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Archive for Thursday, April 8, 2004

L.A. suburb rejects Wal-Mart measure

Opponents worried retailer would cost high-paying jobs

April 8, 2004

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— Voters rejected a ballot measure that would have cleared the way for a colossal Wal-Mart in Inglewood, Calif., one of several communities across the nation to resist the retailer's advances.

Activists who opposed the measure -- which would have allowed Wal-Mart to skirt zoning, traffic and environmental reviews -- said it would hurt the community by inviting the Supercenter to drive out small business and encourage sprawl.

With all 29 precincts and absentee ballots counted late Tuesday night, Inglewood voters opposed the measure 60.6 percent to 39.3 percent, said Gabby Contreras of the city clerk's office.

The tally was 7,049 votes against the initiative and 4,575 in favor. Contreras said there were about 40,000 registered voters in the city.

"This is very, very positive for those folks who want to stand up and ... hold this corporate giant responsible," said Daniel Tabor, a former City Council member who had campaigned against the initiative.

Debate raged for weeks in this working-class community. Opponents said passage would clear the way for Wal-Mart to build a combination supermarket-retail store next to Hollywood Park racetrack.

The City Council last year blocked the proposed shopping center, which would include both a traditional Wal-Mart and other stores -- prompting the Bentonville, Ark.-based company to collect more than 10,000 signatures to force the vote.

In a statement, the company said the decision meant Inglewood residents would have to go elsewhere to shop at Wal-Mart.

"We are disappointed that a small group of Inglewood leaders together with representatives of outside special interests were able to convince a majority of Inglewood voters that they don't deserve the job opportunities and shopping choices that others in the L.A. area enjoy," the company said.

Angelina Marquez, front, and other supporters of "No On Measure 4A"
celebrate in Inglewood, Calif. Tuesday, voters rejected a ballot
measure that would have cleared the way for a Wal-Mart Supercenter
in this Los Angeles suburb.

Angelina Marquez, front, and other supporters of "No On Measure 4A" celebrate in Inglewood, Calif. Tuesday, voters rejected a ballot measure that would have cleared the way for a Wal-Mart Supercenter in this Los Angeles suburb.

Wal-Mart had argued in Inglewood and elsewhere in California that its stores created jobs and said residents should be able to decide for themselves whether they want the stores in their community.

But opponents argued the Supercenters amount to low-wage, low-benefit job mills that displace better-paying jobs as independent retailers are driven out of business. They also fear the super-sized stores will contribute to suburban sprawl and jammed roadways.

Objections to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have surfaced elsewhere around the country, including Chicago, where the City Council recently stalled a measure to approve the first Wal-Mart inside city limits because of concerns about the company's labor practices.

In Lawrence, opposition to a proposed Wal-Mart at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive has spawned six lawsuits, all of which are awaiting rulings.

The company succeeded in lobbying residents in Contra Costa County, where residents voted last month to allow a Supercenter. But Wal-Mart also lost a vote that day to allow it to open a store near San Diego.

Wal-Mart had spent more than $1 million in its Inglewood campaign, according to campaign finance records, while opponents spent a fraction of that amount.

Alversia Carmouche, a beauty shop owner who voted against the measure Tuesday, said she was convinced the behemoth discount store would ultimately hurt the community.

"Maybe the store would possibly be a good thing in the beginning, but it will drive out the smaller businesses," Carmouche, 66, said. "I really feel it will absolutely close this town out."

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