Our contacts in Calexico, California filed this report regarding their March 5th.election, in which Wal-Mart successfully nullified an existing Calexico zoning ordinance that limited to 7.5% the amount of square footage in a superstore larger than 150,000 s.f. that could be used for sales of non taxable items (such as food). Wal-Mart used a group from Encinitas (set up by their public relations firm?), which funnelled 2 checks to a group called “Calexico Families Against Higher Prices”. The latter group, which we call an “astro-roots” group because it masquerades as a ‘grassroots’ citizen’s group, received almost all of its money from this Encinitas group — which had another astroroots name: “Citizens for Jobs and Economic Growth”. Altogether, Wal-Mart pumped in around $156,000, while the residents in favor of keeping the ordinance raised $58,000 total, some of that from the local food workers union. This means that Wal-Mart spent roughly $56 per vote in Calexico. Just another business expense. The company walked away with a 66% victory over local citizens. Here’s a report from Calexico opponents of Wal-Mart the day after the vote: “Yesterday was a circus…Wal Mart and Company brought in about 100-150 people to stand at voting places (16 locations), street corners, car rallies and any other possible noise they could make. They went so far as taking down our signs at various homes, businesses and the like. WE WERE OUT NUMBERED ! Unfortunatly our measure lost 1381 to 2651.” According to the Imperial Valley Press, which editorialized against some of Wal-Mart’s strong-arm tactics, the company conducted a phone survey which upset some Calexico residents. During the survey, which was polling citizens to see if they want to see a local Super Wal-Mart, the survey mentioned local grocer Joe Moreno by name, and asked residents how they felt about him. The real point of such surveys is to identify voters who are in your favor, and then later to call them to make sure they vote. Such polls are called “voter ID” polls. This battle got very ugly, with local grocery stores playing a major role in the stop-Wal-Mart effort. Last April, six owners of local grocery stores and downtown Calexico shops closed their doors and turned off their lights from 6 to 7 p.m.one evening to protest the possibility of a repeal of the big box ordinance. Also during the campaign, Wal-Mart reportedly used it employees to gather signatures in the community to challenge the ordinance on the ballot.The local Wal-Mart manager said the increased business brought into Calexico by a Super Wal-Mart would have a trickle-down effect for all local merchants. The local merchants knew better, but many voters in Calexico took it all in. It was the Calexico Wal-Mart Manager who led the effort to gather the necessary signatures of registered Calexico voters to force the special election. The Imperial Valley Press put it this way in one of their editorials: “Wal-Mart officials may say the signatures gathered represent the will of the community in its search for an expanded store. But the reality of the situation is this referendum won’t be a referendum of the people. It to a large degree will be Wal-Mart’s self-serving referendum.” On March 5th, the only citizen that won the election was Citizen Wal-Mart, with its public relations groups, its pollsters, and its signature-gatherers. This is corporate democracy in action. Calexico was bought for $56 a vote.
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