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Letters to the Editor
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Walmart critic finds fault with Supercenter project, editor's commentary

Editor, Ceres Courier,

The tone of the March 2 editorial, "Stick to planning issues, not politics" was condescending and ugly. It suggests that if citizens take the time to attend public hearings and don't agree with the official editorial policy, they can expect to be treated rudely in the local paper.

The editorial also misses the point. The land may carry a commercial zoning classification, but the proposed Mitchell Ranch Center's scale is enormous, and the zoning ordinance requires Wal-Mart to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and obtain a use permit and other approvals from the Planning Commission prior to moving to this new location. According to the EIR, the traffic and air pollution impacts from the project will be huge, some of which cannot be mitigated.

On the surface, this project is largely for the convenience of Wal-Mart stockholders - who benefit from Wal-Mart's strategy of abandoning its existing stores to build larger ones. In our case, Ceres will be left with a building that could take years to fill - if ever. Wal-Mart's team of San Francisco and Arkansas-based representatives assert this is a minor inconvenience for Ceres and we should just be happy to have a new "contemporary" supercenter. But according to the Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart is the largest owner of vacant retail space in the nation and "...because of its rapid expansion, probably has left behind more space than anyone else. It plans to add 50 million square feet of retail space this year around the world, a good chunk of that replacing existing stores it now considers still has about 152 vacant stores, or about 13 million square feet, across the nation." (Kortney Stringer, "Wal-Mart's Surge Leaves Dead Stores Behind", Wall Street Journal September 15, 2004.)

Not surprisingly, Wal-Mart's lip service to Ceres conflicts with its corporate position on this matter of restricted leasing of vacant properties. In that same WSJ article, Wal-Mart spokesman Bob McAdam admitted, "There are times when it's in our interest to get the property moving faster, but we're certainly not going to give a competitor an advantage." Since Wal-Mart sells virtually everything, this substantially limits the universe of potential tenants which could occupy its abandoned building(s).

Everything Wal-Mart wants to sell can be sold within its current footprint, at its current store. To accomplish this, Wal-Mart would simply do an inbox conversion, and it requires no new building, no permits, nor any public hearings. It also doesn't waste 26 more acres of land to make more room for aisles of Chinese-made goods. In fact, Wal-Mart has or is developing new supercenters that are smaller than its current Ceres store in towns like Modesto, Elk Grove, and Stockton.

Rather than bring new jobs, the proposed supercenter will simply displace existing jobs, cause other stores to go dark, and cannot be considered in any fashion, an economic development project. Wal-Mart adds no value to the local economy because almost everything they sell is already being sold at other check-out lines in Ceres, including the existing Wal-Mart store. Adding largely non-taxable groceries will not help Ceres' bottom line.

Finally, the newspaper needs to be measured in the way it criticizes citizens, lest it becomes the vanguard of uncivil discourse. There is a way to present your ideas without ranting against others who do not share your opinion. I'm pleased that we have a Planning Commission that is willing to ask hard questions about the project and not just rubber stamp Wal-Mart's request. Wal-Mart has loyalty to its stockholders. The Planning Commissioners and City Council members owe a duty to the citizens of Ceres to do right by our city - and for that I am truly thankful.

Sherri R. Jacobson,


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Letters to the editor will be considered for publication but must be signed with the author's name, address and telephone number. Letters should contain 250 words or less and be void of libelous statements. Letters may be sent to The Ceres Courier, P.O. Box 7, Ceres, CA 95307, or emailed to