Saturday, July 9, 2011

Wal-mart Update From 46th Ward Alderman

"Thank you to everyone that has contacted me regarding Wal-mart opening a store in the 46th Ward. Many of you have asked what I can do to discourage them from opening a store in our ward due to their history of hurting local or long-standing community businesses. I too am concerned about some of their past business practices and the covert strategies the company has implemented to open stores in many of the wards in Chicago.

However, I want to make sure that I do not create a situation that could make our city, with a significant budget deficit, open to a lawsuit. My staff and I will work closely with staff in City Hall, the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce and East Lake View Neighbors to make sure Wal-mart is accountable for their use of 3636 N. Broadway in a way that improves and builds on our community and does not inhibit current and future retail in the area."


  1. Wal-mart is a real plus for the neighborhood. It will create jobs for thoses who need them as well as create some great shopping just as Target does. It will bring new customers to help generate activity in current and future businesses.

  2. QUOTE: “I too am concerned about some of their past business practices and the covert strategies…”

    Open Letter to Alderman Cappleman:

    Dear Jim, what are you talking about?

    “Covert strategies?” Why use such loaded words?

    Just as politicians develop “covert strategies” to win elections, companies develop plans to advance their business and win in the marketplace.

    Neither a politician nor a company is obligated to publish their strategic plans to win an election or sell goods and services.

    Walmart is planning to invest in our neighborhood. They will create jobs and offer more shopping options.

    As alderman, you should be celebrating and welcoming new businesses to our ward.


  3. @LL
    Quite an intense analysis of the word "covert."
    I think Cappleman is right to have concerns about Walmart's business practices, including their pay and benefits for their employees. Walmart's associate jobs traditionally don't pay a living wage, and they continue their practice of scheduling so employees come just short of full-time status, meaning they are not eligible for full-time benefits. If Cappleman can work with Walmart to get improvements in these areas for the people of our neighborhood who will work there, we'll be all the better for it.

  4. Hopefully, they will have the $4 generic prescriptions as well.

  5. from an earlier Uptown Update post:
    [...] Alderman James Cappleman (46th), whose ward includes 3636 N. Broadway, says he heard about the deal from residents at a community meeting last week and was first contacted by Wal-Mart on Tuesday afternoon, after Crain's initial inquiry. 'One of my concerns is I'm just now finding out about it.' "

    LL, I think I understand why Cappleman is using the word "covert" to describe Wal-Mart's practices. Any large retail chain knows better. Cappleman is insisting that this store chain do everything possible to have a positive effect on the neighborhood. That's a reasonable request given that there are many residents who are highly opposed to Wal-Mart coming in at all.

    BTW, he's not Jim, but then, you already knew that.

  6. Let us examine the definition of "covert" from

    concealed; secret; disguised

    I suspect what the Capplemaniac is referring to is the fact that the coming of Walmart to that location was not exactly announced openly. It apparently came as a surprise to him and to many others.

    A fait accompli as the Irish might say.

    The war over Walmart opening locations in the city of Chicago is over. Done. Fine(fee ney). Kaput. The end. Roll credits.

    The people opposing Walmart now are like Japanese soldiers found in the Phillipines into the 1970's. The war is over and they don't even know it or acknowledge it.

    Now the planned size of this Walmart is around 14,000 square feet. About the size of an average Walgreens or CVS. It's not as if they are building the typical behemoth Walmart with acres of parking in the middle of Lakeview.

    Cappleman is doing what I would hope any alderman would do. Dealing with the reality of the situation and trying to make the best of it.

    This is the key line:

    "However, I want to make sure that I do not create a situation that could make our city, with a significant budget deficit, open to a lawsuit."

    Sure, Cappleman could figuratively throw himself in front of Walmart and try to delay or stop the opening, but in the end the taxpayers would likely be on the hook.

    The property is zoned for that type of retail activity. The property owner has the legal right to rent to Walmart. Interfere with that right and I foresee lawyers getting involved. There's an old Chinese curse: "May your life be filled with lawyers".

    Many aldermen believe they are the Alpha and Omega regarding any business activity in their wards. To hell with things like zoning and property rights.

    Now I happen to think Cappleman is a fine human being and will prove to be a good alderman. That being said I still want there to be limits on what "power" he can exercise in the ward.

    Why? Because laws matter. Process matters. Rights matter.

    Not all aldermen are as good as him and like the rest of us he is subject to being wrong on occasion too.

    Now for those of you who oppose Walmart. Don't shop there. Picket them peacefully if you like. Just don't expect the alderman to engage in a losing battle to keep them out while costing the taxpayers money.

  7. @IrishPirate: If I could "like" your above comment I so would. Like 'em or not the property owners and Wal-Mart have every right to do as they please if its within the law. I really wish the Wal-Mart haters would find a more productive use of their time. Instead of taking all the time to picket and bitch about it, spend that time volunteering locally to improve the neighborhood...UGH!

  8. To reiterate what everyone else has said - the Alderman's job is to make reasonable demands on a store, not to exclude business based on popular sentiment. Asking a store to locate its front door in such a way is appropriate. But we shouldn't treat WalMart any differently than any other retailer simply because a bunch of bougie lefties think WalMart is vulgar.

  9. Does Wal-mart pay people to come to sites like this and lavish praise? Playing the jobs card doesn't really cut it.

    Numerous peer-reviewed studies show the opposite impact. A Loyola U. study found that within 2 years of opening its West End store, 82 local stores went out of business.

    New York Daily News, 5-4-11:"According to a provisional study by David Neumark, Junfu Zhang and Stephen Ciccarella called 'The Effects of Walmart on Local Labor Markets,' for every two jobs Walmart 'creates,' three local jobs are destroyed."

    The comments here border on Wal-mart talking points.

    It's a net negative for Lakeview. I prefer to patronize the mom & pop stores owned by people who support their families in Chicago. I prefer the sense of civic connection that comes from meeting neighbors while exploring the small shops that make Lakeview
    a desirable neighborhood.

    Is it worth giving up the best of Lakeview just so you can drive into a garage and take an escalator to buy toothpaste and shampoo at a modest discount and feed the bottom line of a company that take its profit elsewhere?

    The battle over Wal-mart is over. I am not a sentimentalist. I just know what the tradeoffs are in exchange for a few imaginary, low-paying, low-benefit jobs "for those who need them."

    Just don't swallow the baloney. Site non-Wal-mart studies that show the impact.

  10. @Chicagoland Images

    I'd be in favor of Wal-Mart even if I granted the results of your study. Many others would too.

  11. Just because a small Walmart is coming to Lakeview doesn't mean we Uptowners have to patronize it. I won't... anything it can offer, I can already get. Don't generally shop Lakeview anyway.

    But honestly, I don't see the difference between it and say, Family Dollar, another corporation that feasts on poor. Or Target, which recently was shown to have lower prices overall than Walmart.

    Of course, the City Council -- in creating hoops that Walmart needed to jump though to come to Chicago -- insisted that Walmart employees need to make a "living wage" of $10 an hour. Our previous alderman, Helen Shiller, jumped right into that vote. But Target? The Target we already have? No such provision. Target employees have no such minimum wage in effect. Family Dollar employees, including the managers, get "raises" when the Minimum Wage gets raised.

    Let's face it, there are a lot of places right here in Uptown that are as guilty as Walmart when it comes to labor practices.

    Am I thrilled Walmart is coming? No. But what mom & pops are in that area to be driven out of business? It's a dumb location. Walmart will be right between a Jewel/Osco and a Walgreens, both of which pretty much sell the same items. Walgreens is ridiculously expensive on household items, so I wouldn't place any bets on how well it will do with lower prices on the same stuff right next door. Ditto for 7-11, just down the street.

    But the mom & pops in that area are -- off the top of my head -- a nail salon, a waxing salon, an African goods store, a pizzeria, a framing store, a mailing outlet... if there were any convenience stores or bodega-type places, I'm sure they were driven out long ago by Jewel/Osco and the Walgreens that have been there forever.

  12. Poor, poor Walmart, won’t someone please give them a break? Times are TOUGH for the largest company in the world, and the largest private employer in the US, that’s why they’re moving into the city!

    With the recession over, retail giant Wal-Mart finds its customers disappearing

    With my apologies to Stevie

  13. @TrumanSqr...

    Do you know of any mom and pop retailer who pays its labor $10 per hour? If $10 an hour is considered "just" why should large retailers only be required to pay this wage? Why shouldn't the entire city minimum be raised?

  14. @RobRoss, I have no idea what mom & pops pay. Generally, the people working there ARE the mom & pop. Asking the folks at Thai Uptown or Alma Pita what their profit margin is seems a bit tacky.

    And I have no idea what your point is. I have a sinking feeling you'll tell us.

    What I am saying is:

    1- Walmart must pay its people a "living wage" in Chicago; while other big boxes, including "working class heroine" Helen Shiller's Target, don't have to do that.

    2 - To my knowledge, there are no mom & pops near 3636 N Broadway that will compete with Walmart; there are at least three chains that do. So if anyone's gonna suffer from it coming to that part of town, it's Jewel/Osco, Walgreens and 7-11. Hardly mom & pops, except for the 7-11, if it's a franchise. When Walmart starts selling eyebrow waxing and African artifacts, then I'll get concerned.

    3 - I prefer to shop at smaller, locally owned stores. I don't shop at Walmart, I don't shop at Target and I don't shop at Family Dollar unless it's the only option. It rarely is. Baby Walmart coming to Lakeview won't change my shopping habits.

    4 - Hey, you love Walmart! Own it, proclaim it, and shop there when it opens.

  15. @TrumanSqr

    I do not disagree on any of your points. I was only suggesting that people have a really skewed notion of wage distributions in the retail sector. In fact, many single proprietor businesses have fairly poor working conditions and wages. I think much of the animosity towards Walmart is actually just snobbishness at what people perceive as a "low class" retail establishment. I find most of the anti-Walmart movement presumptuous and elitist. As you rightly say, you don't like it, don't shop there.

  16. Ditto to Spevman's comment. I will add that if I don't like Walmart for ANY reason, I won't spend my money there. Simple as that. There are lots of places and companies that close up business because they can't generate enough traffic at the cash registers to make things break even...for all the intense feelings generated by Walmart, I suggest those people put the idea of not spending money there into practice. If they can't generate enough business at this location, they will close.

    The reality is the opposite of Tip O'Neil's old adage "all politics are local". Tip was a wise man, but in cases like Walmart, they have demonstrated time and again that local politics don't matter enough to stop Walmart's momentum. The answer is the seek changes to their business practices at the state and federal levels...and at the boardroom. And it isn't just Walmart--it's every corporation that has muscled their big-box stores into thriving local retail economies (and destroyed them), every corporation that "outsources" jobs overseas or Down South to cheap labor markets without worker protections, and every corporation that makes it their policy to stock their shelves with cheap poorly-made Chinese crap that has no durability and does nothing to further our local, state, and national economies beyond what they do for their shareholders. Fix the problems at the right scale, and we wouldn't even be having this Walmart-in-Uptown-and-Lakeview discussion.

  17. Is Wal-Mart going to accept LINK/SNAP benefits?

    Just wondering but for a good reason.

  18. Wal-Mart is no doubt impressed/threatened by the success Target has had in Chicago.

    'Littleton", you can always go to Target.....they accept SNAP, from what I've seen.

  19. yes whether we like walmart or not its private property. When alderman start telling landowners no they better have the wanted tenant ready to sign the lease. In the 46, 48, 49, 50 ward we like to tell others what they should do with their zoned land but dont want to compensate the owner for the loss of time looking for the" preferred" tenant. After all isnt Starbucks the walmart of coffee shops? also with banks , instead of an alderman wielding their veto to a private landowner and saying no, regulate them like salons, but to hold up buliding one on private property because they personally dont want one, is dangerous. I wont or never have shopped in Walmart, but a Cappleman isnt drunk on his new power and understands zoning law.

  20. isnt Starbucks the walmart of coffee shops?


  21. @ Stark M...Thanks.

    I was asking about LINK/Snap benefits because it seems like its a lot easier and less red-tape to get LINK access if your a multi-national chain or a corner bodega grocery then Uptown Farmers Market.

    We have been working at getting LINK set-up over at the farmers market and its taking forever. A real shame, say what you want about LINK I think we all would like to see healthier food purchased by the recipients...most are kids.

    The frustration is the red-tape. It will be unfortunate if the Mini-Wal-Mart become just a lower cost alternative for more unhealthy snack/meals and soda pop.

    I don't believe we should be a nanny-state and tell people what to eat, but LINK is a nutritional program, And the food at the farmers market is more nutritious so why the extra red-tape?

    Just a little frustrated but it will all work out sooner or later...

    As far as the Wal-Mart itself I confess my earlier criticisms were literally a bit out-of-scale. They are competing with Walgreens and the CVS chain, not our Target. When I hear Wal-Mart I think (knee-jerk) of the SuperCenters or Sams Club. This isn't the case, or even a proverbial camel's nose under the tent.

    Wal-Mart isn't breaking any laws or asking for special favors, fair is fair.
    A similarly-sized Walgreens announced it was opening a new store by the Irving stop without an uproar.

  22. Just following up with a link from a clip I heard on WBEZ regarding LINK and farmers markets in Illinois.

    I think the great majority of Uptowners want a large and vibrant market one day.

    Well to get farmers you need a market and to have a market you need farmers...that is the conundrum.

    A huge share of Uptown's food-buying-power is in the LINK/SNAP program. That is why we have as many grocery stores as we do.

    No LINK acceptance means no market incentive to farmer/ farmers market larger then what we already have.

    There should be a bigger push for this but at this time there isn't.

  23. Littleton Arts - You stated "huge share of Uptown's food-buying-power is in the LINK/SNAP program." While I will agree that Uptown has a higher percentage of residents using LINK / SNAP benefits than other northside neighborhoods, it is by no means a "huge" share. In fact, by the nature of the LINK/SNAP program, users are provided with the minimal funds that they need to sustain themselves.

    I support all Chicago Farmer's Markets to allow for LINK/SNAP transactions, but if I were on one of these programs, I would likely not be using my scarce funds to purchase produce and other products at the Farmer's Markets since I have found the prices to be much higher than Aldi and local produce stands such as Edgewater Produce. We pay a price for purchase local produce - it's ironic that blueberries shipped to Jewel from Chile are $1-$2 cheaper than those grown 100 miles away in Michigan.

  24. @ Cub Reporter,

    Yes in fact the food-buying-power of the LINK program is huge in Uptown.

    There are...and this is a fact...over 10,300 HOUSEHOLDS, not individuals, in the 60640 zipcode alone. An individual recieves up to $200. per month so do the math. That is buying power.

    Not all of Uptown is in that ZIP code but still that is substantial.

    As far as the higher cost is concerned other markets have had a lot of success with LINK by means of sales volume. We have been consulting with the 61st St. market, it has been a big hit and has led to expansion of the market. Logan Square and the Daley Center as well have done well with it. This program is a proven success...but not here.

    Eating habits are established early, everybody loves fresh food. I wish I had the LINK sales totals for Jewel, it is beyond substantial and anything but a minimal amount.

    And what could be higher in cost then a diet based on soda pop and Ho Ho's? What is the true cost of the current state of affairs? The blueberries from Michigan cost more because they are just a lot lot better. Problem is people are buying more blueberry gummi bears at Jewel then blueberries from Chile. The large chains know how to market food and there is more profit is sugar snacks.

    LINK is revenue in this case and revenue means a larger more vibrant farmers market in Uptown.

    I hope Alderman James is willing to help, I cannot think of a single negative. The opportunity is here now...dying on the vine so to speak.

    Keep in mind all of the social service agencies that will promote and become partners of the market should it accept LINK. In other words do the heavy-lifting that it takes to actually run a market.

    I can speak for myself that I will have nothing to do with it in the future if LINK is off the table. Pretty sure I can say the same for the others involved in bringing LINK to FM, like EZRA, NAHN, Mercy Hsg., etc.

    Imagine....a large Farmers Market in the heart of Uptown...well run...the envy of other neighborhoods. We have the location, density, transit links and several ideal locations with parking. On paper Uptown is perfect for the biggest and the best FM.

    NOW........imagine that happening without the patronage or participation of more then 10,000 households in the neighborhood.....I can't.

    I will be at the UFM every Thursday with my "Pop-Up Art" tent, if anyone has any ideas or suggestions your most welcome to swing by.

  25. Agree with Littleton on the farmers market and LINK 100%.

    But as for this, "A similarly-sized Walgreens announced it was opening a new store by the Irving stop without an uproar."

    I for one was bummed, a 12 story TOD replaced with a pseudo strip mall was a major downgrade. That said, Wal-Mart certainly does attract knee jerk negative reactions and i get your point.

  26. @ Cub Reporter and the rest of my neighbors,

    A lot of people are on the fence about bringing LINK to the Farmers Market, not really for or against. I believe more information will help.

    I am bringing this up again just to share a link from the Huffington Post about the issue and to give it more perspective.