Our Opinion: Wal-Mart is too much

March 07, 2002

Money can't buy love, most of us believe, but can it buy an election?

That question could have been posed in regard to many local elections settled Tuesday, but nowhere was the influence of big money clearer than in the Measure B referendum in Calexico.

The measure, through floor space restrictions, would have essentially prevented Wal-Mart from abandoning its already huge store in Calexico for an even bigger Super Wal-Mart elsewhere in the city.

Those who supported the restrictions the City Council was attempting to impose on "big box stores" spent around $60,000 in their campaign. That is a huge amount of money in a city of maybe 30,000 people. Much of it came from local merchants, but a good chunk came from labor unions based elsewhere.


Speaking of big money from elsewhere, Wal-Mart opened the money bags in its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. for this campaign. About $133,000 had been spent as of Friday in fighting the measure, with $160,000 probably spent on that side of the battle by the end of the campaign. That is a bit strange because Wal-Mart says it has no immediate plans to open a Super Wal-Mart in Calexico.

Wal-Mart won the election in a landslide. What Wal-Mart seemed to be doing was using its considerable might to crush the proposed restrictions, thereby sending a message that any other municipality that might consider such a measure would be smashed by Retail Goliath.

We have nothing against Wal-Mart and we are glad it has stores in the Imperial Valley. Wal-Mart offers good prices and countless items and does a lot in its community outreach efforts. Speaking of community outreach, it is nice that Wal-Mart put so much money into the community and into the hands of young people to campaign against Measure B.

We were reluctant to support Measure B because we don't believe in restraint of trade. Still, we ended up endorsing the measure because the merchants who would be swamped and then drowned by a Super Wal-Mart are longtime and devoted members of Calexico's business community. (And yes, we would have reluctantly supported such a measure had it come up in El Centro.)

All we can do now is hope that when the inevitable Super Wal-Mart comes to Calexico, that most of our longtime friends in Calexico's business community survive. Some won't, but some who diversify, specialize and provide uniquely excellent customer service will have a chance.

Competing with Wal-Mart, though, is not a smart idea. It is too big, too rich, too powerful and too determined.

We saw that Tuesday.

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