Wal-Mart in Rosemead

Rosemead just voted Wal-Mart into the city.

To say the least, I'm crestfallen.

After two years of fights, after seven months of meetings, and a couple months of intense organizing, we lost.

I can't say that I didn't see it coming. The only time that a big developer is opposed is with the support of the City Council, and it appears, from the start, that most of the City Council was siding with Wal-Mart.

Reports from people visiting the city offices seemed to indicate that there was a gag-rule about the project. They wanted to keep the project as secret as possible so that people wouldn't get up-in-arms about it.

The big disappointment, for me, was Margaret Clark. She said she was supporting it, but then whipped out her past positions opposing NAFTA/GATT and her seat on a clean air committee. If there's any company out there that exemplifies NAFTA and GATT, it's Wal-Mart. Just look at their China office.

The nice surprise was Bob Alarcon, who did address some of the concerns in his questions. That was something. Gary Taylor, who had managerial ties to Wal-Mart through his family, was especially defensive.

I was a little bummed out about the amount of rancor in the room. People's helplessness and disgust with the system were palpable, and it came out with angry statements. I sat on the right side of the room, where the pro- side sat, for a while a while, and the smugness there was also palpable.

Attacks on both sides were heated. Our side issued mean digs against the City Council. The attacks from the pro-Wal-Mart side were more personal and directed against us, especially from the fool who called us "stupid monkeys" and the other fool who called us a "NIMBY"1 and a front for unions2. Talk about "no class". Wal-Mart are the big leagues with the big bucks, and we're the little league opposition. These hangers-on are rude, lousy winners.

Some of the stuff we said was speculative. Some of the stuff the pro side said were worse. Their rebuttals were virtually deception and sounded like prepared PR.3

All we had to work with were the project description, and the company's history and reputation, and we did our best. Most of our objections were to the project itself, which was pure ass, and the objections to the company were more warts on the ass.

From the beginning, we were at a political disadvantage, because a significant fraction of the residents near the project were not Rosemead residents. It's a typical situation along city borders.

Had we been within the city boundaries, we would probably have had at least one councilperson seated at all times, maybe two. Unfortunately, the person who used to be from the south, Bob Breusch, was well known for supporting Wal-Mart, and stepped down from the council prior to these developments being proposed... and then moved north.

Even the support from the politicians was vocal, but not necessarily a bark with much bite.

Anyway, normally this would be "the end," but it's not the end. Now, Rosemead has its store, but it's not my store.

1. Yes, we oppose the store near us, but a Wal-Mart in the south would benefit the more affluent people in the north, therefore, the NIMBY definition does not apply. A NIMBY typically describes a group that opposes siting an undesirable project nearby, so the project goes to a less politically powerful area.

2. We're a community group. A union helped purchase one small stack of signs early on. We paid for other expenses and signs out of our own pockets. In contrast, the pro-Wal-Mart side was a group called Rosemead PRIDE, which was organized by a consultant for Wal-Mart, and presumably funded by Wal-Mart. // Follow the money. The expenditure for the single full-color mailer that Rosemead PRIDE sent out probably exceeded the entire SOC budget.

3. The veep said that too much of our information came from the Internet. Of course it did. That's where the free public information is. If Rosemead any of their civic information online, we'd probably bring that up too.

They said the UC Berkeley study requested definitive data, therefore, the study had bad data; in fact, the study had reasonably good data provided by Wal-Mart, and the definitive government data would be useful only to confirm their model.

They were simply raising doubt, then using it to demolish any credibility. Both sides did it, but, being the professionals they are, they had more finesse.