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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Let Them Eat Low Prices

Apparently, if you opposed a proposal to trade Northside Park with Wal-Mart for a new park, you are an elitist that could care less about the poor and a racist who doesn't care about East Gainesville.

At least, that's how the losing side of the debate tried to spin it Tuesday. And let me stress – the losing side of the debate.

There were many reasons to oppose the idea – the neighbors didn't want to replace its park with a mega-sized retail center; the location is a poor choice for a supercenter, and it has drainage problems; and many people just have cognitive disconnect when you mention giving Wal-Mart a park, no matter what the retail giant has put on the table in return.

I opposed it purely because government has no responsibility to use tax money to confer massive financial favors to corporations, because the taxes are needed for real public purposes, because the companies don't need the money, and because incentives to corporations are never doled out fairly, but rather in a pattern of political favoritism.

The trick pulled by Wal-Mart and former Gainesville City Manager Wayne Bowers was to attach a second supercenter to the trade – give Wal-Mart the park, and the city will get a bigger park and a supercenter in East Gainesville. It was a rather large bone to throw the East Side, but a bone nonetheless. Wal-Mart is willing to bring its low prices close to home, as long as it get something in return.

So when the trade for the park was nixed Monday night, the trade proponents tried to make it into a civil rights issue. This, despite the fact that the commission also passed a resolution – unanimously, mind you – in support of Wal-Mart developing on a specific site on Waldo Road. Still, the elitism and racism accusations have been repeated, and will be again I'm sure.

It is an absurd accusation, especially the racism part. Helping locate a Wal-Mart in East Gainesville is not a significant public service – it is a commercial development with a store that has lower prices, so they say. Wal-Mart is free to locate a store at several locations in East Gainesville, whether the city likes it or not.

Any work the city does to entice Wal-Mart is corporate welfare. Let the so-called free market be free of government involvement and my tax money.


Blogger Pablo Groovy said...

It really annoys me when people make broad statements like 'everybody in East Gainesville wants a Wal-Mart supercenter' (this is a verbatim quote from Diyonne McGraw's comments at the Gainesville city commission meeting on 8/22/05). Just for the record, Ms. McGraw, a former City Commission candidate, does not even live in East Gainesville anymore.

I happen to live in East Gainesville, and I ceratinly don't want a Wal-Mart here. None of my friends who live in East Gainesville want a Wal-Mart here. Instead of perpetuating the cycle of poverty by bringing in an employer that pays very low wages and does not offer health insurance to 2/3 of its workers, the City should focus on supporting local businesses, upgrading local infrastructure to make it easier for businesses to expand, and improving the quality of the workforce on the east side in partnership with the school board, UF and SFCC.

Not to mention the fact that the proposal to put a Wal-Mart supercenter on Waldo Road at NE 12th Avenue would create a traffic nightmare. FDOT has already indicated that it would not allow construction of an entrance on Waldo Road, which means that all of the traffic will have to use NE 12th Avenue to get in and out of Wal-Mart's parking lot - a two-lane residential street that serves as a gateway to Cedar Grove neighborhood. When and if this project comes up for review before the Development Review Board, this will be a major issue.

7:24 PM


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