The simple fact is that we already have too many grocery stores, confirmed by a city prepared market evaluation. Less than 6 months after the second Safeway opened, our only locally owned store, Gene's, was sold due to the resulting loss in sales. According to the Pleasanton Patch, the new owners will be cutting the workforce and wages by up to half. We're now seeing reduced hours and pay to workers at Raley's, Lucky's, and other stores due to lost sales, and this before Walmart even opens.
These lost workers, wages, consumer spending, and city sales tax revenue will have a ripple effect throughout our already struggling local economy. And what will happen to that lost wealth? It will be extracted from our community by Walmart and sent directly to Bentonville, Arkansas. And when Walmart opens, some other store will most certainly close. While I sympathize with the neighbors who want a store in the Meadows Plaza, opening it will be at the expense of others when their neighborhood store closes.
Some people are upset that I appealed Walmart's application and have forced a community discussion on this topic. Others are grateful to have the opportunity to express their views. Consider that if this wasn't appealed, Walmart would have opened in the dead of night without any notice, public comment or review by any city commission or the Council. In Pleasanton, we go to great lengths to involve the community in our decision-making process. What Walmart has done may be legal, but it's clearly un-democratic. And if I'm guilty of any crime, it's been forcing democracy on some members of our community that don't seem to want it.
Important issues were raised by the public at the May 7 meeting about campaign contributions from Walmart and the Chamber of Commerce PAC, as well as the Walmart Mexican bribery scandal. I asked for additional information on both and postponed the meeting to provide time for the answers. Unfortunately, the Council refused to respond to these requests and the public is still in the dark.
Despite the Council majority hiding behind false platitudes such as "the rule of law" and "upholding the constitution," there was a clear and legal path, confirmed by the City Attorney, to deny the application. The Council simply chose to not take it. We're witnessing Pleasanton's version of what's happening all over the country: A corporate takeover of our democracy, attacks on the middle and working classes, and a redistribution of wealth from the 99% to the 1%. With its decision on Walmart, the Pleasanton City Council has firmly aligned itself with the 1%. Remember that when they next come asking for your money and your vote.
--Matt Sullivan is a member of the Pleasanton City Council, first elected in 2004. He was a Planning Commissioner from 1998 to 2004.