Saturday, March 11, 2006

For you to think about

Posted with cartoonist, Mark Wilson's, permission. Please visit here for more cartoons.

ADE Sat Letters to the Editor

Three letters today.

Need of the many. "The residents of these communities need a sure thing, something to keep us shopping in the area." More, "I find it selfish that a small number of naysayers would attempt to dictate who sets up shop in this community. Based on our per-capita incomes alone, the needs of the many far outweigh the wants of the few."

This person cites a per-capita income of under $18,000 for the the Tri-Lakes area. In Franklin County it's actually $15,888 for 1999 (currently $18,250 based on 2% increase per year). However, median household income is $31,517 for 1999 (currently $36,203 based on 2% increase per year). This is a depressed area. But explain how bringing in a company that has been shown to result in increased poverty is going to help the needy. You could argue that Wal-Mart depends on needy individuals to survive. Who is being selfish here? Small number of naysayers? It seems that almost everyone in the area agrees we need a large retailer. The so called 'naysayers' are mostly arguing about size and political process.

Wal-Mart can help SL revive. "The village of Saranac Lake is the gem of the Adirondacks and home to several thousand people who, in my opinion, would benefit with a Wal-Mart, and Saranac Lake again will return to its glory."

Saranac Lake, in it's glory, was the result of thousands of people suffering from tuberculosis. Saranac Lake was a gem to these people because it gave many of them back their health. Saranac Lake continues to be a gem because of it's unspoiled beauty and timelessness. Wal-Mart will almost certainly not add to the character of Saranac Lake.

Too big for village. "The real concern of mine is that in our sparsly populated rural area, there aren't enough consumers to support the megastore that Wal-Mart wants to open."

A Wal-Mart in Saranac Lake. One in Plattsburgh 45 mi away, one in Malone 45 mi away, one in Potsdam 60 mi away and one in Ticonderoga 60 mi away. Population (2004) of Essex County 38,909; Franklin County 51,009. It would be interesting to see Wal-Marts marketing plan for the North Country.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Brighton Town Board Declines to Support Wal-Mart

ADE article today by Geoff Hayward reports that Rick Gonyea, a representative of Citizens for the Advancement of Retail Development (no link found), requested that the Brighton Town Board support a 121,000 sq ft Wal-Mart in Saranac Lake. Mr. Gonyea said "It's going to benefit everybody".

Peter Martin, Town of Brighton supervisor replied, "I think that, based on recent stuff that's been happening in the village, we might consider not taking a stance on it, because it's a real hot issue."

Town Justice, Nik Santagate, noted that if the board was supporting businesses, he too would like a letter of support for his business. "You're going to make people unhappy."

No action was taken on the request.

Costco: The Anti-Wal-Mart

Average Hourly wage:
CostCo $15.97
Wal-Mart's Sams Club $11.52
Contrib. to Health Care:
CostCo $5735
Wal-Mart's Sams Club $3500
Covered by Health Plan:
CostCo 82%
Wal-Mart's Sams Club 47%
Covered by Retire. Plan:
CostCo 91%
Wal-Mart's Sams Club 64%
Employee turnover:
Costco 6%
Wal-Mart's Sams Club 21%
Profits per employee:
Costco $13,647
Wal-Mart's Sams Club $11,039

More here.

ADE Thur Letters to the Editor

Three letters last night.

Issues with the Wal-Mart Proposal. Three issues: 1) Essex County Brd of Supervisors were and are clueless as to what Cliff Donaldson does, 2) Proposed Wal-Mart store is too big and would be built in a poor location, what a beautiful village and community does not need is this monster of a store..., 3) Hopes that Wal-Mart's treatment of their employees are not as accurate as as has been said.

Don't let Wal-Mart issue break up community. In SL it's us against them and them against us. Look to elected officials. Let them know what we think. I will work to be open-eyed, open-eared, open-minded and open-hearted.

Enterprise wrong, owes Donaldson an apology. ...Donaldson has done what you and your search committee, SAGA, the chamber of commerce, the planning board, the village board, the merchants association and many other private citizens have failed to do. He should be commended rather than villified... Opponents are short-sighted...Wal-Mart will attract business back to SL.

People continue to believe that Wal-Mart will attract business back to SL. Okay, show me the proof. Show me the research, the market studies, where it has happened in other small rural towns. Would you please read Dr. Ken Stone's paper Impact of the Wal-Mart Phenomenon on Rural Communities. This paper specifically addresses the effects of a Wal-Mart on communities just like SL and other surrounding us.

One More WalMart Lawsuit Against Free Speech

I'm not sure how I feel about this guys website and his taste in anti-WalMart T-shirts. On the other hand, there is always that nasty first amendment to consider. Needless to say, WalMart has the money and lawyers to go after this guy. He is fighting back here with the help of Public Citizen. I wonder what else WalMart could do with that money they are spending on this case?

Do Community Banks Have to Worry Now?

WalMart has applied to open a bank in Utah. This would be an industrial bank that would handle electronic payments. This type of bank 'escapes' a level of Federal Regulation. A group of congressmen are concerned. ..."the world's largest retailer, could threaten the stability of the U.S. financial system and drive community banks out of business." Read more here.

So WalMart wants into the Medical Clinic business and now the banking business. Why not just do away with all businesses and let WalMart handle everything. One stop shopping while you get your car serviced and gased up. You could get your eyes checked, stop in for medical checkup, and deposit your paycheck. While you are at the WalMart Bank you could take out a loan to buy WalMart stuff. Hell, H. Lee Scott could be President of United States of WalMart. The Waltons could be his 'congress'.

If You Only Read One Document

If you are pro-WalMart or aren't sure about your feelings about WalMart, happen to visit this blog and don't really want to visit all those links or read through all those pdf documents I recommend reading The Waltons and WalMart: Self-Interested Philanthropy here.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Confessions of a Hypocrit

In an attempt to stop the 'trolling' and even though I am a lapsed Catholic I must confess my sins.

Yes I have been in a Sam's club although I haven't bought much there in several years but no I do not have a Sam's Club card. I sure wish there was a Costco in P'burgh instead. Speaking of P'burgh, I probably go there 3 times a year to get my car serviced at the foreign car dealer. In the last 21 years I think I may have made two or three purchases in WalMart, probably back when Sam Walton ran the company and while he was encouraging us to buy USA. I'm really not much of a shopper and I believe that 'a want is not a need.'

As to who I am, if you feel you absolutely need to know, drop me an email. If you already know who I am (and many do), and feel the urge to 'out' me in the comments section, go ahead. For some people using personal attacks are much easier than trying to defend an argument.

Comments on WalMart from Mongolia

An excellent commentary on Saranac Lake and WalMart from a Saranac Laker living in Mongolia. Click here.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

SL Village Candidates Forum-Tue Mar 7

News articles about the candidate forum can be found here (WNBZ) and here (Press Republican), or you can listen to a report here (NCPR).

Basically the Wal-Mart stands can be summed up as follows:


Susan Waters, Trustee candidate. "But what we need is people who can really evaluate it and ask the right questions" (PR)
Christina Fontana, Trustee candidate. "We don't want to go into negotiations with Wal-Mart unprepared" (PR)
Tom Michael, Mayor candidate. Optimistic about trying to redevelop downtown


Linda Piro, Trustee candidate. On WalMart "But do I support it? You betcha. I want a store there" (WNBZ)
Anthony Knuth, Trustee candidate. "It's not just a village decision. We need to take into account what the area needs, what all of us need." (WNBZ)
Jeff Branch, Mayor candidate. "Something is coming, and when that something does come, we need to direct traffic to the downtown area" (WNBZ)

Next candidate forum is Thur. 5-6:30 PM at Harrietstown Town Hall

The Pro-WalMart Faction

A majority of Saranac Lakers want a department store in the area. However, some in the 'pro-WalMart faction' (probably less than a majority) want a WalMart and only WalMart. The box has to be at least 121,000 sq ft and the box has to be built on the village sandpit site, no where else. So there is nothing else to discuss.

Others, both 'pro-WalMart' and 'anti-WalMart' disagree. They feel that there should be some questions raised about the effects of WalMart (or any other 'mega-retailer) on our Village and the Tri-Lakes area.

Many 'anti-WalMarters' want to discuss how much WalMart expects the village to spend in infrastructure needs, they want to discuss the effects of loss of taxes when other area grocery stores go out of business, they want to discuss the possible detrimental effects on downtown businesses and/or loss of tax base, they are concerned about the effects of a WalMart on Tupper Lake businesses, they think we need to concern ourselves about environmental effects of a large box store, they are concerned about other possible county wide effects of having WalMarts in Potsdam, Malone, Saranac Lake and Plattsburgh. And, some of us are concerned about the unethical business practices of a $300 billion dollar company. The largest company in the world with revenues greater than 22 countries.

Furthermore, some WalMart supporters, like ynw (see comments under SL Village Sandpit SEQR in the post below), feel the need to resort to using tactics such as changing the subject, personal attacks on people who sincerely believe WalMart is unethical, or even attacking Habitat for Humanity and its supporters or attacking the people who can only afford to live in low income housing and how wrong it is that taxpayers are 'supporting' them. Maybe if WalMart paid a living wage or at least provided adequate health benefits (WalMart can afford it) 'ynw' wouldn't have to 'support' low income people. Maybe 'ynw' should start a 'Pro-WalMart' blog. WalMart is paying pro-WalMart bloggers now and even providing them with 'information' to post. It's a good deal since it doesn't even require thinking.

This blog is obviously biased against WalMart (mostly for ethical reasons). But links to articles and papers that provide fact-based arguments and evidence about why WalMart may not be good for SL are provided. Let's see some 'fact-based arguments on why WalMart and only WalMart is right for SL.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

SL Village Sandpit SEQR

Article here at WNBZ. The environmental review (SEQR) on the village sandpit site has been completed by Architectural and Engineering Design Associates of Plattsburgh. The site is currently zoned for residential use. They compared 3 possible uses for the property.

1) Single family homes. 23 singly family homes could be built at a development cost to the village of $37,000. Traffic would increase by about 200 cars a day.

2) Townhouses. Up to 53 townhouses could be built at a development cost of $13,500 per unit. There would be about a 5% increase in area traffic (475 cars).

3) Commercial development. The sandpit area is sufficient for 80,000 sq ft and 400 parking places. Water and sewage could be accomodated by the village. Peak traffic would increase 86% daily and 136% on Saturdays. Such an increase in traffic would require detailed traffic studies.

At first glance, it sure seems like #1 and #2 would generate as much tax revenue as a possible Wal-Mart. Seems like housing development would be perfect for that site. Let a retailer buy property downtown and get tax revenues from both.

A copy of the study is available for only $57. Jeebus, haven't these people heard of computers and pdf files?

Wal-Mart and Paid Bloggers

According to an article in the New York Times Wal-Mart's public relations firm Edelman has been sending Wal-Mart friendly bloggers emails containing suggestions to help Wal-Mart improve it's battered image. It appears that the Wal-Mart PR firm, Edelman, has hired blogger Marshall Manson to email 'tips' to friendly bloggers.

Mr. Manson, identifying himself as a "blogger myself" who does "online public affairs for Wal-Mart," began with a bit of flattery: "Just wanted you to know that your post criticizing Maryland's Wal-Mart health care bill was noticed here and at the corporate headquarters in Bentonville," he wrote, referring to the city in Arkansas.

"If you're interested," he continued, "I'd like to drop you the occasional update with some newsworthy info about the company and an occasional nugget that you won't hear about in the M.S.M." — or mainstream media.

How much could Wal-Mart be paying the Edelman PR firm to help improve its battered image? Why is Wal-Mart's image battered? Shouldn't Wal-Mart just do things that would naturally result in an improved image?

Essex Ct Brd Not Pleased With Donaldson

From the Plattsburgh Press Republican today:

Supervisor Joyce Morency (R-St. Armand) was not pleased with Essex County manager Cliff Donaldson last night. Ms. Morency disagreed with Donaldsons statement to the Saranac Lake Village trustees that he was directed by the Essex County Brd of Supervisors to find a store to replace the now defunct Ames department store. The 2002 resolution directed the county manager and the County Industrial Development Agency to try to find a new retail store for the Ames Plaza.

The secrecy of his efforts to bring in a major retailer was also discussed because Donaldson never made any reports to the board of supervisors. Ms. Morency said "Nothing has ever been said in the minutes for the last three years about Wal-Mart."

Essex County, Board of Supervisors Chairman Noel Merrihew III (R-Elizabethtown) said it was incorrect of Donaldson to say he was working at the bequest of the board of supervisors. Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah)[NOT ASSOCIATED WITH WISEBUYS] asked Donaldson "What prompted you to start negotiations with Wal-Mart?" "Any official acting in secrecy, doing things their board is not aware of, that is not good."

It appears that there may be plenty of blame to go around. The Essex County Brd. of Supervisors should maybe be a bit more clear in making resolutions. The County Manager should be sure that he understand precisely what the board of supervisors intended. And, there could be a good deal more communication between the supervisors and the county manager.

More on this topic here at WNBZ.

Monday, March 06, 2006

ADE Letters to the Editor - Mar 6

Some excerpts:

Should it be 121,000 sq ft? At the Feb. 13 meeting of the SL Village Board, a resident presented hundreds of additional signatures supporting a large retail store for SL, but when questioned, she said that the petitioners were supporting any large store, such as the vacant Ames. ...this is a wonderful opportunity for consensus. No one opposes a 40,000 sq ft store.
This is an excellent point. There is plenty of room at the proposed building site for residential housing and a medium sized box store.

Set aside selfish opposition to a Wal-Mart. I honestly believe that these people would be opposed to any large retail business, not just Wal-Mart. I also think they are selfish. Most of the residents of SL who are opposed to Wal-Mart have moved here to get away from the hustle and bustle of bigger towns and cities. ....what's stopping them from moving again? Where's the evidence that 'these people' would be opposed to any large retail business? Where's the evidence that most people opposed to Wal-Mart moved here from the city? Why do you want good citizens moving out of our town?

Don't be so hasty with a department store. ...most people who live or visit the Tri-Lakes would agree that a department store is needed. The size and the name of the store seems to be the issue. I would encourage the village officials and the community not to 'settle' on one store but to see what all the options are before deciding. Exactly right.

Plan first, implement second. ....I think the process we are pursuing to get one is flawed. The current Republican candidates seem to be the ready-fire-aim bunch, which is why I am supporting Tom Michael and his fellow Democrats. A major retailer in the center of town would be a real addition to the town, an anchor for all sorts of good things. Building in the Depot St area or the current Grand Union/Newman and Holmes site would be ideal. A 40,000 sq ft store should fit in either location. The store would also then be located in Franklin County.

Feeling betrayed by Donaldson. Shame on Cliff Donaldson... ...I, for one, feel betrayed by his secretive actions. I'm curious whether he has gained financially from his three-plus years of covert planning with Wal-Mart. Not an unreasonable question. How about it Mr. Donaldson?

Donaldson simply delivered on what was asked of him. To say his actions are, "outragious...downright corrupt...verging on autocratic" is to say it's OK to ignore the people and forget our request. He did his job not in secret but as a negotiator for our future. The Essex County Board of Supervisors didn't know about the Dondalson/Wal-Mart 'negotiations', nor did the SL Mayor, Village of Saranac Lake Board of Trustees or SL Village manager. What is that if not secret?

Arrogant, questionable behavior. We know now that the entire Wal-Mart negotiation has been carried on in secret behind closed doors. Were these behind-the-scenes operations carried on without the present village board's knowledge? We may never know for sure. ...right along there has been a palpable hostility coming from some on the village board toward public input. ...when a store wants to build here, it is imperative that we negotiate with them to get the best economic deal possible for area residents. This cannot be done by a board that already commits itself up-front to bringing in a particular store well before economic studies and negotiations have even taken place. I'm biased, but the Democrat slate of candidates will almost definitely cut a better deal for the residents of SL than the Republican candidates. It really is time for some fresh blood on the Village Board.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Guest Post

NOTE: Ms. Jackson has given permission to repost her comments from March 2.

Our community is being torn apart before Walmart has even invaded.

Reading comments on this blog and on the ADE poll has disgusted and saddened me. I love our community and I had always thought that one day I would return to raise a family. SL is part of who I am and I wanted the same for my children. I never thought I would be able to find another small town as wonderful as our own. But this Walmart battle has revealed a new side of Saranac Lake that I have never experienced before.

This is what I'm hearing:

From anti-Walmart factions:
"Walmart is unethical. SL needs a company that will treat workers well and enhance our local economy and not destroy our local businesses."

From pro-Walmart factions:
"We want cheap underwear and potato chips. Get out of town if you don't agree."
...and then some name-calling and slandering that I refuse to repeat...

This is not a logical debate. I have yet to hear WHY Walmart is the only answer. What is Walmart going to provide that another retailer can not? The pro-Walmart crowd seems to be less pro-Walmart and more just against the anti-Walmart group. Where is the sound argument for Walmart? Who in the village would prefer to work at Walmart than another retailer?

I'm sickened by the harsh comments and illogical debate, not to mention the shady politicians involved. This is not a community that I am proud of, that I want to raise a family in. I want a community that cares for one another, that is willing to work hard to find the best solution instead of taking the easiest way out, a community that debates with facts instead of throwing personal attacks, a community that plans for its future, a community with honest politicians that will do what's right for the community and not what will win them the next election.

I plead with you all now to prove me wrong:
Show me that this community is based on honesty and respect.
Show me why Walmart is better than other retailers, give me facts.
Show me how Walmart will improve the community.
Show me how Walmart will benefit the local economy.
Show me your priorities and your morals.
Show me that the community I love still exists.

I call on village leaders to do your research, put in the hard work that we have hired or elected you to do. Show the community all of our options for retail development and propose a solution that will improve the economy, employment, retail needs, and environment of our area. Give us hard facts. And be transparent.

We are better than this. We deserve better than this.

I promise to do better. Will you?

Karina Jackson