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Monday 10 May 2004

More Wal-Mart in Front Royal

The recent election in Front Royal gets some coverage in the Washington Post.

In that election, the mayor and three town-council members who had voted in favor of an unpopular location for a Wal-Mart were turned out, and replaced with four people who specifically ran on a platform of telling Wal-Mart to put their store somewhere else.

Andrew Stokes, manager of the Alvin B. Stokes general store — which was established in 1946 by his grandfather — sells everything from cast-iron skillets to saddles.

This is an unbelievably meagre description of the Stokes general store. The best description is that it’s somewhat less indescribable than the Stokes Mart across the street. If you’re ever in Front Royal both of these are must-sees.

Stokes said that salesmen who sell him his products have told him that he can expect a Wal-Mart superstore to cut into his gross revenue as much as 20 percent the first year it is open. But he still wants the store to come to town because, well, the residents need a big outlet like that.

Get this? One of the town’s biggest retail merchants wants Wal-Mart to move in. This is an unusual situation, to say the least; the town just doesn’t want to Wal-Mart in a location that’s going to be a disaster.


Keith Morris, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said last week’s election would not change the corporation’s plan to build on the site. “We had previously been approved by the Town Council,” Morris said, “and that was the final vote that was necessary. Just because you change some faces on the local governing body does not take away the fact that we have already received our approval.”

He’s probably right. He’s definitely right as far as the composition of the council not changing the validity of the council’s previous vote. There is some question of whether the council’s previous vote was valid in the first place, though, a question which is to be discussed in court in September. (The controversy surrounds whether a council member who had recused himself from the vote due to a conflict of interest counts as a warm body for the purpose of establishing a quorum.)

But is this good business? “Notwithstanding the residents’ opposition to our building here, as expressed in the recent election, we’re going to build here anyway”? Wal-Mart’s rezoning was approved by the narrowest of margins, and even then only as a result of parliamentary shenanigans. A few months after that, the town voted out of office the people who supported Wal-Mart.

At this point, most businesses would conclude that they have a public-relations problem on their hands. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, tells the town to stick it where the sun don’t shine. So to speak.

I’ve said before and I will say again that I generally admire Wal-Mart as a business. I am not at all in Wal-Mart’s target demographic, but I still find shopping there less frustrating than I do more retail experiences. I have never — never — personally encountered a situation where Wal-Mart has broken the customer service rules.

But this statement from the Wal-Mart spokesman strongly supports a couple of the complaints the anti-Wal-Marters make: specificlly, that Wal-Mart is arrogant, and that they don’t care about the communities they inhabit. Wal-Mart has certainly shown that they don’t particularly give a damn about what the people of Front Royal want.

And Wal-Mart can do that, because their stores draw from a larger area than a single town, and because the people of Front Royal won’t cut off their nose to spite their face; even if Wal-Mart makes their contempt for the town clear, the prices are still low, and the selection still vast.

I do not think this is over, at all. Since I wrote about this topic the other day, I have come to believe that the answer must be some kind of tax-kickback scheme from the town. With a new council in place, the tax-kickback environment may have changed, and Wal-Mart might suddenly be more amenable to building on the ‘too-rocky’ site in a better location.

Posted by tino at 17:22 10.05.04
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I reference Robert Bork’s book entitled, “Slouching Towards Gomorrah” Pt 2/Chap 15: “The Wishful Hope for Fraternity”

• It seems likely that decreasing confidence in the American future is a symptom of the rising cult of ethnicity. The natural centrifugal tendencies of ethnicity were once counteracted by a public school system that stressed indoctrinating immigrants to be Americans. They taught patriotism.

• Polish and Vietnamese children were put into English-speaking classes and were competent into English long before the Hispanics in bilingual schools. That leaves partisans of bilingualism only the choice of saying that Hispanic children are not as capable as others or admitting that they, the educators, are driven by hostility to American culture.

• Multiculturalism is a movement of the left and a yearning for more power, which is necessarily government power. Its spread and entrenchment bodes ill for the institutions of capitalism.

• As Ortega y Gasser said, “Civilisation is before all, the will to live in common … Barbarism is the tendency to disassociation. … “

• Multiculturalism is barbarism, and it is bringing us to a barbarous epoch.

Posted by: Ron Wiles at May 24, 2004 01:49 PM