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Our Community First, Seriously
by Richard Burton, Publisher
Sam Walton said it best when he said, “…we’ll lower the cost of living for everyone, not just in America, but we’ll give the world an opportunity to see what it’s like to save and have a better lifestyle, a better life for all.” Sadly enough, Wal-Mart’s smiley face logo is no longer smiling. To see horns protruding from the happy little guy would be no surprise these days.
According to area Wal-Mart critics, the shopping behemoths have stomped all over small town America, wreaking havoc on local economies by lowering wages and reducing access to healthcare. Bend’s rejection of Wal-Mart’s proposed 200,000-square-foot Supercenter was upheld by Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals. There is widespread concern that the enormous amount of traffic generated by a development of this size will not be supported by the current transportation system.
Wal-Mart has become more of a four letter word to those deciding collectively to take a stance against the giant supermarket. These groups of people seem to come together for opposition’s sake only, without one clear thought. Almost overnight, it’s become politically correct to be anti-Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is not affiliated with any particular political party, rather certain political parties have declared Wal-Mart the earth’s enemy, a threat not only to our economy but our environment as well. This mindset is pure lunacy. Special interest groups never form with the opening of a new Shopko, Target or Fred Meyer store, who carry the same type of products. It’s become un-American, unfashionable to shop at Wal-Mart. Is it un-American to shop at Target? It should be, their prices are higher.
The major opponent to the Wal-Mart Supercenter is an organization called Our Community First who call themselves a diverse, motivated and dynamic group of concerned Central Oregonians. Furthermore, they state in their premise that they believe Wal-Mart aggressively pursues a business model that is destructive to the economic, social, and environmental fabric of our Central Oregon communities, the state, America, and the planet.
There’s nothing diverse about a group who claims to understand the economic machinations of the planet. That in itself is laughable. Certainly, Sam Walton did not set out to destroy small town America or the earth for heaven’s sake. Furthermore, these critics do not speak for all of Bend. More important perhaps is the fact that they are in dire need of a crash course in capitalism in order to obtain a better understanding of economics instead of parading into city hearings like a bunch of religious fanatics.
Organizations like Our Community First have become more destructive to the economic growth then the development of another Wal-Mart. One already exists on Pinebrook Boulevard and so far, the devil has not been seen dancing around the wide aisles where the smiley face logo reflects happily upon the polished floors.
What’s so bad about an air conditioned store larger than three football fields where one can buy high quality, low cost food, clothing, tools, supplies, toys, get photos developed, portraits taken, a hair cut, tires rotated, an oil change and pick up prescriptions all in the same day? In today’s hurried world, convenience counts. Most importantly though is cost and to have both in one location is astounding. Like Sam Walton said, it’s a better lifestyle, a better life for all. Without Wal-Mart, millions would be unable to afford luxuries very recently unaffordable to lower income families. Purchasing products at Wal-Mart will help thousands in Bend save more, making it possible to spend more on other local businesses. A new development will bring an influx of dollars during the construction phase, with the need of contractors, steel workers, concrete workers and building supplies. The trickle down effect will only boost our economy further.
Wal-Mart has successfully raised the real income level of America. Defined as the amount of wealth that can be acquired with income, real income has increased since productivity has risen. With lower prices comes more wealth. Consumers can buy twice as much when prices fall 50%, raising real income. Emphasizing lower prices is Wal-Mart’s main idea. Critics of Wal-Mart think of income in nominal terms only. This is not only dangerous, but embarrassing. A fall in prices is equal to an increase in pay. Since productivity has increased, products are made more cheaply and in greater abundance. Almost everyone on our ill fated planet can afford Wal-Mart prices. A new Wal-Mart will increase tax revenues as well.
Bend is smarter than Our Community First members. We need this new Wal-Mart Supercenter. A fresh, new, clean, well-lit shopping market on the North side of town will be a welcome sight for all residents. It will only bring more jobs into the community, providing more economic growth. To say that Wal-Mart is responsible for loss of wages is missing the point entirely. Rather then focusing on nominal income, anti Wal-Mart groups should look at production. The basic premise of capitalism is production of goods. Only high production yields real wealth. Wal-Mart’s ever increasing production rate is phenomenal. Once again, it is a matter of real income versus nominal income. Lowering prices is increasing salaries and everyone benefits from higher pay. Attempting to halt free enterprise harms everyone. There is much choice in a free market society. Residents who don’t enjoy the Wal-Mart experience can certainly exercise their right to shop elsewhere.
A second, even more tiresome argument from haters of the low price super giant is a reduction in access to healthcare. Sam Walton was alive during the ongoing healthcare crisis. He was fully aware of the unfair policies implemented within this broken system. It was not the Walton family greed rearing its ugly head, taking more and more away from the lowly workers. Instead, it’s an ill planned healthcare system causing pain to us all, not just Wal-Mart employees. In the past, healthcare was not provided by employers. For decades now, the government has provided tax incentives to companies, pressuring larger corporations to offer healthcare as a fringe-benefit. Employees now come to expect these cushy health plans, which are no longer near as plush. Blame Uncle Sam, not Sam Walton.
Wal-Mart has three weeks to decide whether or not to appeal to the ruling of the Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals or to withdraw and start the process over. Either way, it is in Bend’s best interest that Wal-Mart executives come better prepared with unbiased testimony from city and county traffic engineers. Bend is growing by leaps and bounds. According to the city attorney, Pete Schannauer, the current transportation system is already failing at several intersections. Surely a transportation plan can be devised that will benefit all concerned, paving new highways that will only aid Bend’s continual, inevitable growth. Whether a new Wal-Mart is built or not, improvements will need to be made. With a growing population comes an increase in traffic.
Wal-Mart is a shining example of capitalism. Our nation was built on this very concept. To listen to groups like Our Community First will only hurt the growth and development of the fine town. Sam Walton once said, “Capital isn’t scarce; vision is.” Our Community First has no vision, but Bend residents that truly care about our ever expanding economy can see a wonderful new development looming on the horizon.
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- Ok folks I am very confused! Liberals are coming down on Walmart for how they do business. Why do they (liberals) let insurance companies that rake in far more money off the hook? Example it is now cheaper for me to by the same prescription drugs as offered by my prescription drug plan from Walmart without the plan. With the Walmart drug prices I don't have to pay a monthly premeium nor do I have a $250 yearly deductible.
Yet you bash Walmart and say how evil they are. I don't see any other company helping people like Walmart is. The insurance companies will go nuts as will the drug companies with Walmarts prices for prescription drugs.
Yet Walmart is targeted and the insurance and Drug companies get a pass. I don't get it!
Then you go to Target and buy the same stuff you would at Walmart for a higher price all made in the same countries. Then you do not consider that though some stores are Union the employees in the long run don't get to keep as much of their income as Walmart employees because the Union forces them to pay dues and contribute to United way. No choice you do this or don't work.
So it is ok for Insurance comapanies and drug comapnies and Unnions to rip us off and give little or nothing in return. Ever try and get your insurance company to pay a claim? Just about as bad as dealing with the IRS! They fight you every inch of the way and then find a reason not to pay the full value of the claim.
It all seems a little hypocritical to me. Support one type of business who sucks your blood and boycott or abuse another that helps far more American citizens than it hurts. Talk about double standards.
At least Walmart does not force you to buy their merchandise. Are you forced buy law to buy any kind of insurance? (Posted on December 31, 2006, 1:58 am Even)
- The american dream is to rise above the level of our previous generation....Walmart today is not doing that....the Walton Family all made more money when Papa Sam was still alive and did it by treating people better than they do today....
Let me relay ONE little story....
Imagine a time when a woman is by her car broke down on the ide of the road with her kids in the back of the car ...1972....a Semi truck loaded with Walmart goods drives by and sees this...he stops fixes her tire and she is on the way....this was what Sam Walton encouraged (hell he fired drivers who wouldn't stop and help!...he used to set them up with his family members in rental cars ever!)...now fast forward to the 1990's....a semi driver pulls over to help a woman whos mini-van is on fire and he pulls out the kids and puts out the fire, saving life and vehicle....so the mother (overjoyed) reports his kind deed to the Walmart people...what is his great reward?...he is FIRED, yes FIRED.
Sam Walton was always about making a profit , but he did it with pride and by treating pepole well...now, without Sam, Walmart only cares about the bottom line and about mind/bottom line control....sad how a company can go down hill so quick.
(Posted on November 12, 2006, 2:41 am Why I Don't Shop at WalMart)
- What's frustrating is that if you look up many of the members of this group in DIAL (property records) they often own 4-10 parcels, frequently in the area of the proposed Wal-Mart, and often with primary addresses listed as out of state. I think if someone can afford an $800,000 lot at Pronghorn, they've lost their right to decide if I can shop at a Wal-Mart. (Posted on November 6, 2006, 11:23 am Tina)
- Wow! Another GREAT article from Mr. Burton! It's a sharply written, intelligent response to the "knee jerk" reactionary groups that are out there. I often feel groups like this are so consumed with expressing their disdain for something that they often lose sight of what it was they were objecting to in the first place.
Again, Mr. Burton's remarks were right on, and this article is an example of the kind of great news and editorials that keep me reading Bend Weekly! (Posted on November 6, 2006, 11:23 am Jason Leary)
- Seriously Richard, is it necessary to slam the Community First team. They formed out of concern for the town of Bend. Your comments are not intelligent at all contrary to what Jason said. Peanuts has more intellect than Mr. Burton degrading some citizens of Bend. Wal-Mart can't even take care of the store they have. The isles are all cluttered with boxes making shopping impossible, restrooms are always dirty, Wal-Mart employees don't care about the customer. They don't have a customer service attitude,and you can never find anyone to help you. This kind of service flows from the management down. Give me Target anyday of the week. My employer manages to provide me with healthcare so stop blaming the government. (Posted on November 6, 2006, 11:23 am Jill Walter)
- Seriously, Jill, it's people like you that stall a growing city like Bend! Funny how the Wal-Mart employees go out of my way when I enter the store. Not only am I greeted by a smiling face, but there's help around every corner. If you don't want to shop at Wal-Mart, fine, but to try stop those of us who like the convenience as well as the price is just silly. Go waste your time elsewhere! Sounds like you might be one of those fanatics Richard mentioned! Thank you Sam Walton for giving us a choice! (Posted on November 6, 2006, 11:23 am BethAnne Wellington)
- Jill - I live near the proposed WalMart location and I'm in support of of it. Unlike you, I rent my house and just barely make enough money to live here in Bend as it is. I am a third generation Bend resident and quite frankly tired of scum like yourself coming here trying to shove your opinions down the throats of all of us. You want Target? Fine. But why deprive others of a WalMart that helps them afford the high cost of living here? And no customer service attitude at WalMart? I don't get it - I'm never left wandering without assistance, and am always greeted at the door. Since you're not a proponent of WalMart, how is it you seem to know so much about the aisles, employees, and restrooms? It sounds like you're spending way too much time in the bathrooms there. And I agree with BethAnne Wellington - it sounds like you may be one of those anti-Walmart fanatics, opposing for the sake of opposition and jumping on the bandwagon because its fashionable. If you want a cause, go feed the homeless or try puttinh yourself in my shoes. I can't afford to shop at Wild Oats or the Safeway on the west side of Bend. Have you been to our local Food for Less, Albertsons, or even Bi-Mart lately? I think your efforts would be better spent lobbying them to clean their stores and provide a shopping experience for the masses that is currently only available for the wealthy who shop on the west side.
Don't impose your restrictions on me - allow me to make my own choices as to where I want to shop. If you don't support WalMart, don't shop there. Plain and simple. Or better yet, since we already have a Walmart that so obviously offends your senses, get the hell out of Bend.
(Posted on November 6, 2006, 11:23 am B. Williams)
- I don't own a home, but I hate these big box eyesore stores that are popping up all over Bend. Most of everything they sell is of a cheap quality and produced in sweat shops overseas where employees are abused. I didn't grow up here in Bend, but I am a tax payer. (Posted on November 6, 2006, 11:23 am Kerry)
- I was shopping for some plastic garden chairs the other day--Walmart, ShopKo and Target all carried the same chairs.
Why don't those of you denigrating WalMart beat up on the other stores? They carry the same "cheap" stuff.
The ONLY difference was that at Walmart, the EXACT SAME CHAIR was about 25% cheaper!
Which, if you think about it, is a triumph of the capitalist system--buying and selling in volume.
Whatever it is that bugs you about Walmart, it ain't the "cheap quality products produced in sweat shops overseas," otherwise, you'd include all of the other large chains in your diatribe. (Posted on November 6, 2006, 11:23 am Evelio)
- Let me start out by saying that I am against the Bend Wal-Mart Supercenter. My opposition stems from their insistence on building this store at an already severely overcrowded intersection. My opposition ends there.
We are living in a city that is rapidly becoming inhabited by the “haves” and the “have not’s”. The haves can afford to buy their food at the local Safeway, Albertsons or specialty shops that seem to be an increasing presence in this town. Need clothes? The haves can shop at the ever growing number of boutique stores downtown or at the Old Mill District. The haves don’t have to bat an eye about making a trip to Macys. Better yet, they can always hop over the hill to Portland and shop at Nordstroms. How about the have-nots? How do they put food on the table or clothe their children? They shop where they can buy decent quality products at the most affordable prices – Wal- Mart.
There is also a major economic factor in support of Wal-Mart : supply chain management. In a nut shell, supply chain management is the art and science of getting goods where they are suppose to be, when they are suppose to be there by the most efficient and economical means possible . I worked in that field for most of my adult life, so I know of what I speak. Wal-Mart is the supply chain bully. They saw that the technology was already there or could easily be developed to do things better than the competition. They forced the hands of their suppliers, predominantly large corporations, buy using their purchasing power. They told their suppliers that, in order to do business with Wal-Mart, they would have to adapt to best practice supply chain technologies and methods…do it our way or take the highway. It’s hard to stick up for a bully, but I also find it hard to feel sorry for companies like Proctor & Gamble etc. Bottom line: Wal-Mart’s tactics keep their prices low, but they also drive down the prices at Target, Fred Meyer, Safeway etc. who were forced to follow Wal-Mart’s lead. The end result has been lower prices for the consumer wherever they shop.
Finally, I pose a couple of questions to the Wal-Mart opponents: Have you ever taken a ride over to Highway 97 and Pinebrook Blvd. and actually spoken with Wal-Mart employees and customers? Did the employees hate their jobs or were they just happy to be employed? Most of them are under –educated and not highly skilled. Do you have a better job to offer them? I do not shop their often, but when I have the employees at least seemed friendly. Heck, some even had smiles on their faces. Did you talk with the customers? You know, the people who are shingling your roofs, cleaning your houses, mowing your lawns, waiting the tables at your favorite restaurants..it’s a long list. Were they upset with Wal-Mart or were they grateful for there being an affordable place to shop?
Oh yeah, Wal-Mart is building a supercenter at the North end of Redmond. I haven’t heard a lot of griping about it from the people in that city. Maybe it is because it is in a less intrusive location than the Highway 97 Cooley Rd. intersection, or maybe they just welcome having an affordable place to shop.
(Posted on November 6, 2006, 11:23 am Gene)
- So what is the latest with the Walmart fiasco? (Posted on November 6, 2006, 11:23 am Jodi)