasio, released a review of all the available literature dealing with the impact of a Walmart store on a given economy.

The work, called “Walmart’s Economic Footprint,” is a review of all the key literature – hundreds of articles, reports and studies done between 2002 and 2010 – about the negative impacts of Walmart stores on both local and national economies.

The review represents research in all 50 states of the U.S. and includes the first research conducted about Walmart in a big city: Chicago. Among other things the report finds these things about Walmart:

~ Walmart’s “formula” for financial success includes low-wage labor, limited health benefits and the leveraging of “government subsidies” (.e.g., what some might call “corporate welfare”)

~ Walmart is now, as part of its growth strategy, branching out from small towns where its roots are and is moving “more aggressively” into densely populated central cities that have so far been “off limits” to the retail giant for various reasons including local communities who rise up and fight Walmart because they do not want the stores in their midst.

~ Walmart has even begun using smaller stores in some communities to capture dollars it might not otherwise capture and even these smaller stores “continue to bring negative overall economic impacts on the communities where they are located.”

~ The overwhelming weight of the research of the impact of WalMart stores on both local and national economies -- including jobs, taxes, wages, benefits, manufacturing and existing retail businesses – shows that “WalMart depresses area wages and labor benefits” and contributes to the “current decline of good middle class jobs, pushes out more retail jobs than it creates, and results in more retail vacancies.”

~ There is no indication that “smaller, “urban” Walmart stores scattered throughout a dense city in any way diminish these negative trends. Rather, such developments may actually result in more widespread economic disruption.”

WALMART’S IMPACT ON JOBS AND BUSINESSES IN A COMMUNITY: A PRIMER FOR GOVERNMENT & BUSINESSES

Specifically where it comes to jobs and local businesses the report found:

~ Wal-Mart store openings kill three local jobs for every two they create by reducing retail employment by an average of 2.7 percent in every county they enter.

~ Wal-Mart’s entry into a new market does NOT increase overall retail activity or employment opportunities. Research from Chicago shows retail employment did not increase in Wal-Mart’s zip code, and fell significantly in those adjacent.

~ Wal-Mart’s entry into a new market has a strongly negative effect on existing retailers. Supermarkets and discount variety stores are the most adversely affected sectors, suffering sales declines of 10 to 40% after Wal-Mart moves in.

~ Stores near a new Wal-Mart are at increased risk of going out of business. After a single Wal-Mart opened in Chicago in September 2006, 82 of the 306 small businesses (27%) in the surrounding neighborhood had gone out of business by March 2008.

~ The value of Wal-Mart to the economy will likely be less than the value of the jobs and businesses it replaces. A study estimating the future impact of Walmart on the grocery industry in California found that, “the full economic impact of those lost wages and benefits throughout southern California could approach $2.8 billion per year.”

~ Chain stores, like Wal-Mart send most of their revenues out of the community, while local businesses keep more consumer dollars in the local economy: for every $100 spent in locally owned businesses, $68 stayed in the local economy while chain stores only left $43 to re-circulate locally.

WALMART’S COST TO TAXPAYERS: THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH

~ Walmart has thousands of “associates” who qualify for Medicaid and other publicly subsidized care, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. For instance in Ohio, Wal-mart has more associates and associate dependents on Medicaid than any other employer, costing taxpayers $44.8 Million in 2009.

~ According to estimates, Wal-Mart likely avoided paying almost a quarter of a Billion dollars ($245 million) in taxes in 2008 by paying rent to itself and then deducting that rent from its taxable income.

~ Walmart has admitted a failure to pay $2.95 Billion in taxes for fiscal year 2009.

WALMART’S LOW PAYING JOBS CONTRIBUTE TO DECLINE OF AMERICA’S MIDDLE CLASS

~ Median household income declined by 1.8% nationally and 4.1% in New York City in 2009. This decline will be exacerbated by low paying Wal-Mart jobs.

~ Wal-Mart’s average annual pay of $20,774 is below the Federal Poverty Level for a family of four.

~ A Wal-Mart spokesperson publicly acknowledged in 2004 that, "More than two thirds of our people... are not trying to support a family. That’s who our jobs are designed for.”

~ Wal-Mart’s 2010 health care offerings have a high annual deductible of $4,400 which means a family would have to spend $5,102 of their own money on health care before Wal-Mart’s insurance pays anything. Based on the average salary of a Wal-Mart employee this payment represents almost 25% of their annual income

The report concluded that for those reasons, “the entry of even a single Wal-Mart store in New York City could have a snowball effect and result in a negative long-term cumulative impact on the city’s economy and continued decline of the middle class.”



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