A Wal-Mart front group in Tucson, Arizona has two strikes against it, but wants to take one final cut at the pitch. The “Consumers for Retail Choice”, which serves as a voice for Wal-Mart corporate lyrics, organized a petition drive last year to challenge a new Tucson city ordinance that restricts the hours of operation, noise and interior non-taxable contents of stores over 100,000 s.f. (see 11/12/99 and 2/5/00 newsflashes below). The ordinance vexes Wal-Mart because it limits the store space that can be allotted for food sales, and could prove disasterous to the superstore movement if imitated in other cities. So Wal-Mart is drawing a line in the deli section to stop this kind of ordinance cold. A similar statewide measure was vetoed by California Governor Grey Davis last year. So Wal-Mart spent $30,000 to gather signatures for a referendum on the Tucson law, gathered 14,770 signatures, only to have them challenged by the city bedause they were on the wrong forms. Last January a Superior Court judge ruled that the city had to go by state rules — but also that Wal-Mart did not collect enough signatures because state law stipulated that signatures had to equal a fixed percentage of the votes cast, not the ballots cast. Since each voter cast several votes for different offices, Wal-Mart was short on the signature count. Wal-Mart took the decision one step higher to the Arizona Court of Appeals, which ruled at the end of May that Tucson has the right to have more restrictive referendum requirements as long as they do not conflict with state law, and that Tucson could make “minor tailoring of referendum procedures to meet their own particular needs”. Although Wal-Mart has dropped its plans for a 200,000 s.f. superstore in the hotly contested El Con mall project, the company has made it clear it has “other interests in Tucson” and wants to kill the ordinance so it doesn’t appear in any other Arizona town. But Home Depot is still trying to build a store in the El Con mall, and local residents are just as determined as ever to stop them. For now, the Tucson ordinance stands, and Wal-Mart’s efforts to buy ‘democracy” in Arizona has failed.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, Wal-Mart has vowed to appeal the two lower court decisions to the Arizona Supreme Court. So the “Consumers for Retail Choice” remains the plaintiff, even though it’s really Wal-Mart that is the plaintiff. But one more strike, and the Consumers for Eetail Choice Sponsored by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc, is out of the game. When you shop at Wal-Mart, you are helping to underwrite the legal expenses of groups like the “Citizens for Retail Choice.” It IS your choice, and you can shop somewhere else and invest in your community instead.