A newspaper should study the issues and present the facts to help educate the community. Wal-Mart has a long history of detrimental effects on both local economies and the food system in general. For instance, UC Irvine recently completed a study that demonstrates that communities with Wal-Mart stores end up with more poverty and food-stamp usage than communities where the retailer does not open, and that this increase in poverty may be due to the fact that Wal-Mart's arrival leads to a net loss of jobs and lowers wages [http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-6237.2006.00377.x/abstract onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-6237.2006.00377.x/abstract] .
In addition, a USDA analysis found that big retailers have used their market power to shortchange farmers who grow apples, lettuce and other types of produce, paying them less than what they would get in a competitive market, while also charging consumers inflated prices [http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/AER825/ http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/AER825/]. In this way, Wal-Mart has actually helped drive overall food prices up. Ironically, Wal-Mart attracts low income or fixed income customers because of "low prices" but shopping there actually exacerbates their problems in the long run.
But this just isn't about Wal-Mart. The city completed an economic study that estimated a 10%-15% loss in sales to other existing grocery stores when the second Safeway was approved last year. What effect will Wal-Mart have on our existing, and in some cases, locally owned stores such as Gene's? Raley's is closing several stores in the state and has reportedly seen a significant downturn in business at its Pleasanton store since Safeway opened. These stores -- some are union and some are not -- pay a decent middle-class wage with benefits.
The City Council just reviewed the "2011 Tri-Valley Human Services Needs Assessment" at its meeting last week. This report describes increases in unemployment, poverty and homelessness, as well as diminishing access to social services and resources for those in need in Pleasanton and the rest of the Tri-Valley, largely caused by the recession. What happens to our existing workers when their good jobs are displaced with minimum wage part time jobs with no benefits?
But what is most disturbing in the editorial is your dismissal of the public's right to participate in this decision. Wal-Mart has used this tactic in many cities to slip their projects in under the radar knowing they will be controversial. There are many people in this community who are concerned about the impacts of this project and they should be given the opportunity to participate in the democratic process at a public hearing with the ultimate decision made by their elected representatives. An independent press is essential to a functioning democracy, and the Pleasanton Weekly, as our local version of the "Fourth Estate," should be condemning these actions by Wal-Mart and calling for the democratic process to work.
In Pleasanton, Wal-Mart's "low prices" come at a high price to our local economy, our workers and, it seems, to our democracy.