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‘Black Tuesday': Store owners to stage protest

April 02, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Owners of local grocery stores and downtown Calexico shops will close their doors and kill their lights from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday to protest the possibility of a repeal of the "big box" ordinance at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

The coalition of merchants, who have dubbed their protest "Black Tuesday," said they will gather with supporters at Super Shopping-Apple Market on Second Street at 6 p.m. and march the few blocks north to City Hall.

The City Council meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall, 608 Heber Ave.

In addition to hearing from both sides of the community on the "big box" issue, the council will appoint a new mayor and have a hearing to decide if members of the Calexico Housing Authority board should be removed.

Stores that will be closed Tuesday include the three T.C. Worthy supermarkets owned by Gaston Lopez; California Supermarkets owned by Alex Loo and Secundino Arrelleno; Peso Supermarket owned by Jose Loo; Garcia Food owned by Yoli Cordero and Super Shopping-Apple Market owned by Raymundo Lopez and Frank Moreno.

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"These stores being closed for an hour is just an example of what is going to happen to downtown Calexico if a Super Wal-Mart comes to town," said Joe Moreno, general manager of Super Shopping-Apple Market.

"We as a community have to ask ourselves, ‘Is this what we want?' " Moreno said.

Local grocers lobbied the City Council to pass the "big box" ordinance earlier this year in an attempt to prohibit the Calexico Wal-Mart from expanding into a Super Wal-Mart.

The City Council is being forced to consider overturning that ordinance because Wal-Mart gathered more than 1,700 signatures to authorize a referendum on the "big box" ordinance.

The "big box" ordinance, passed in January, specifies that no store larger than 150,000 square feet can devote more than 7.5 percent of floor space to non-taxable items, which are primarily food items.

A Super Wal-Mart, which by design would be more than 150,000 square feet, combines all the features of a regular Wal-Mart with a supermarket department equivalent in size to a large Vons or Albertson's.

Phil Aubry, Calexico Wal-Mart manager, said he has heard from a number of Calexico residents who support the idea of a Super Wal-Mart.

He thinks the concerns of local grocers "worried that they will be put out of business" are overblown.

He said the increased business brought into Calexico by a Super Wal-Mart would have a trickle-down effect for all local merchants.

Cordero said she is not worried about being put out of business. She said she is concerned if a Super Wal-Mart comes to town the economic balance of big and small stores would be disrupted.

If the council sides with Cordero and her supporters and decides not to overturn the ordinance, a special election will be staged in late June.

That election will cost the city $20,000, according to Calexico City Clerk Lourdes Cordova.

Aubry said Wal-Mart has been conducting phone surveys to determine if Calexico residents would support a Super Wal-Mart. He said if the results of the survey are unfavorable he will drop the referendum proposal.

The City Council is expected to appoint Victor Carrillo as the new mayor and John Renison as the new mayor pro tem Tuesday.

Outgoing mayor Javier Alatorre will preside over the ceremony.

After being sworn in, Carrillo will preside over the "big box" debate and conduct the public hearing of the Housing Authority commissioners.

The hearing has been called for by elected representatives of the Housing Authority residents, residents of the Housing Authority and two commissioners on the board.

They favor removal of the entire board because they say the six members are incapable of getting things accomplished and four of the six commissioners are "puppets" of Lupita Rios, executive director of the Housing Authority.

They have lobbied City Council members to take control of the Housing Authority and appoint a new batch of commissioners.

The four commissioners who have been accused of "mismanagement, corruption, incompetence and mistreatment of residents" have said the criticism is unfounded.

They point to favorable audits by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as proof the Housing Authority is "high-functioning and well-managed."

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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