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Articles From the Taos News

Anti-Wal-Mart group files complaint with A.G.'s office

By Cornelia de Bruin

The Taos News

March 7,2003

Taose?s Against a Wal-Mart Superstore (TAWSS) is asking state Attorney General Patricia Madrid to investigate
what it contends is an underhanded tactic being used by supporters of the construction of a large retail store within town limits.

The complaint, filed Wednesday (March 5), calls for an
investigation into "potential interstate fraud and Federal Communications Commission violations."

Town officials recently sent a survey to voters registered within municipal limits,
asking for their opinions - pro or con - on the issue of changing zoning codes
to allow retail stores larger than the present 80,000-square-foot limit in a select area of town.
The results of that survey have yet to be tallied.

The anti-Wal-Mart Superstore group, seeking support for its campaign,
also sent cards to town residents, encouraging them to vote against the code change.

In addition, La Gente, the group that wants the Taos Town Council to change its zoning code,
conducted a door-to-door in support of the zoning code change.

TAWSS spokesperson Jeanne Timber contends the pro-Wal-Mart Superstore side has also
"launched a deceptive telemarketing campaign to recipients of the (Town of Taos) survey."

The pro-side, Timber states in the complaint sent to the attorney general,
has used "blatantly misrepresentative and fraudulent tactics to create the false impression
that town officials were urging voters to submit a 'yes' vote."

"Unidentified callers illegally misrepresented themselves as official representatives of the Town of Taos survey,
in a deliberate attempt to bias the entire process in favor of the proposed "big box amendment," the complaint states.

"Not only was this intended to deceive the recipients of the calls,
the ultimate intent was to distort the survey and thus illegally to influence the vote of the Town officials
responsible for the zone change decision."

Timber, and readers of The Taos News who called to complain,
said callers followed a script, saying they were calling "on behalf of the official ballot
from the Town of Taos to vote on the Wal-Mart Super Center issue."

Return calls to the telephone number left on caller ID units rang
to a recording stating that the caller was not available.

The TAWSS complaint states that "it was determined that prepaid calling cards from Wal-Mart
... routed through Denver and Atlanta,34 were used to make the calls.

29 July, 1999
Dear Editor,

I read with interest the articles concerning the Super Store Wal-Mart that is planning to come to town. In the article "Competition Key to Survival" (front page, 22 July) Ken Stone is quoted as saying that the local businesses must learn to compete in the local market in order to survive. I am sure that Mr. Stone, an economics professor at Iowa State, understands capitalism, but the facts regarding competition and Wal-Mart are somewhat skewed.

Wal-Mart's standard operating procedure is to drive out the small locally owned businesses that might offer some competition. They do this by simply pricing their goods under wholesale for as long as it takes for the local businesses to have to close up shop. This is called loss leader and brings people into the store to take advantage of cheap prices. With billions of dollars in assets, Wal-Mart can do this for as long as it takes.

All that money goes directly to Bentonville, Arkansas and is never used for local community development and support. Wal-Mart does have a very small budget for local support, but what about the local businesses that would support the high school band, cheerleaders, foot ball teams? Gone. What about those businesses that support the non-profits in town and work for a better community for all of us? Gone.

We lose tax dollars and have to spend more money on new traffic lights, roads and road repair and put up with more congestion as evidenced by the new traffic light outside what would become the "old Wal-Mart" rumored to become a Target, which will drive out even more local businesses.

Targeted businesses here in Taos? Pet supply stores, tire stores, hard ware stores (construction tools), food stores, clothing stores, photo stores.

What does this mean for our community? For every job that Wal-mart provides, our town loses 1.5 jobs. Unemployment goes up. Wal-Mart does not create any new jobs, but hires people for minimum wage, part-time clerk and stocker jobs with an approximate income of $9000, before taxes. No corporate or health benefits are provided for part-time workers. Sam Walton (now deceased) always believed that Unions were not needed at Wal-Mart. Management jobs are filled by workers taken from other Wal-Marts around the country who are working up through the Wal-Mart system. They also come from headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.

In larger community 4-7 businesses go under. In our smaller community we already lost 4-7 businesses when the present Wal-Mart opened (Yellow Front comes to mind). With more lost businesses we lose tax revenue from those businesses, buildings become empty with no new tenants in sight, the Chamber of Commerce loses members and we lose that sense of community that says who we are.

86 towns around the country have successfully stopped Wal-mart and other "Big Box" stores from destroying their communities. They can be stopped!

Check out Spawl-Busters for stories about how other communities have resisted Wal-Mart and other "Big Box" stores and saved their communities.

More life blood will be drained from our community if the Super Store is allowed to open. Do not change the zoning for those 25 acres. As a community we cannot afford another blight.

From the Taos News,
Thursday, July 22, 1999

Competition key to survival
By Inez Russell
The Taos News

Nothing's certain yet, but folks in Taos are getting ready for the coming of Super Wal-Mart.

For years, it had been rumored that Wal-Mart wanted to expand from its current location. Now the nation's largest retailer has signed a lease signaling its intent to build on land near the Taos County Chamber of Commerce.

Iowa State economics professor Ken Stone, one of the country's chief Wal-Mart watchers, had this reaction to the news that a super store may be coming: "They're going to spoil that little town."

But, said Stone, sometimes residents can do little to fight the company.

Not true. 86 communities aroung the US and Canada have successfully kept Wal-Mart out of their communities. Sprawl-Busters has stories of each of these communities and how they have managed to resist the "Big Box" stores from locating in thieir communities. One of those stories is about Tijeras, New Mexico and how that small community on the eastern slope of the Sandias kept the Wal-Mart SS from locating in their community.
"In the Midwest, if you get resistance to the point that (people) don't want a Wal-Mart, they just move to the closest town and suck people right out of your town," he said.

Espanola already has a Wal-Mart SS.

Right now, many Taos residents drive to Espa?la to shop at the new Wal-Mart there. Others make weekend trips to Albuquerque or head to Colorado for big purchases. A Super Wal-Mart might help keep those people home.

But many of the dollars spent at a Wal-Mart come from hometown retailers, Stone said. Wal-Mart's millions come "out of someone else's cash registers," he said. With a Super Wal-Mart, which adds groceries to the inventory, area grocery stores might expect a decline in sales of about 18 percent by the third year.

The weakest store, he said, "could go out of business."

Small businesses, he said, "have to be smart. You have to be savvy. You can't stand still or you're going to get run over."

Wal-Mart's business practices are no different than the United States War against Iraq in the so-called Gulf War, actually a massacre. BIG tanks, BIG guns, and lots of them.Their practice is to run out all competition. They do this by selling products and goods below retail until the 'mom-and-pop' stores are eliminated. And with billions of dollars in assets, Wal-Mart can afford small losses in each and every department.

Certified public accountant Doug Swinehart, chair of the Business Development Committee at the Taos County Chamber of Commerce, has been expecting the expansion for years. He has been gathering information about Wal-Mart. He doesn't know whether the chamber will, or should, take a position. He just knows that local businesses will have to think smart to stay open.

And by thinking smart, what does that entail? Competing with Charlie's Corner?

"It's kind of a two-edged sword," he said. "It does provide jobs and perceived lower cost and convenience."

And for every job that Wal-Mart brings in is 1.5 jobs lost in the local market. And these are part-time, minimum wage, no benefit jobs that only exascerbate the county's already high unemployment and low job skill market.

But on the other hand, mom-and-pop stores ? the kind of businesses whose profits are reinvested in the community are going to be hurt.

Wal-Mart "sweeps their dollars out of here. (Profits) are gone within 24 to 48 hours. It's yanked out of the community," Swinehart said.

Monica Abeita, a planner for the Town of Taos, said residents who attended Vision 2020 meetings expressed concern that Taos is becoming too much like other places in the country.

"They didn't like strip development that makes Taos look like anywhere, USA," she said. Those concerns have been accounted for in the master plan. However, the new land-use code that could keep the size of Wal-Mart down won't be approved until September at the earliest.

That means it's not going to be easy to keep the larger store out. And some residents don't think keeping Wal-Mart out will answer Taos' economic woes, anyway.

Bringing Wal-Mart in only worsens the problem.

Amalio Madue?, project coordinator at the nonprofit Taos County Economic Development Corporation, said Wal-Mart shouldn't be penalized for its success in the national economy.

"It's not like you have to say no to this element of the national economy being here," he said. "There are strengths that we can develop."

What's left for the locals, he said, is to figure out what they can do that Wal-Mart can't. At TCEDC, the emphasis is on a revival of agricultural roots, helping small businesses thrive and light manufacturing.

A small business owner, he said, "would have to develop the elements of your business that would be competitive with Wal-Mart."