The Wal-Mart Effect: Anti Wal-Mart Ballot
A Lodi citizens group is creating a stumbling block for Wal-Mart, by calling for voter approval on all "big box" store proposals. As Bob Hensley reports, there’s conflict within Lodi over the actual impact of such a measure.
Friday, September 17, 2004
(ns #1-hold and fade) In the spacious showroom of Geweke Chrysler just off Highway ninety-nine in Lodi a young man is gazing longingly at a bright blue P-T Cruiser. Another customer and a salesman are standing off to the side, apparently closing a deal on a pickup truck. Geweke Motors is one of the largest dealerships in Lodi. Spokesman Dale Gillespie says the company is concerned about Measure R. The initiative appearing on Lodi’s November ballot is designed to keep Wal-Mart from building a big box store in the city. But Gillespie says its intent is subject to broad interpretation. (sb #4-GILLESPIE :15)—The wording of the initiative is so ambiguous that it’s really an attorney’s, or a judge’s or a court’s call at this point. And that’s our main problem with the legislation, is that it’s very poorly written. The measure prevents construction of business space over 125-thousand square feet unless approved by voters. Businesses would also have to obtain in-depth environmental impact studies. Gillespie says as written, the measure could prevent the dealership from expanding or even remodeling. And he says it would raise hurdles for making emergency repairs. (SB #11 GILLESPIE :17)—If we were to have a catastrophic event be it a fire, earthquake damage or whatever, enough to require reconstructing the facility we would have to go through these same steps again. Full blown E-I-R, plus an affirmative vote by the voters of Lodi in order to replace our existing facility. The Lodi Chamber of Commerce opposes measure R saying it goes too far and that in addition to auto dealers, other businesses with outdoor sales areas like nurseries and furniture stores will be affected. They say business might leave the community, costing the city jobs and tax revenue. (NS #3 dialing phone) Ann, this is Betsy. (fade and hold) Betsy Fiske has spent a lot of time on the telephone since organizing the citizen’s committee that created “Measure R”. She says it was only intended for big box stores. Their goal is to slow development, that they say, is threatening the area’s farm land.. (SB # 5 FISKE :08)-- Two percent of the world’s soil is this particular type that is so well suited for agriculture and we’re paving it over. Lodi city attorney Steve Schwabauer, who would be responsible for enforcing the initiative, says businesses are over-reacting and the measure’s intent is obvious. (SB #3 SCHWAUAUER :18)—When you look at what they’re talking about, it’s pretty clear that they’re talking about big-box retail, not nurseries, and not car dealerships. Anything that’s not a business that fits within the big-box model is not going to be subjected to the requirements they first have approval by a majority vote of the citizens of Lodi. The sometimes emotional debate over Measure R has split the community (NS #5—shopping carts at Wal-Mart-fade and hold) At the current Wal-Mart in Lodi an employee rounds up shopping carts in the parking lot left by a steady stream of customers. Stacy Johnson, a devoted Wal-Mart shopper, bristles at the mention of “Measure R”. (SB #7 JOHNSON :11)—For everyday stuff for toilet paper and food and stuff I think a super Wal-Mart would be wonderful and cheaper, especially on people like me, I’m a single working mom and every little penny counts. Johnson and other Wal-Mart customers say if a super center isn’t built in Lodi, they’ll drive to another city in the region to shop at one. (NS #4-ABS downtown Lodi-hold under) Others say Measure R is necessary. Retired Navy officer Bob Bechill likes to shop downtown and says businesses would be threatened by a super center. (SB #6 BECHILL :10)—I do not want to see a big box store like Wal-Mart come in here. I really do think it’s going to take away jobs and take away other opportunities for people in town. Despite the controversy, WalMart says it still intends to build the Super Center in Lodi. But the debate over Measure R could extend well past Election Day. If the initiative is approved by voters in November the new regulation will likely be challenged in court. Bob Hensley KXJZ News.