To the Editor:
The standing-room-only Aug. 2 public hearing of the Franklin Town Board of Alderman regarding the development of a Wal-Mart Supercenter was an object lesson in how politics trumps reason at every turn. It’s bad enough when partisan politics and posturing rear their ugly heads in Washington, but when it shows up on our own doorstep, then it’s time for local government officials to take a good hard look in the mirror. Hopefully, they can see their reflection.
If news reports covering the hearing are accurate, what transpired that evening was nothing more than a preordained exercise in folly starting with Mayor Joe Collins condescendingly grabbing a Bible to remind the congregation that their opinions on the subject were irrelevant.
Add to the general silliness the fact that Alderman Bob Scott was forced to recuse himself from the proceedings because he, perish the thought, conducted a survey on the issue to gauge the public’s feelings on the matter. How’s that for a footprint, Mr. Scott?
Then came another big surprise when real estate developer Marty Kimsey, spoke in favor of the project using the hackneyed argument that somehow a Super Wal-Mart will magically help ease the job woes of the local citizenry. Mr. Kimsey’s insinuation that a “bottom line” of economic despair may ensue if the project is rejected was nothing more than fear mongering, a tactic no doubt appreciated by the Wal-Mart developers sitting nearby. Sorry Mr. Kimsey, but the only bottom line in this equation is Wal-Mart’s share price.
But let’s not point fingers at our hard-working aldermen who voted unanimously to approve the special use permit despite a chorus of public opposition during the meeting. Instead, let’s examine some well-established, indisputable facts about the impact Wal-Mart makes on small communities like Franklin.
First, Wal-Mart does not lead to net retail job creation. Second, small businesses are particularly hurt by Wal-Mart’s entry, causing “a substantial reduction in net employment growth at smaller retailers,” according to a 2009 study by the U.S. Census Bureau Center for Economic Studies.
Third, Wal-Mart stores generate a significant amount of traffic congestion. In fact, the average-size Wal-Mart Supercenter will generate nearly 10,000 car trips per day. Fourth, Wal-Mart abandons stores throughout the country. Wal-Mart’s own realty website lists almost 200 abandoned stores. Abandoned stores and vast parking lots are a haven for crime and vandalism.
Franklin government officials have spent hours of taxpayer time trying to figure out how to make this area a “destination location.” Why they foolishly believe a Super Wal-Mart will better enhance Franklin’s appeal for visitors is a mystery. What makes a destination desirable today is focusing on what makes it unique, not what makes it redundant. To use Mayor Collins’ expression, that’s a no-brainer. Too bad it’s a no-brainer he and the Franklin aldermen have failed to embrace.
Carol J. Ramsey