As The New York Times pointed out Sunday, the growth and reputation of Wal-Mart has even become a presidential campaign issue, "with John Kerry hammering the megaretailer for its abysmally low wages and Dick Cheney praising it for its 'spirit of enterprise, fair dealing and integrity.' "
When the two parties are that far apart on something, there's always something therealways.
Just south of where we sit, an old man who owned land encompassing some of Davidson and Williamson counties laments the recent sale of 310 acres to a Wal-Mart developer. When he agreed to sell, he didn't knowand wasn't toldthat the buyer was scouting for the king of big box. So much for fair and open communication. Neighbors, landowners and conservation types are closely watching what happens next, and are prepared to put up a fight when Wal-Mart formally proposes to build on the site. The whole affair makes Davidson County's interests in the Wal-Mart discussion particularly timely.
The way we at the Scene view things, this is America, and we thrive on capitalism. But as Martha Stewart, Ken Lay and others can attest, citizens and government can and do demand accountability. So, in the interest of driving down the cost of, well, poor planning and bad corporate citizenship, we propose simply to keep any future Wal-Marts out of this community.
It doesn't take a particularly savvy shopper to see that Wal-Mart is a bad deal for the places where it sets up shop. For starters, the big box makes a huge, ecologically destructive footprint, destroying creeks and serene wildlife habitats as it paves a 20,000-square-foot parking lot literally on top of them. This, you'll note, all takes place before the first box of Mary Kate and Ashley Flower Power Blouses ($11.84) hits the storeroom.
Ask the folks in Bellevueor Cool Springs, or Ashland City, or any number of rural areaswhat it's like to have a creek one day and grated dirt for a parking lot the next. Ah, the sweet smell of progress. Said one of mega retail's new neighbors, "The first thing we smelled was the burning of trees."
Wal-Mart's swath of destruction encompasses more than creeks and trees, though. In case you haven't noticed the pattern, the world's largest retailer deliberately sets up shop on the outskirts of town, where land is expansive but not expensive. It then builds a huge strip mall, often with help from tax incentives provided by ignorant city officials. The masses flock, cash registers ka-ching, and soon everybody's happy. After all, large retail ventures create jobs, provide tax revenues andmost importantly to Americanssell stuff cheap.
But that's not the whole story. Those jobs? Turns out most of them are part-time, no benefits deals. It's been well documented that Wal-Mart systematically overworks its "associates," refusing them sick days, demanding that they clock out and keep working and, according to the latest super-lawsuit against the super-retailer, keeping women out of higher-paying jobs.
What we suggest is not an unprecented ideal: Rhode Island, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego and others have all recently considered banning big box retailers through zoning regulations. Now's the time for Nashville.
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