Austin residents responded enthusiastically to a call by independent retailers to shop exclusively at locally owned businesses on Saturday, November 15. The one-day event, called Austin Unchained, was organized by the Austin Independent Business Alliance (AIBA) and was promoted through posters, tee-shirts, and flyers distributed throughout the city. Continue reading
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Chains are multiplying much faster than locally owned businesses in Santa Fe, New Mexico, according to a new study commissioned by the Santa Fe Independent Business & Community Alliance (SFIBCA). The study concludes that the decline of independent retailers is eroding Santa Fe’s distinctive character and undermining its economy. The study was conducted by Angelou Economics, a consulting firm based in Austin, Texas, that helps cities draft and implement economic development plans. Continue reading
Before a standing-room-only crowd, the Tuolumne County, California, Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in January to ban retail outlets over 60,000 square feet, about half the size of the average Home Depot store. The vote came after several months of review and more than two hours of public testimony in which residents overwhelmingly endorsed the measure. "Towns that have resisted the boxes have a vital diverse downtown business climate," one resident told the board. Continue reading
After months of pressure from a vocal citizens group, the City Council in Stoughton, Wisconsin, adopted an ordinance banning stores over 110,000 square feet. Stoughton is a community of 12,500 about 20 miles southeast of Madison. Last year, after Wal-Mart announced plans to close its 40,000-square-foot Stoughton outlet to build a 183,000-square-foot supercenter on undeveloped land, a citizens group called Uff-da Wal-Mart formed. Uff-da is a Norwegian expression of disdain. Continue reading
In his State of the State address, Vermont Governor James Douglas proposed closing a tax loophole that gives national chains an advantage over local businesses. The loophole allows multi-state corporations to shift income made in the state to subsidiaries in low- or no-tax states like Delaware and Nevada, thereby evading Vermont corporate income taxes. Continue reading
Following an outcry from local and national activists, the city of Denver has abandoned plans to condemn a shopping center, evict more than a dozen Asian-owned business, and transfer the property to a Wal-Mart developer. Continue reading
Rather than capping the size of all retail stores, a growing number of cities and counties in California are banning supercenters in particular. These are generally defined as stores over 90,000 or 100,000 square feet that devote more than 5 or 10 percent of their floor area to non-taxable grocery items.
Under these ordinances, developers can still build massive box stores, so long as they do not combine department store merchandise anda full supermarket under one roof. Continue reading
In early January, the Hood River, Oregon, County Commission voted 3-2 to reject Wal-Mart’s application to build a 186,000-square-foot supercenter.
"This was a marvelous and gutsy decision by the board," said Kate Huseby, co-chair of the Citizens for Responsible Growth (CRG), a grassroots group that has fought the proposal in this community of 5,000 people in north central Oregon for more than two years. "We applaud them for doing their homework, and making the tough vote."
As Wal-Mart seeks out locations in central Los Angeles and the city council considers a measure that would ban supercenters from much of the city, a debate is brewing concerning the costs and benefits of supercenters for residents of low-income urban neighborhoods. Two dueling studies examining the impact of supercenters in southern California were recently released.
By Stacy Mitchell
originally published in Progressive Trail, January 13, 2004
In the Wal-Mart economy, where an inexhaustible supply of cheap consumer goods has become more important than family wages for American workers, it should come as little surprise that a company which is known for its ability to track the sale of products down to the penny across a far-flung empire, would plead ignorance when accused of violating labor laws.