Wal-Mart doesn’t like the zoning laws in Contra Costs County, California. So like a good citizen, Wal-Mart is exercising its First Amendment rights as the largest retail corporation in America, to petition government. Wal-Mart wants the county to repeal a zoning ordinance that limits the size of big stores that sell groceries and other non-taxable items to no more than 5% of their floor space. Stores over 90,000 s.f. would not be allowed to devote more than 5% of their floorspace to groceries. The typical Wal-Mart supsercenter could have as much as 40% of its area devoted to groceries. Wal-Mart decided to challenge the ordinance by putting a referendum on the ballot. They hired signature gatherers and collected 40,627 signatures. Although almost 10,000 of those signatures were not registered voters in the county, Wal-Mart still had enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot — probably in the fall. If the referendum passes, the Board of Supervisors ordinance will be repealed. The County Board has vowed to fight in defense of their ordinance. Wal-Mart doesn’t want a little thing like a law to stand in the way of another supercenter. So now they want to rewrite the laws to suit themselves.
Under the county ordinance, Wal-Mart could build a supercenter two times the size of a football field. But that, apparently, is not big enough for the biggest retailer in the world. The voters of Contra Costa county better strap themselves down, because Wal-Mart is about to throw hundreds of thousands of dollars into a public relations blitz to pass their measure. The corporate axiom about democracy is that the party with the most cash, wins. Wal-Mart lost several key votes in California, and won a few as well. For a history of ballot battles, search this database by the words “referendum” or “ballot”.