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Friends of North Kelsey enter new phase in fight against Monroe city councilís decision regarding Walmart

March 05, 2012

Community members protest in Monroe, WA March 12, 2011 against planned Walmart store just a few hundred feet from busy U.S. Highway 2 intersection. Chronicle photo. CLICK TO ENLARGE

The vision the community had for the Norh Kelsey shopping area. CLICK TO ENLARGE

The vision Walmart submitted for the North Kelsey project and the one approved by the city council. CLICK TO ENLARGE

MAP shows where group will meet on U.S. Highway 2. CLICK TO OPEN
(MONROE, WA) -- In an Everett court room January 4 Superior Court Judge Richard T. O’Krent ruled against the Friends of North Kelsey, a community group that had sued the city of Monroe over the city council’s fast-track go ahead for Walmart to build a big box superstore just off Highway 2 near the Galaxy theater.

The judge ruled the Monroe city council could fully ignore all the previous work, designs and wishes of the community that had long ago articulated what it wanted in the North Kelsey shopping area.

What Walmart offered – and what the city council approved – was simply one more of its cookie-cutter big box stores surrounded by a monster parking lot that will dominate the retail core of North Kelsey – something else the community did not envision or want in the development of that area.

O’Krent decided the city of Monroe had not erred in approving the Walmart land sale agreement and building design submission because it had the power to ignore the community’s wishes. Many were stunned by the judge’s decision.

But the fight is not over.

On Wednesday, March 7 a group of local people headed by Friends of North Kelsey who feel the planned Walmart store is inconsistent with Monroe’s citizen-created development plan, will gather at the corner of Kelsey Street & Highway 2 to announce a new phase of their battle against what they view as an “out-of-character development” for the City of Monroe.”

The group’s announcement at noon that day will address the Walmart which was OK’d by local city government. The group also plans to call on both Walmart and the city council to step up to the plate and respect the local community’s plan.


“Despite a long and involved process in which local citizens directed the city to seek a pedestrian-friendly development in the North Kelsey location, this citizen input was largely ignored. The community worked for years to develop a local plan. The city bought property expressly to make sure it was developed in a way consistent with values of that community plan. The citizens, however, were railroaded by a dishonorable, and what they believe to be an illegal, decision by local elected officials to approve a Walmart for the site, even though the Walmart proposal violated a number of the plan’s specifics,” said Friends of North Kelsey in a statement.

The group says plenty of public testimony highlighted concerns that a Walmart in Monroe will threaten community values, will badly worsen already congested traffic on major thoroughfares, and threaten living-wage jobs of those already working in local retail.

There are in fact studies that show the entrance of a huge Walmart store in a given community drives down local wages.

Retail workers in the U.S. are making $4.5 Billion less each year due to Wal-Mart's presence, according to a study released in late 2007 by the University of California's Center for Labor Research and Education.

The study, "A Downward Push: The Impact of Wal-Mart Stores on Retail Wages and Benefits," begins by analyzing the effect of new Wal-Mart stores on local wage rates.

It focuses on stores that opened between 1992 and 2000 and concludes, "Opening a single Wal-Mart store lowers the average retail wage in the surrounding county between 0.5 and 0.9 percent."

Wal-Mart's presence pushes down wages in two ways, the study found.

"First is the substitution effect: a new Wal-Mart store replaces better paying jobs with lower-paying ones," the authors explain.

"A second factor is competition: Wal-Mart pushes down wages in competing businesses."

Not only did Wal-Mart lower average wage rates, but also "every new Wal-Mart in a county reduced the combined or aggregate earnings of retail workers by around 1.5 percent," according to the study,

Because this number is higher than the reduction in average wages, it indicates that Wal-Mart not only lowered pay rates, but also reduced the total number of retail jobs.

That finding is consistent with a major study earlier in 2007 that found that the opening of a Wal-Mart store causes a net loss of about 150 retail jobs.

Information on those studies can be found here

Other studies have found that Walmart usually does not bring any additional retail business to a community, but instead “cannibalizes” the existing retail business, consolidating it into a large Walmart store by driving out smaller competitors.

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” (what some might call “corporate welfare”)

~ 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.”


Dick Neauarth, longtime owner of Dick's Tire Haus on Main Street in Monroe told the Chronicle in 2010, “They (Walmart) will take out small businesses, guaranteed. I’m not looking forward to that scenario.”

A local owner of a small shopping center in Monroe, who preferred not to be named, told the Chronicle he was angry that the Monroe Chamber of Commerce would not take a stand on Walmart coming into town saying, “The chamber told me they would not take a public stand because they think this is just political (the Walmart controversy) and they don’t look at the devastating impact that Walmart has on communitiesÖit’s not on their radar screen.”

This land owner told the Chronicle the city of Monroe should have long ago passed an ordinance limiting the size of stores that retailers can put up, adding that if Walmart “comes in here and plops down a 160,000 square foot “superstore” it could be devastating to all kinds of small retail shops,” not to mention, he said, the landlords of the buildings that have spent years attracting those small businesses, nurturing them along and holding on to them for the long haul.



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