Monday, September 24, 2007

Pretty Vacant, Part Three - The Real Promoters of Graffiti-Ridden Empty Lots

While I'm sure that there are some people who fantasize about a Mountain Avenue without cars, the real opponents of an Ontario, California Wal Mart can be found elsewhere.

Wal-Mart will build Supercenters in Riverside and Ontario, perhaps within the next year, despite protests from environmental groups and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union....

The food workers' union Local 1428 in Claremont raised the same quality-of-life issues regarding the proposed Ontario Wal-Mart Supercenter, said Za Zette Scott, spokeswoman for Local 1428.

"The environmental impact report is [being reviewed] and I think we've had something to do with getting that done," Scott said. "Traffic congestion and pollution all go up when a Wal-Mart is built, and they treat their workers poorly. They don't pay a living wage and more than 50% of their people don't get health care. Target pays a decent wage and takes better care of its people than Wal-Mart does. Wal-Mart is headed to the bottom as far as treating their workers is concerned." The 1.4-million member union is one of Wal-Mart's strongest foes, and it has used the 1970 environmental act to delay, and in some cases block, development of regular Wal-Mart stores and Wal-Mart Supercenters.

The Ontario Wal-Mart Supercenter is likely to be built despite the environmental review, Scott said.

"I guess there is always some hope," she said. "But I don't think we can keep this one from being built."

A little history is in order. For those who don't know the history of the current fenced-in vacant lot, it once wasn't vacant. Three big stores (plus a few small stores) used to be located in that quarter-mile stretch that the Ontario Mountain Village Association fondly refers to as a "residential" area.

One of those stores, Target, fled the city and relocated to Montclair.

Another of the stores, Toys R Us, closed for reasons of its own.

Which brings us to the third store, which has been controlled in various formats by the Kroger grocery chain (down here, most famous for Ralphs). At one point it was a Giant store (not related to the Giant food stores in the Washington DC area), and in its most recent version it was a Food 4 Less. But then it closed, along with Target, Toys R Us, the taco fast food restaurant, the key maker, and the pool supply store.

I suspect that 99% of the opposition to the new store would be eliminated if it were a union store. Let's look at the Ontario Mountain Village Association points one more time:

Development of the Wal-Mart Supercenter must be stopped because:

It will draw additional traffic, noise and trash into our neighborhood.

We'll come back to this one a little later, but it's sufficient to note that the site looks pretty trashy as it is. How many people have driven by the northwest corner of 5th and Mountain in Ontario? Is this your idea of beauty?

The City does not need the revenue.

This is the most laughable claim the OMVA makes, because (1) it acknowledges that a Wal Mart will generate revenue for the city, which indicates that Wal Mart will meet a need in the community; and (2) if a City is actually swimming in too much revenue, it's news to me. "No, we don't need to make any park improvements, and we certainly don't want any more cops on the street.

The Mom and Pop businesses do not need the "made in China" competition.

Yes, Wal Mart has a lot of "made in China" stuff, which is an about face from their "made in America" campaign of several years ago. But guess what? Everybody sells stuff that was made in China. Go down the street to the Albertson's and look at all the "made in China" stuff that this wonderful unionized store sells. Better yet, go further down the street to the 99 Cents Only Store (formerly occupied by a unionized Alpha Beta) or go across the freeway to the Re Mart in Upland (formerly occupied by a unionized Pavilions, which closed after the 2003-2004 strike). Tons of "made in China" stuff there. Or, if you want to check the Mom and Pop stores, go to the northeast corner of 6th and Mountain (the OMVA's example of a wonderful shopping development) and find the store there that sells a bunch of "made in China" stuff. Until the UFCW refuses to work in stores that sell Chinese goods, and until the heads of the OMVA discontinue the use of Chinese products in THEIR businesses, this "made in China" opposition is pure baloney.

A 24-hour Super Center will act as a magnet to attract a dangerous criminal element into our neighborhood, especially from midnight until daybreak, seven days a week.

Again, go to the northwest corner of 5th and Mountain right now. Or better yet, go there around 2:00 in the morning. See anything there that would attract a dangerous criminal element? (Interestingly enough, the Wal Mart's hours are going to be restricted, but OMVA hasn't gotten around to updating its website yet.)

We, the voters and property owners, don't need 1,400 additional cars and trucks clogging the streets of our community every hour.

I hate to break it to the OMVA, but there are a ton of cars and trucks clogging Mountain Avenue every hour.

And they're all heading to Upland to shop there.

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