I understand grassroots movements are generally rooted with dollars through big business and money is always the incentive.
So shouldn’t local officials be trained to look just as keenly?
Apparently, those in Milpitas are not – and I would expect them to pay the price for it.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week about a con job to block the proposed development of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Illinois. The opposition protested at city hall, filed a lawsuit against the project – and it was all a sham.
Turns out, all those area homeowners were simply actors, brought in by the Saint Consulting Group, which makes its money by tactically building “support” for or against developments. The business apparently specializes on knocking off Wal-Mart projects.
P. Michael Saint, founder of the company, was eager enough to call him and his staff the “Wal-Mart killers” in one of the nation’s largest publications, though he didn’t want to discuss the details of his business.
Large supermarket chains are paying Saint to take on Wal-Mart in a number of cases across the country.
Mr. Saint says he “encouraged” his employees not to use their real names in campaigns in order to protect the client’s identity and “to protect our employees, who have been followed, threatened and harassed by the opposition.”
Supermarkets that have funded campaigns to stop Wal-Mart are concerned about having to match the retailing giant’s low prices lest they lose market share. Although they have managed to stop some projects, they haven’t put much of a dent in Wal-Mart’s growth in the U.S., where it has more than 2,700 supercenters-large stores that sell groceries and general merchandise. Last year, 51% of Wal-Mart’s $258 billion in U.S. revenue came from grocery sales.
The Milpitas Post delivered an editorial on Wednesday about the fact that the Milpitas City Council recently voted down a Wal-Mart expansion project.
The article reads:
… This claim was made at meetings by some of the rival chains’ employees, not by the companies involved. It has yet to be determined if the competing supermarkets fueled the anti-Walmart movement here behind the scenes, as has been alleged in other parts of the country, in a Wall Street Journal article this week. The attorney who represented the Milpitas Coalition for a Better Community is the same one who has battled Walmart up and down the state.”
If so, it’s a scary thought. Our local elected officials shouldn’t be swindled so easy.
James Spencer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org