Volume 12, Issue 15 ~ April 8-14, 2004
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Remaining Wary of Wal-Mart in Parole

Like most people, we’re eager for wise development at Parole.

Parole occupies a crossroads like no other in Anne Arundel County: the vital arteries of Route 2, Forest Drive and West Street. It is a junction that long ago became an eyesore; now it is a parcel of land left twisting in the wind.

We are intrigued by early details of a new proposal that combines streetside commercial development with condos and towers of luxury apartments.

But we were troubled when the developer, the Greenberg Commercial Corp., clammed up in published reports on whether Wal-Mart might be part of the retail mix.

The specter of a Wal-Mart in Parole helped torpedo previous development ideas, and we suspect it might do so again.

Thus far, the Annapolis area has had the good fortune of avoiding the march of the world’s biggest retailer. We believe that all of us will be better off if we never see a Wal-Mart “big box” in our midst at Parole.

Our reasons could fill a page or two in this paper; here are a few:

Typically, the arrival of Wal-Mart is bad news for local retailers, who can’t compete with the company’s throat-cutting pricing and the avalanche of cheap, Chinese-made goods it brings to town.

Call us old fashioned, but we believe that the strength of communities lies in small businesses and local enterprise. Corporate profiteers and holding companies 1,000 miles away could care less about our churches, schools and little leagues.

This week, the Los Angeles Times was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in national reporting for a series investigating Wal-Mart’s ruthless price-cutting and the consequences for developing countries as well as for American lands.

Nor are we fans of Wal-Mart’s salary and health-care policies, which are known for keeping employees among the working poor. Wal-Mart’s extreme-profit model is forcing competitors to follow suit to stay afloat, contributing to the inexorable decline of America’s middle class. In California and here at home, we’ve seen that policy cause supermarket chains to try to cut salaries and benefits for their workers, who’ve achieved comfortable lives with union support.

Last, we find Wal-Mart’s bullying tactics offensive. In southern California, the town of Inglewood said no to a Wal-Mart super store. But the company spent $1 million to put a proposition on the ballot to let it build anyway.

Opponents noted that the company paid petition-passers more than its store clerks.

Unbelievably, the proposition exempts the company from many local planning, zoning and environmental regulations, in effect setting up a Wal-Mart kingdom subject to its own rules.

On April 6, voters soundly trounced Wal-Mart's end-run proposition by a margin of 61 to 39 percent.

Meanwhile, closer to home in Calvert County — where an existing Wal-Mart plans to double its footprint to 200,000 square feet — commissioners are narrowing the spots where big box stores can build and raising their taxes.

As local citizens look anew at what developers have in mind for Parole, let’s think twice about letting a company with such corrosive values into our community.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
Last updated April 8, 2004 @ 12:59am.