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Calexicans turn out to debate city's ‘big box' ordinance

April 04, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — On what was referred to as "Black Tuesday," hundreds of protesters marched north from downtown Calexico's Apple Market-Super Shopping to City Hall in a show of support for the "big box" ordinance that prevents a Super Wal-Mart from coming to town.

The protesters dubbed "Black Tuesday" as such because the march and protest was coordinated with store closures by local grocers and other merchants in the downtown from 6 to 7 p.m.

When the protesters arrived at City Hall for Tuesday night's City Council meeting, they were met by Wal-Mart employees and supporters of a possible Calexico Super Wal-Mart.

Those for both sides of the contentious issue crowded City Hall for what many thought would be a decision by the City Council to either repeal the "big box" ordinance or set a special election to let the community decide the issue.


However, no action was taken by the council on Tuesday when Calexico City Attorney Michael Rood recommended the council hold off any decision concerning a Wal-Mart referendum until its April 17 meeting.

Rood added the council should take no action until all the signatures collected by Wal-Mart calling for the referendum can be verified by City Clerk Lourdes Cordova.

The referendum calls for a repeal of the "big box" ordinance that prevents the Calexico Wal-Mart from expanding into a Super Wal-Mart.

If the more than 1,700 signatures of registered Calexico voters are verified, the referendum will be authorized and the City Council is legally required to take action.

During the meeting, the doors to council chambers had to be forced closed as throngs of people carrying signs filled the City Hall lobby chanting, "Let the people vote!"

Calexico Fire Chief Carlos Escalante asked some protesters to leave the lobby area, saying they were creating a fire hazard.

Calexico police officers closed Heber Avenue while protesters asked to leave the lobby area milled around in front of City Hall, spilling into the street.

Inside, it was standing room only in council chambers as downtown business leaders, independent grocers, lawyers, Wal-Mart employees, city staffers, a group of local students and 75 Housing Authority residents listened to comments from those on both sides of the issue even though the council had voted not to take any action.

"I want to shop at Sam Ellis, Garcia Food, Garlan's, Apple Market and all of our downtown stores, but I won't be able to if a Super Wal-Mart comes here," said John Moreno, vice principal at Calexico High School.

Addressing the council, Moreno added, "Have the guts to stand up for Calexico, Calif., not Bentonville, Ark."

Wal-Mart's headquarters are in Bentonville.

Moreno is related to Joe and Frank Moreno of Apple Market-Super Shopping.

Phil Aubry, manager of the Calexico Wal-Mart, said a Super Wal-Mart would lower food prices in Calexico by 20 percent because of the increased competition.

"The profits of the local grocers might go down a bit but lower prices is what the customers want," Aubry said.

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

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