Our little group dedicated many hours last summer to creating a farmers market for Mosier, a labor of love to help build up our local food system. Why? Because when you buy local food, your money goes directly to the farmers who are your neighbors and friends.
When you buy locally, 30 percent more of your money stays in the Gorge than when you buy from a nationally owned store.
That's 30 percent more money for us and our neighbors to spend on gas and clothes and Christmas presents. Thirty percent more money that would otherwise be sent away to circulate in other cities.
This is why we are writing now to protest the 30,000-square-foot grocery expansion of Walmart. Walmart's own studies show that Walmart does not bring new money into the community, but merely takes away existing sales from businesses in the town and the surrounding areas.
Eighty percent of Walmart's retail suppliers are in China. How much produce will they buy from local farmers?
Studies also show that Walmart creates jobs that are inferior to the jobs it replaces. Based on 15 years of data, UC Berkeley found that Walmart drives down take-home pay for retail workers by $4.7 billion annually. Last October Walmart cut insurance for part-time employees and significantly raised premiums for many full-time staff.
According to Walmart themselves, "46 percent of [our employees'] children are either on Medicaid or are uninsured."
Meanwhile, Walmart's CEO's salary was $18 million last year; dollars which came out of small towns like ours, all over the world. Dollars which will not be coming back here.
This is not in any way a criticism of our friends who work for the Hood River Walmart. It is a plea: Please consider the wider impacts that the largest grocery store in the world can have on our region. There is a better way to do things - and it starts here.
Mosier Farmers Market
All need to compromise
The past 40 years have seen dramatic shifts in the economic landscape. Free trade and global competition have led to widespread declines in manufacturing jobs. Outsourcing and technology have further eroded the job market.
Social mobility is declining and a college education is no longer a guarantee of employment. Private sector unionization has fallen to historic lows and public sector bargaining rights are under attack.
Wages for working-class Americans aren't keeping pace with inflation. Runaway health care costs have eaten into paychecks and increased out-of-pocket costs. Many companies have stopped offering medical benefits and eliminated traditional pensions.
The recent collapse of the housing and stock markets and the uncertain future of Social Security and Medicare leave many people anxious and afraid.
Corporations and the wealthy have fared better. Income for the wealthiest Americans has risen steeply while the taxes they pay have decreased. Growing inequalities in income and wealth are troubling and proposals to eliminate capital gains and inheritance taxes, privatize Social Security and replace Medicare with vouchers risk social unrest.
There is a rising chorus of complaints against an economic system that has been tilted to favor corporations and the wealthy. There is anger at a political system where lobbyists carry more weight than the collective voice of citizens.
People want to see the economic landscape rebalanced, but many of us are uncomfortable with rhetoric that seems to pit one group against another. Calls to "Occupy Wall Street" or to "Take Back America" can divide us rather than bring us together.
Our nation is held together by our concern for one another. A democracy ruled by self-interest cannot endure. We will not reclaim our economic and political systems until we recognize that our futures are interwoven.
Compromise and shared sacrifice are needed from everyone. Not just the 1 percent or the 99 percent, but all of us - the 100 percent.
On Nov. 3 as I was heading to my car at about 6:30 a.m. in the Walmart parking lot, a man approached me and would not leave me alone. A nice Samaritan stood by his truck to make sure I was safe and that the man did not hurt me.
Come to find out the man that approached me is a transient who has been harassing other people and has possibly raped a woman in another state.
I don't know who the nice Samaritan was but this is the only way I know how to say thank you. I hope he reads this article and understands that I am so grateful to him for staying to make sure I was OK. From forever thankful:
Competition can be good
I cannot understand why there is so much opposition to the expansion of Walmart. I am currently retired and quite frankly, always looking for ways to save money on groceries, gifts and other personal items. Am I the only one who feels that way?
It's a struggling economy for many of us on fixed incomes and if it weren't for Walmart in Hood River, us "normal folks" would find it difficult to find things which we need for everyday living. Walmart also provides many jobs for our community and donates for many local projects in Hood River.
The grocery section would just be another feature which would possibly give other grocery stores in our community a little competition, therefore, lowering prices for all of us.
I have been told by some business owners in Hood River that Walmart has actually been good for their business, bringing people into town that not only shop at Walmart, but their businesses, also. Since Walmart has added more grocery products, I see other grocery stores matching prices.
I for one hope their expansion is permitted. I am tired of the "anti-Walmart" campaign. I bet most of those in opposition shop at Walmart or have at one time or another. WALMART...you have my support!
People of Hood River need to open their eyes to how much Walmart means to this valley. Walmart does not just sit on a concrete slab and take our money. They support the entire valley.
I worked for a very wonderful grower for 25-plus years. Mine was not a glamorous job but I still had fun doing it. My co-workers thought I was a bit crazy but so be it. My point is that while working for Moore Inc. out on Highway 35, I had many opportunities over the years of loading or helping to load, truck after truck, with fruit for Walmart.
At times it has been estimated that Walmart has purchased as much as $3,000,000 of fruit in a year. By buying that fruit, Walmart helps pay the wages of the picker, the warehouseman, sorter, packers, lift trucker (i.e. me), truck driver and money back to the growers.
Gorge Owned Business Network, Citizens for Local Economy: How many of you are on limited income, Social Security, disability? How many seniors have you seen downtown shopping at a windsurfing shop? You can't eat it or wear it - not on their income.
Does any of the business community really care about the low-income people or do they just want them here for service jobs for the rich? You say no to the expansion on Walmart you tell all the seniors, low-income and working class, "We do not care about you!"
The proposed Super Walmart on Frankton Road was APPROVED by the Hood River County Planning Commission, but was appealed and overturned. It was approved, people; but a vocal few who are afraid you may shop there appealed.
People, get off your duffs; come to the next planning meeting and speak up. Everyone I've talked to wants this expansion. Then stand up and let the planning commission know how you feel. Otherwise, see how high ground beef goes. Wanna bet it goes to $6 a pound?
The primary decision before the Hood River Planning Commission regarding whether or not to approve the proposed 30,000-square-foot Walmart remodel is a land-use law decision, not a matter of economics or opinions about the applicant.
Whether or not Walmart has a vested right to expand its store and to sell groceries based on the original application filed nearly two decades ago is a debate that will continue for weeks, and possibly months, to come.
But aside from the legal issues at hand, the commission should be concerned that the proposed expansion would have a significant adverse effect on locally owned businesses and decrease the type of family-wage jobs the city should be working to promote and preserve.
With many Columbia Gorge businesses already struggling under the weight of the recession, few things could be more damaging right now for local businesses and the local economy than allowing Walmart's massive expansion request.
Just for comparison, the average U.S. grocery store does a half a million dollars in sales weekly. That's $26 million a year. If Walmart were allowed to sell groceries, despite the fact that current zoning laws prohibit the sale of groceries at the Walmart location, it would take $26 million out of the tills of local businesses where people currently do their grocery shopping.
Locally owned businesses are two-to-three times more likely to donate to local nonprofits, purchase local goods and services (such as marketing, accounting, etc.) and participate in local politics, charities and other organizations.
If the commission approves Walmart's application, it will trade the health of local businesses that recirculate money within the Hood River economy for the benefit of a company that will ship profits back to Arkansas.
Director, Gorge Owned
The big question
If five Supreme Court judges acted like pimps enabling corporations to be Johns, what does that make congressmen who take corporate money?