Saturday, August 26, 2006

"Fault Lines" in Saranac Lake

Todays editorial in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise finally defines a problem that we have all been aware of, but have ignored, for decades. It's a problem that has been ignored for good reason. It's a political problem and may actually be unsolvable. Many of us realize that the Village of Saranac Lake is divided between two counties (Franklin and Essex) and three townships (Harrietstown, St. Armand and North Elba). But get this:
Worse still, the village is split between two U.S. congressional districts (McHuge and Sweeney), two state Assembly districts, two state Department of Transportation regions and two Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance companies.
The village of Saranac Lake is split so many ways it's not surprising consensus on many issues is hard to come by. Here is one obvious solution posed by the ADE:
Get Essex County and the towns of North Elba and St. Armand to pull back out of the village.
What are the chances of this happening? Who knows, but the ADE suggests:
Essex County, North Elba and St. Armand may not like losing all that sales and property tax revenue, but they could be convinced since, from a regional standpoint, redrawing the lines makes so much more sense than the current system. Plus, maybe they could get something in return. In the meantime, they’re really dealing Saranac Lake an injustice with its lack of Essex County representation and services. Getting them to pull out will take some wheeling and dealing, and perhaps some kicking and screaming, but it can be done.
Kicking and screaming, no doubt. What could they possibly get in return? Whether you are anti-Wal-Mart, pro-Wal-Mart or somewhere in between, it is definitely time to redraw the "Fault Lines".

Friday, August 25, 2006

Shopping at Wal-Mart - Is it good for our country?

Thanks to Jonathan at Writing on the Wal for putting me on to these comments by Ezra Kline.
What's worrisome about Wal-Mart is that, like GM and Ford once did, they are setting the norms for the coming (or current?) economy. One in every five retail sales is done at their cash registers; they're larger than the next five retailers combined. Indeed, for major producers, Wal-Mart is just about the only market that matters, which allows them to dictate the production methods, employee relations, and business strategies all the way up the food chain. In action and effect, Wal-Mart is an active monopsony -- a seller able to dictate the price to its producers. They've forced Coke to change their secret recipe, Kraft to lay off thousands of employees, and Vlasic to declare bankruptcy. And because Wal-Mart so obsessively pursues the lowest possible prices, they're not only depriving their own workers of generous benefits and compensation, they're making it literally impossible for their producers to do so, as Wal-Mart won't abide by the minor cost differences that on-shore production and respectable benefits demand.
Unfortunately, kinda like the Iraq War, the attitude seems to be "let the other guy worry about it."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Memorable Line by Mark Morford

From an article in the San Francisco Chronicle last May.

Take Wal-Mart, the most famously offensive, town-destroying, junk-purveying, labor-abusing, sweatshop-supporting, American-job-killing, soul-numbing, hope-curdling retailer in the known universe, moving upward of $300 billion in cheap mass-produced slurm every year via more than 5,000 landscape-mauling eyesore stores stretching all the way from Texas to China and Argentina and South Korea and Mexico and your backyard.

And Another Thing.....Or Two

Wal-Mart is or is not interested in Saranc Lake? Why does Edelman PR continue to visit this website almost everyday if Wal-Mart is no longer interested in SL?

Any truth to the rumor that Wal-Mart has an option on land outside of SL?

CARD is being awfully quiet lately.

Paul Sands - Idiot in Charge of WPTZ

Here is what Paul has to say about Saranac Lake and Wal-Mart:
They'll huff and they'll puff, and they'll blow your house down.

They're the big, bad NIMBYS...the folks who always yell "Not in My Back Yard." And they've just blown Wal-Mart out of Saranac Lake.

They seem to think Wal-Mart's the big bad wolf.....but the truth is the NIMBYs are worse.

They destroy progress, they hurt the economy, they cost jobs, and they make it impossible for communities to grow.

Wal-Mart wanted to build in Saranac Lake. The company simply got tired of all the conditions, all the whining, and all the opposition from a small group of loud and short-sighted objectionists.

The giant retailer finally said "enough is enough," and walked away.

We don't blame Wal-Mart. But we are sorry to see Saranac Lake lose this opportunity. The Tri-Lakes region needs decent, affordable shopping. It needs jobs. It needs business development.

But, of course, the NIMBYs don't want any of that.

They'd rather blow it.

That's our opinion. What's yours?
Well Paul, allow me to respond:

1. It wasn't a small group that opposed Wal-Mart. Maybe your news team didn't cover the recent village elections. The guys that wanted Wal-Mart got soundly defeated.

2. So you think Wal-Mart is progress? Actually, I thought Upstate Biologicals was progress, but that's just me. I guess you think so little of small communities like Saranac Lake, that we just have to settle for Wal-Mart jobs.

3. Having a Wal-Mart is your standard for community growth? That is about the most stupid thing I have ever heard.

4. Please tell us more about Wal-Mart and their great jobs Paul. Tell us how they have created jobs, good jobs. Did you get that from

Go here to tell Paul your opinion I've already sent mine (I know it will be hard, but be nice).

Flash - Wal-Mart Has First Communist Party Branch

A staffer in the communications department of a Wal-Mart in Shenyang confirms that Wal-Mart has a Communist Youth League Branch at its Shenyang outlet.
It wasn't immediately clear whether the party branch had an office in the store.
Is Wal-Mart leading an effort to merge capitalism and communism into some new super-vile economic model? Imagine what the worst parts of capitalism and communism would look like. Or maybe Wal-Mart will teach the Chinese the Wal-Mart economic model. Question is, who will the Chinese exploit? Another question, if we get a Wal-Mart in Saranac Lake, will we have to start calling each other comrade?

Short article here at at the NYT, "Wal-Mart Opens Communist Branch in China". It's short because the only group more secretive than Wal-Mart is the Chinese communist government.

More (I really like the headlines)

Wal-Mart welcomes Chinese communists No. 1 retailer allows Communist Party to set up branch in China store.

Communists join Wal-Mart's ranks Retail giant Wal-Mart, regarded by many as an icon of global capitalism, has become host to a branch of the Chinese Communist Party, according to reports.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Community Store & Adirondack Daily Enterprise

An editorial in todays ADE is titled "Community Store May Well Succeed". Last week, in one of the preachy editorials attempting to describe what is wrong with Saranac Lake, the ADE wrote:
“If a 121,000-square-foot store was too big for you, is a 5,000-square-foot, community-owned, politically aligned store going to make up for the loss of the 40,000-square-foot Ames? Maybe for some, but not for most.”
It seems the ADE doesn't really know the committee that is organizing the Community Store because Ms. Gail Brill showed up to challenge the ADE editorial.

Later in the editorial the ADE writes:
Ms. Brill is a fighter, and we were impressed with how she stuck up for her cause when faced with our skepticism. She passionately wants to improve Saranac Lake’s shopping options — she’s also challenged Grand Union to improve its supermarkets — but she also wants to stick to what she says makes this village different.
The ADE editorial board then goes on to congratulate itself on coming up with the idea of a community store in 2004.
Many people have already said they’ll buy shares at $500 each, and we think this thing may very well succeed.

We hope it does; we’ve been promoting the idea in editorials since before there was a local effort. We urged people to consider Powell, Wyoming’s model in October 2004, and we reiterated it this June, just before an organizational meeting that drew more than 200 people
The ADE may have promoted the idea, but Ms. Brill is the inspirational leader who is helping to make it happen. Bravo for Ms. Gail Brill. SL could use more 'transplants' like her.

There is also an article in todays ADE concerning last evenings Community Store informational meeting. The Community Store committee consists of Ms. Gail Brill, Ms. Melinda Little, Ms. Gay Relyea and Ms. Wendy Foley.

I suggest we have 4 Winter Carnival Queens next February.

Wal-Mart Still Interested in Saranac Lake

Wal-Mart just cannot make up it's mind. Now, according to an article in todays ADE, Wal-Mart still wants to locate in SL.
On Tuesday, Wal-Mart spokesman Philip Serghini reiterated that the retailer has nothing planned for Tupper Lake, as some have suggested, and nothing on the table in Saranac Lake.

“I never heard any kind of proposals going (to Tupper Lake),” Serghini said. “We’re definitely interested in Saranac Lake. We just don’t have any potential properties right now.”

But if Wal-Mart does have interest in another property, it may not be until late in the process that the public knows, if it follows the same pattern as with the recent proposal in Saranac Lake.

Wal-Mart as an Employer

I came across this article by Selena Maranjian at the Motley Fool's website. Marajian, like most investors, really admires Wal-Mart as an investment. The article was written in 2003 but it raises some important questions concerning Wal-Mart's treatment of it's employees. Here is her question.
But even if companies abide by the law, is there a point at which their actions are, simply, bad? By bad, I mean bad for society, bad for employees, unfair in the vague but grand scheme of things, and maybe even bad for business?
She goes on to point out that treating employees may not be the best thing for a company. You end up with:
Grouchy, resentful employees at best, and perhaps poor performance and even sabotage, at worst. From a company's point of view, unionization is probably the worst-case scenario here.

Negative media coverage, leading to a less lustrous reputation, an increase in customers' desire to shop elsewhere, and possibly even boycotts.

Society and government are drained, picking up the company's slack. If employees are uninsured or underinsured, then they put pressure on the health-care system. If they're having trouble making ends meet and living near or below the poverty line, they'll require more government services.
Many of us realize that those things are all currently happening due to Wal-Mart's poor treatment of its employees. She goes on to ask whether shareholders or employees should come first. Her answer is that both should be treated well and what's good for the employees will probably be good for the shareholders.
Right now, many communities fight to keep Wal-Marts away. Perhaps if the company were even more admired in America, if it were known not only for low prices and shareholder rewards but also for employing an enormous number of people and compensating them with somewhat generous pay and benefits, more communities would welcome it with open arms. Perhaps those better-paid employees would have more discretionary income to spend in their communities, boosting other businesses. Happy employees will take more genuine pride in their employer, and customers will see that. Satisfied employees generally don't need unions. They'll be less likely to sue, too, perhaps reducing the company's legal expenses.
She ends the article by saying:
I think that maybe Wal-Mart and even its shareholders could benefit if the company shares a little more of its wealth with employees.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Working Families for Wal-Mart - An Email

I am a paid-in-full member of Working Families for Wal-Mart. Today I got an email from them:
Dear friend,

As you may have heard, Ambassador Andrew Young resigned recently as Chairman of our national steering committee.

I am writing to let you know that Working Families for Wal-Mart continues to move forward.

As Ambassador Young said on Thursday, “I urge [our leaders and members] to continue to speak out and stay active. The good that Wal-Mart does for America's working families is worth fighting for.”

We’re committed to continuing that fight. We’re going to keep talking about how Wal-Mart makes a positive difference for working families. And we’re going to continue to stand up for Wal-Mart in the face of daily attacks from union-funded critics.

As my friend and fellow steering committee member, Courtney Lynch, said on Friday, “Our organization consists of over 140,000 members across the country. We have several local advisory boards made up of community leaders and activists committed to our cause. We all believe that Wal-Mart makes significant contributions to America’s working families. Our organization will continue to grow and make a difference in this national debate.”

Our aggressive efforts will continue next week as we launch a national opportunity for Working Families for Wal-Mart members like you and other Americans who support Wal-Mart to make their voices heard.

Working Families for Wal-Mart is only as effective as its members. And as a valued member, you can have an impact by speaking out and by talking to your friends, family and neighbors about how Wal-Mart makes a difference for working families.

Thanks in advance for your continued support.


Catherine Smith
National Steering Committee Member

I can't wait to hear about their national opportunity for Working Families for Wal-Mart members like you and other Americans who support Wal-Mart to make their voices heard.

I wonder if they will allow the voices of those people who don't support Wal-Mart to be heard?

Community Store Bashing on TOTT

You really have to wonder about people. Sure there are a lot of people that are upset that Wal-Mart appears to have given up on locating in Saranac Lake. But is that a reason to bash the supporters of creating a community store? Here are a group of people that are actually attempting to help the retail store situation in Saranac Lake and the 'fighting, Wal-Mart supporting, TOTT phone callers' have nothing good to say about them. That is just very sad.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Secret to Beating Wal-Mart!!!

The secret to small businesses beating Wal-Mart has finally been released in a Letter to the Editor of the ADE from Marc Joseph.

Actually it's really a quite simple two step process:

1) Buy (and presumably read) CEO Joseph's book - “The Secrets of Retailing … or How to Beat Wal-Mart.”

2) Purchase your products from CEO Josephs online wholesaler

Writing a letter is certainly cheaper than purchasing an ad I guess.

Movie - Talking to the Wall

Wednesday, August 23 at Bluseed Studios ($1 donation for use of Bluseed Studios)

See the movie, Talking to the Wall

See comments about this move HERE.

Community Store Meeting

Tuesday, August 22 at 7 PM in the Harrietstown Hall.
Much more at Saranac Lake Community Store.