Stop Walmart

I am a Target lover. I often go in for one thing and come out having spent $100. And the days I tell myself I don’t need a cart… I am in utter denial. It’s my go-to place for just about everything, similar to how a lot of people think of Walmart. For a lot of reasons, though, I won’t step foot in a Walmart. I just can’t support a company notorious for poor practices, like their anti-union stance, exploitation of workers, and discriminatory attitudes. My money won’t go into perpetuating that cycle. (To learn more about Walmart’s practices, visit the websites of The Walmart 1% and Workplace Fairness.)

You should know, I’m not a complete cynic; I get the appeal of it. My parents used to go to Walmart for everything when we were growing up. When you have a big family, it’s more convenient to just take a Saturday trip to the giant store that carries everything and pick up all the groceries for the week, last-minute poster boards for school projects, and lots and lots of laundry detergent. It’s nice to be able to get that all in one place. I even understand the people who only go there a few times a year – Black Friday, maybe. I get the desire to have a nice TV or the latest Wii games at a good price. Maybe it’s worth it for you to drive a few miles down the road, sit in traffic to turn into the shopping center, fight for a parking spot, and get in there to buy whatever you need and go on with your week.

Now, imagine all of that, except the Walmart is now across the street as soon as you pull out of your neighborhood. That changes the game a little bit, doesn’t it? It’s not quite as appealing when that traffic is in front of your house and people are spending their money there, causing your favorite small businesses to struggle. Maybe you think it will bring jobs to your area… but then you might wonder if your neighbors will be part of the millions of Walmart workers making an annual wage less than the federal poverty line. I can’t imagine that would contribute to making communities more sustainable, can you? That’s a big deal, and it’s what my neighborhood is currently being threatened with.

Selig Enterprises Inc., owner of Suburban Plaza on North Decatur Road wants to redevelop the shopping center and has plans to include a Walmart. (Take a look at this article for more information.) Almost two years into planning, they are talking as if it is a done deal. Last summer was when I first noticed the neighborhood banding together to put a stop to this. Good Growth DeKalb (GGD) was formed as an organization of residents concerned about the issue, and it seemed the Medlock Area Neighborhood Association was all over it. You can take a look at the Tell Selig: NO WM in Decatur Facebook page to learn more. I live in the Medlock Park Neighborhood, my house just over a mile from the proposed Walmart site. Driving through the neighborhood, “Stop Walmart” signs are in a lot of yards. Though a lot of the public outcry has seemed to die down since the beginning of this whole thing, a lot of really hardworking people have kept at it, namely GGD. I honestly thought it was pretty close to being over until a recent public notice sign appeared at Suburban Plaza notifying everyone of a Board of Appeals hearing to appeal the decision to issue a building permit. All of a sudden, it seems there has been a spark in community determination and everyone is ready to fight again. The picture at the top illustrates just that – a rally at the intersection outside our neighborhood on February 1st to raise awareness about the issue.

I’ve seen my community being built up and coming together in a lot of ways around this issue, and perhaps it’s far from over. It’s really nice to see the neighborhood alive again and wanting to challenge the possibility of a corporation moving into our neighborhood. Will it be enough or will we become another alarming Walmart statistic? I hope we can stop the corporate takeover, but all I know for now is I’ve never been prouder of where I come from than when I see my neighbors united to confront norms and challenge the status quo for the well-being of our community.

What issues are going on in your community? Is there anything you’re involved with that you’d like to share with others? This week I encourage you to do a little research, find out what’s happening in your neighborhood and what you can do to help. Community action is a really powerful thing. You never know what kind of difference that could make.