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GUEST OPINION: Wal-Mart expansion a threat to transit-oriented development

By MARTIN J. BENNETT

The Rohnert Park Planning Commission unanimously denied a Wal-Mart proposal to enlarge its existing discount store into a supercenter that sells both groceries and general merchandise. Wal-Mart has appealed the decision to the City Council.

Martin J. Bennett

The economic and environmental impacts of a supercenter are countywide, extending far beyond the city of Rohnert Park. All county residents should be concerned about this proposal. The controversy raises fundamental questions about future growth and the necessity for proactive city and regional planning to promote equitable and sustainable development.

Development in the county is inevitable. According to the Association of Bay Area Governments, the population of Sonoma County will increase by 23 percent over the next 20 years. In 2008, voters approved a landmark initiative to meet this challenge, creating the two-county SMART train that will run on tracks adjacent to Highway 101 from Cloverdale to Larkspur. The build-out of the train system provides the opportunity for city-centered “transit-oriented development” (TOD) around the 14 SMART train stations that could accommodate 90 percent of the projected population growth.

TOD is densely built, mixed-use development within one-half mile of transit stations, accessible by bike and foot, and with a variety of retail, office and small businesses. Through land-use planning and public funding, municipalities can promote development surrounding transit stations that includes good jobs paying family-supporting wages, affordable housing for all income groups, open space and walkable neighborhoods.

The proposed 170,000 square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter located one-quarter mile from the site of the planned Rohnert Park SMART train station is a direct threat to such careful and appropriate planning.

Labor, environmental and local business organizations opposing the Wal-Mart Supercenter believe it undermines compact and equitable development in Rohnert Park and violates the city’s general plan. The project undercuts transit-oriented development’s efforts to reduce low-wage work, support local business, tackle global warming and lay the foundation for a robust regional economy.

Nearly one-third of the employees in the county are currently “working poor” and do not earn self-sufficiency wages.

According to the Insight Center for Community and Economic Development in 2008, two parents working full-time in Sonoma County in 2008 must each earn $14.90 an hour or $62,940 a year to pay for food, housing, medical care, child care and transportation.

Sonoma State economist Robert Eyler reports that the supercenter will contribute to job quality decline and increase the problem of working poverty.

According to his analysis, the county will lose 105 to 211 jobs — mostly good jobs that pay hourly wages for full-time workers ranging from $17.67 per hour at Pacific Market to $23.36 at Raley’s and Safeway. The Wal-Mart Supercenter will employ 450 workers, and, according to the company, the typical full-time worker at Wal-Mart earns $12.10 an hour.

With regard to global warming, the supercenter will have adverse effects on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to comply with AB 32, a 2006 state legislative measure, all nine cities and the county have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2015. However, the Eyler report notes, Pacific Market will close if the supercenter is built, and its 8,000 customers will drive a combine 28,400 miles extra each week to shop for groceries.

Further, Stacy Mitchell, author of “Big Box Swindle,” reports that vehicle miles driven per customer will increase because a supercenter draws shoppers from a greater distance than a discount store. Indeed, since Wal-Mart’s rapid expansion in the late 1970s, miles traveled per household to shop has skyrocketed by 300 percent, while total household driving increased by 75 percent.

As for local business, there are 60 local suppliers that provide produce and merchandise to Pacific Market, and more than 70 supply Oliver’s in Cotati. Wal-Mart suppliers, on the other hand, are nearly 100 percent national and global firms (and that means increased truck traffic into the county).

The “Go Local” movement has demonstrated that patronizing local businesses ensures that more dollars remain in the community. Studies by Civic Economics demonstrate that locally owned firms produce two to three times more economic activity within the local economy than national chains — including locally retained profits, wages paid to local residents, purchases from local suppliers and contributions to local nonprofits.

The Rohnert Park City Council should uphold the decision of the planning commission, reject the Wal-Mart Supercenter and refocus the city’s planning process to promote sustainable economic development.

Martin J. Bennett teaches American history at Santa Rosa Junior College and serves on the executive board of the North Bay Labor Council. He is also co-chairman of the Living Wage Coalition of Sonoma County.





48 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: Wal-Mart expansion a threat to transit-oriented development”

  1. Just say no to Wal-Mart says:

    When you stop to think about it, the Wal-Mart model is anti-American.

    Where does it purchase the goods it sells? Overseas. How does it offset the price of having employees? By charging those costs to the taxpayer.

    One of my family members works at Wal-Mart. After ten years of working there, she earns about $12.00/hr. In order to survive, her family needs taxpayer subsidized housing and her children’s health insurance is provided by California’s Healthy Families because Wal-Mart doesn’t cover employees children at a reasonable price.

    Obviously Wal-Mart’s claim of paying an average of $12.10/hr. is a number to be viewed with healthy skepticism, as most Wal-Mart employees do not last 10 years.

    Wal-Mart owners make enormous profits by selling shoddy goods at cheap prices. Does anybody see the reasons why so many Walton family members are on the “top wealthiest” lists? Can we say cause-and-effect?

    All of you who are calling Mr. Bennett names and baiting him are most likely against higher taxes, yes? If you don’t want higher taxes, then corporations must pay fair wages and benefits instead of shunting them to the taxpayer

    Instead of viewing the Wal-Mart model as an opportunity to buy shoddily-made goods, thinking people are able to see the true costs to American labor markets and to all of us who are taxpayers.

    Does anyone remember that Sam Walton’s original business model was to support American made goods? And that his intent was to support the American labor market, not outsource its labor?

    As for development, cities and counties must think of population growth and management of that growth for the best future development outcomes. Being intelligent about growth and transportation planning is not a partisan issue.

    I would think that careful planning, decent wages, health care benefits and a healthy environment would be issues we could all agree upon–it would seem to be a no-brainer.

    I ask everyone here–don’t YOU want/deserve/need a fair wage? Don’t YOU want/deserve/need medical insurance? Don’t YOU want to live in thoughtfully developed areas that have green spaces, walkable streets, and safe areas for children? Don’t YOU want transportation options, including walking, biking, mass transit, in addition to the ubiquitous vehicles?

    Some of you act as if you don’t. That’s sad.

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  2. Noah says:

    @Beef King: Once again, you have made a statement at odds with reality. You say, “In case no one is paying attention, I must add here that Obama is the ringleader of ‘Progressives’, and we are seeing their ideas fail on the national and international stage.” Well, I’m a progressive, and Obama is not my ringleader. In fact, many of us Progs are pissed that Obama is such a quivering moderate! He in no way comes close to being anything but a centrist.

    And by the way, Obamacare doesn’t exist. What does exist is a tepid, watered-down version of health insurance reform that was gutted from being a good deal for America to being a good compromise in favor of the health insurance business. What does exist is a watered-down version of financial reform which could have been useful to our economy, which after being trashed by the likes of Geithner and friends (Wall Street), leaves the system intact which decimated our financial sector and put the economy in doubt, again leaving a corrupt system in place for the crooks to figure out how to get the last drop of our blood.

    There is no Obamacare. There are a majority of Americans who feel that healthcare is a fundamental human right. Our laws reflect this, since anyone can go into an emergency room and get care. The problem is, it’s wasteful and stupid to do healthcare that way. There isn’t any financial reform. Just a litlle tightening of the corporate belt, around which they will find a way. Come on Beef, show me something good.

    @Geoff Johnson: I often disagree with you, but this time you are right. Your argument is well-presented, facts are given, and your reasoning is logical. What you say in your post is very good, and I support it. Go figure!

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  3. Brass Tacks says:

    “Wal-Mart leads the charge in the race to the bottom”

    Why do we call out Wal-Mart? It is because they have been the poster child for the Wall Street model of downward mobility for ordinary working people. They have been one of the lead locomotives in a massive project of redistribution of wealth to the real elites, the corporate ownership class. Wal-Mart has single-handedly driven down wage and benefit standards in the U.S. for the sake of their corporate bottom line, and they have decimated long-established local business networks in countless communities, destroying their character and quality of life.

    We don’t need the false choice of ‘no work’ vs. ‘Wal-Mart McJob’. That’s why we need good public policy to prevent ruthless and unethical outfits like Wal-Mart from reducing working people down to peasant status. Wal-Mart is the piranha thrown into the trout pond. Keep them out!

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  4. Beef King says:

    If Mr. Bennett is serious about his work, I look forward to his attack and demonization of Whole Foods Market opening another BIG BOX corporate store at Coddingtown.
    Go ahead and measure wages and benefits available to Whole Foods employees versus Wal-Mart and you will find that Mr. Bennett has to worry about them too.
    Not only that, the Whole Foods CEO has come out to denounce ObamaCare as the wrong way to promote health insurance benefits to employees.
    In case no one is paying attention, I must add here that Obama is the ringleader of ‘Progressives’, and we are seeing their ideas fail on the national and international stage.
    Just last week the European Union President Barroso publicly critized our President Obama for his multiple failures in the eyes of Europe.
    Unfortunately our mainstream media forgot to print any news of this since it makes them look bad for backing ObaMao.
    Mr. Bennett, I’m not buying your bucket of lies.

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  5. Geoff Johnson says:

    What troubles me, is Bennett’s claim that “Development in the county is inevitable”, based on an ABAG projection that “the population of Sonoma County will increase by 23 percent over the next 20 years.”

    He argued that “‘transit-oriented development’ (TOD) around the 14 SMART train stations” could accommodate 90% of the projected growth; and more important, said “Through land-use planning and public funding, municipalities can promote development surrounding transit stations”.

    But why should the taxpayers of Rohnert Park, and other Sonoma County cities, pay to promote new growth? Most of today’s problems are the result of the past 40 years of developer-driven urban growth.

    The Labor/Demo “progressive” coalition leaders sold us the SMART boondoggle. Now Bennett thinks we taxpayers should pay to put 90% of Sonoma County’s new growth in the H101/SMART corridor, from Larkspur to Cloverdale.

    Whether the RP Wal-Mart should be allowed to sell groceries is a minor local issue. Let’s talk about the Labor/Demo plan for the taxpayers to subsidize the next 20 years of Sonoma County growth.

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  6. Political Scientist says:

    Jim: Economics 101. In a capitalistic economy, consumption and production are two sides of the same coin. Claiming one is an economic driver while one creates wealth is completely inaccurate.

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  7. Lyn says:

    Jim, every city wants its economic development to focus on high-tech, high-value research & manufacturing jobs.

    Today so much is working against California, I wonder is any city in the state gaining these kinds of jobs? I doubt it. To say that California is not business friendly belabors the obvious.

    Cisco’s CEO recently vowed that no more manufacturing facilities will be built in the state. Policies that drive away Class-A companies like Cisco need to change.

    Rather than pine for the jobs of our fondest dreams, better to be thankful for the ones that come our way. When 10,000 people applied for 350 jobs at Oakland’s first Wal-Mart store, they were.

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  8. Jim says:

    @Lyn

    I think your missing my real point. I am pro-manufacturing which is what the progressive and living wage folks should be fighting for. Production is an economic driver, not consumption, that creates wealth.

    I may be a capitalist to the core but I am rather indifferent about the WalMart expanding. Although it would probably help some consumers that are either profoundly cheap or have no other option.

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  9. Brass Tacks says:

    “Memo: The Era of Free Market Voodoo Economics is Over”

    The Great Recession of 2008 marked the end of the the reckless greedfest unleashed on the world by 30 years of conservative mis-rule. It amazes me that the defenders of this brand of snake oil medicine still defend it, even after it nearly killed the patient.

    Hear me know, believe me later. The debt-fueled bubble economy that made vast fortunes for Wall Street fat cats, while the middle class in this country was systematically eroded by the Wal-Mart economy of outsourced manufacturing, low wages and minimal benefits, finally ran the car into the ditch. Now you guys want the keys back? No way!

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  10. Lyn says:

    Jim, you may be right that an expanded Wal-Mart will mostly transfer business within Rohnert Park, rather than bring new dollars to the community. I don’t know.

    But, so what? If people freely choose to switch their grocery buying to Wal-Mart won’t that be because they decided it’s a better place for them? Besides, no existing business welcomes competition. All would prefer, if they had their choice, to have a monopoly.

    Once upon a time, Americans thought competition, while not perfect, was beneficial. We are in danger of abandoning a policy that made America the economic envy of the world.

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  11. Scott P says:

    Why do so many of you stick by the Government and their Unions? Please name one large Government Program that our Congress has not wasted a Trillion Dollars on?

    Medicare? Many doctors refuse to accept Medicare patients because the Government dictates the cost of service at 35 cents on the dollar. Horrible fraud and waste too.

    Social Security? That’s the biggest American rip off ever. Congress started spending the SS Surplus in 1968 to fund the Vietnam War and has now bilked over 6 Trillion from us citizens. Listen to what the crooks are now going to do to fix SS. Raise the retirement age, increase the tax burden and reduce benefits based upon a needs based system.

    Public Employees Pension System? Estimates are that nationally pensions are underfunded by 1 Trillion. Watch as public “servants” sue to get their ridiculous pensions.

    These same crooks want to manage free enterprise with their dimented vision of socialism.

    Get government out of the way of business and we’ll all see greater prosperity.

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  12. Jim says:

    Here is the thing about expanding the current store is that it’s just a shell game economically. It’s not going to drive significant new revenue into the local economy just reallocate it from existing stores.

    Why aren’t we fighting over bringing in manufacturing companies that create real wealth and prosperity instead of this phony service economy stuff.

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  13. Zuma says:

    And all this planning and govt controlled growth has given us budget deficits, a train that doesnt pay for itself, businesses leaving the county or going under financially.

    And what of the quality of life for the residents? Will people flock to densing housing near a train that cant support itself?

    And why hasnt all the progressive planning not given us a train that goes directly to San Francisco and one that hooks into the national train system? Or one that pays for itself and therefore capable of attracing bond investment?

    Why has this planning given us schools that cant prepare its children for college level courses? Why is the JC still admitting illegals to classes and then charging in state tuition?

    Planning and unions have bankrupted this state and planners seem to have no plan to solve the problems they have caused! Let the planners explain why we pay more taxes than most yet have the worst of education, transportation and the least trust in govt!

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  14. Noah says:

    Beef King, I agree with you first paragraph, when you say “Unions aren’t bad. It is American as apple pie to freely assemble. The trouble comes when union leaders and political leaders conspire to use the might of the assembled workers to further political and personal power goals.”

    But then you say “Progressivism’ is about censorship and control of the populace by an elite few.” Huh? I am a progressive, and I won’t stand for that to happen (anymore). It is exactly what we have right now; the top 1% own 90% of our country’s wealth, and it is done via corporations. You call that Progressive?

    You are completely wrong, opposite the truth in fact, when you say we represent elitism. From the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party website:

    Statement of Principles

    1. The Caucus believes in the promotion of principle before politics and policy before unquestioning fealty to any individual or organization. We seek to build a movement within the Democratic Party so that we may one day see a government controlled by citizens, not oligarchic interests. By belonging to the Caucus, we affirm our dedication to work for a world where the rights of all people are recognized as equal and inalienable, and where social justice paves the way for true peace.”

    Again, “…controlled by citizens, not oligarchic interests…” means they want the people themselves, like you and me, to have power, as it was originally intended for our nation. If it is a corporate oligarchy or a union oligarchy, it is anti-progressive. I repeat, I do not like some bureaucracies, whether corporate or union, if they seek to serve themselves first and the people second (or never).

    You also say, “But now Bennett and his cronies, including Deborah Fudge, want to use the train tracks to control you and your shopping habits to feed their union and political control goals.” You’ll have to excuse me, I’m rather uninformed and sometimes kinda stupid, but I don’t understand how train tracks are going to control me or my shopping habits. I don’t see how this will help union political goals, unless it helps working people get decent pay and conditions. The only reason I can think of that someone is against decent pay for hard-working people, is if they are selfish, greedy, and poised to get rich off our backs.

    Last, you write “Professor Martin Bennet of Santa Rosa Junior College, Union Council Leader Martin Bennett, ‘Progressive’ Martin Bennett….proposes that the SMART train must now dictate business activity.” From Professor, to Union Council leader, to Progressive. Another slanting tactic. So according to your implication, Professors, Union leaders and Progressives are all lumped into one category, and they are BAD!

    A professor is someone who can lead a young mind through a process of discovery into educating themselves. None of my professors has yet been able to tell me how to vote, to shop, to think, or to feel. Most of them have made me think for myself. Union leaders are people who commit themselves to the needs of the common man, and do battle with the forces of wealth and power who have always dominated and controlled the masses. If you are a noble, then yes, you should fear union leaders. And Progressives, they are the worst. They see problems, and want to change things for the better. They will even try things that could fail!

    In truth Beef King, I know you to be an intelligent person, and I assault your techniques to make you better at what you do. I want you to convince me with facts and with clarity, that your ideas are superior. The appeals to emotion you are use only disparage your abilities, and make weaker those who are easily led. Raise us up with information, not subterfuge.

    According to the article, the Wal-mart Supercenter will not add economic help to Sonoma County, it will take more dollars out of the county. It will increase truck traffic, and autos, and pollution. It will put more local businesses out of existence and lose more jobs. Is the article wrong? How?

    P.S: That photo of Bennett is so bad, it’s almost actionable. Poor guy. Glad it’s not me up there.

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  15. Beef King says:

    If Martin Bennett were correct in his assertions, there would be no other store than Wal-Mart, all competitors having been erased by the behemoth. This has not happened.
    Transit oriented development is not threatened by anyone or any store; it can and will occur naturally, like it has since trains appeared in America, or disappeared as the case may be.
    Mr. Bennett wants to distract you from the real goal which is to control who gets to do business near his train, and which unions get in on the deal.
    Unions equal dues, dues equal political capital, political capital equals power and personal wealth with none of this being for the common good in any way.
    What would Mr. Bennett argue if Wal-Mart had a union? Our president is doing everything he can to make that happen asap. It is possible that by the time the train station has a permit Wal-Mart will have been unionized.
    Would the good professor then argue FOR the presence of Wal-Mart? After all, those Wal-Mart jobs would then be the kind of jobs he is praising in this article.
    It’s all a load of bs as far as I’m concerned.

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  16. akr says:

    I suppose the concern is not about jobs at Pacific Market or Oliver’s but about whether a Walmart supermarket crushes the Safeway on the other side of the highway.

    In which case we might have a big empty hull problem, like the one in Roseland where the Albertson’s – was it Albertson’s? – used to be. I don’t remember what economic forces took out that store, though.

    Also, Sebastopol is to Rohnert Park as Vermont is to New Hampshire. People get annoyed that they’re losing their customers to somebody whose business model relies on recommending that their employees apply for Medi-Cal, and has had a long-term record of discrimination against women.

    Walmart’s gotten better about this, though, and I’ve been to the one across the river from Brattleboro, VT, next to the dog track, and to the one in RP, twice each

    (Didn’t buy anything in NH because I preferred to spend more money for cookware or tools at the Ames or at the downtown hardware store in VT, but I wanted to know what everyone was so upset about. I didn’t see anything much more alarming than at the Ames, but that company was in the process of going bankrupt; I worked on the case). The RP one was my final attempt to find a certain kind of sippy cup that my nephew liked, which it turned out they had. Long’s didn’t, Target didn’t, so I sighed and tried Walmart.

    I was pleasantly surprised. The customers were enthusiastic, mostly lower middle class but solidly so and enjoying the chance to buy things they perhaps couldn’t otherwise afford. And at the time they had the cheap health clinic, which was nice for people who can’t afford decent health insurance.

    This isn’t Oliver’s vs Walmart, it’s Safeway and Albertson’s and the like vs Walmart.

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  17. Patrick says:

    I’m enjoying this conversation and appreciate both sides of the issue..I hate the westside sprawl and would probably never shop at WalMart if built.

    I do disagree with most of the arguments that the ‘anti’ folks are using to deny this choice to RP however.

    1. Expanding this store will not create less employment…a expanded store will create more jobs and bring more net shoppers to RP from Santa Rosa & Sebastopol.

    2. No one that enjoys neighborhood shopping at Pacific or Olivers will be forced to stop.

    3. Highway 101 traffic will be affected much more by the casino…which is supported by labor and the RP Council.

    4. Groceries are non taxable but supermarkets drive sales in other stores & restaurants…the current WalMart helps the local hamburger restaurant next door.

    5. The substantial permit fees that WalMart will pay go straight to the city.

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  18. FrAn says:

    RP Mom’s post is appreciated. We should be asking ourselves whether the costs to our community are worth the benefits of a supercenter. Is the expansion worth a net loss of jobs? Do we appreciate the ostensive benefits so much that we are willing to sacrifice neighborhood shopping? Is it justifiable to exacerbate congestion near 101 for an expansion whose inbound revenue is only negligible? If the expansion goes through, the new merchandise sold will be non-taxable.

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  19. Patrick says:

    I’m disappointed that Mr. Bennett was able to quote the author of ‘big box swindle’…but unable to drive his car to WalMart to interview an employee or customer.

    Perhaps he should pull his head from the ‘echo chamber’and find out why Rohnert Park citizens choose WalMart over the othe stores. He might write a better article if he spoke to people who are choosing between gas, food and medicine. Some folks don’t have the choice of paying an extra dollar without losing a neccsity.

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  20. Beef King says:

    Noah,
    Unions aren’t bad. It is American as apple pie to freely assemble.
    The trouble comes when union leaders and political leaders conspire to use the might of the assembled workers to further political and personal power goals.
    Professor Martin Bennet of Santa Rosa Junior College, Union Council Leader Martin Bennett, ‘Progressive’ Martin Bennett….proposes that the SMART train must now dictate business activity.
    Noah, I did not vote for Martin Bennett and his failed ideas, I voted for alternative transportation along the 101 corridor.
    It is bad enough the SMART board went union without opening the bid process to all. That is very UN-American. But now Bennett and his cronies, including Deborah Fudge, want to use the train tracks to control you and your shopping habits to feed their union and political control goals.
    ‘Progressivism’ is about censorship and control of the populace by an elite few.
    Again, VERY un-American.
    I hope that all of our well intentioned local ‘progressives’ understand that real democrats don’t like the deception of ‘progressivism’, and want them out of the party.
    The sooner the better.

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  21. Noah says:

    @Beef King: You capitalize the word “union” in order to give it a negative connotation. Where slanting is used, a lack of logic is prevalent.

    Though I have my own disdain for many bureaucracies, including those of some unions, a union is simply working folks banding together to get a better life.

    Who else is going to stand up for working people? You?

    Your constant remarks against unions amount to a de-facto campaign against all of us who work hard everyday. What have we done to deserve your enmity?

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  22. Beef King says:

    akr-
    Martin Bennett is no idiot. Read his article. Each sentence, reference and quote is carefully crafted to portray corporations as bad unless he and his ‘progressive’ friends at the UNIONS give their almighty blessing.
    Idiot? No.
    Dangerous? Yes.

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  23. Mac says:

    Did Watch Sonoma choose the scariest picture they have of Marty? He looks like Hitler here! He is definitely somewhat off the wall, but not that bad…

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  24. akr says:

    actually, “Beef King,” I didn’t forget to finish my sentence, but invited those of you who think he’s an idiot to do so yourself.

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  25. Beef King says:

    So the question must be asked of ‘akr’….
    Why do you think he is an idiot? You forgot to finish the last sentence of your ramble.
    I think his ideas are poisonous. Mr. Bennett represents a history of failed ideas that all begin and end with him and his elitist pals wanting to be in charge of telling everyone how smart they are, and the right way to do anything according to their ‘progressive’ playbook.
    Sorry Mr. Bennett, we aren’t buying. Which is exactly what frustrates Bennett and his UNION friends….your freedom of thought is getting in the way of their power trip. If Wal-Mart were unionized we wouldn’t hear a peep from Bennett about TOD or anything else. Unions want DUES, and that money can be used to keep themselves in political power.
    Be honest ‘Professor’ Bennett, you and your smug union friends are power mad, and you’re mad that you have to use capitalism to achieve your dreams of controlling the populace.
    Why not be honest about your goals? Deception isn’t working out for you.

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  26. Lyn says:

    >>. . . unless it means that the huge old building ends up an empty hull.<<

    Wal-Mart seeks to expand its current store. So, no empty store problem.

    No tax model is perfect, including relying on sales tax revenue. But it surely beats the opposite, thinking you can fund city and county government on property taxes and fees alone.

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  27. akr says:

    robin thomas reminded me of an important point, which is that Rohnert Park already has a Walmart. So why should I care if it gets a better one?

    The model of depending on sales taxes I think hasn’t worked very well for the city, but I doubt that upgrading its Walmart will change anything, unless it means that the huge old building ends up an empty hull. There are a lot of those at the moment, and they are problems for the neighboring businesses.

    Separate point: I also feel the comments are getting a little out of hand, but that they are a useful guide to the sentiments that are out there. I don’t think they’re as representative as the people posting think, but rather a guide to what the most upset people may be thinking. But really, Hitler, Commie, who is Teaching our Children? How about just I think this guy is an idiot because . . . .

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  28. RP MOM says:

    Facts;
    #1 – Super Wal Marts degrade a town and suck up police services, bring in less desirable shoppers (yes, it’s true!)
    #2 – Can’t support local growers/vendors – doesn’t fit into their buying program
    #3 – Gain 85 jobs, lose 200 of those already employed? Do the math….
    #4 – With loss of local business & centers, urban decay develops, property value & desirability of RP goes down
    #5 – No added $ for city as most groceries are not taxable items
    #6 – More green house gas as people have to travel further to get to wal mart than local neighborhood markets. Walking, wheelchair, biking too far from neighborhoods where stores are already conveniently located.
    #7 – Bad idea all around. RP has plenty of shopping choices from Pacific to Grocery Outlet – plenty for all income levels already. Don’t let WM degrade our fair city. We don’t need to line Wm pockets. Keep the $$ & jobs local.

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  29. No hacks says:

    Wild idea – why don’t we let the people and leaders of Rohnert Park decide whether to allow Walmart instead of the roaming band of nannyists known as the Living Wage Coalition?
    These representatives of Perpetually Opposed Inc. go from town to town wagging their fingers and bullying city councils with a list of demands for new projects, lest they unleash the great unwashed masses of opposition (and patchouli oil) into their chambers.

    And the editors of this site don’t need to take lessons from someone who calls themselves an “ombudsman” but consistently advocate that progressives not be criticized for their governing (or lack thereof.)
    You made the tactical error of using the occasion of the economic downturn to advocate for your narrow view of the “right” type of jobs and development in our recovery; it hasn’t worked and you need to deal with the consequences – which will come at the ballot box in November.

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  30. Free Market says:

    The author is right on in terms of governing through a cost benefit analysis to the Community. While we may disagree with the outcome the process is correct. The bottom line with development is a municipality has to ask what is the ROI?

    To do this analysis, you need to look at the direct and indirect costs. For example, you do want to put a toxic dump in the heart of your highest cost neighborhoods. This destroys your property tax base. Similar, while it may bump up RP’s tax base, the author points to the overall impact on the community.

    The critics on this board need to realize there is no such animal as a free market. Those are dead as the Dodo Bird with the formation of the Administrative Agency and government subsidies. Regulation is byproduct of greed. We will see off shore oil drilling regulated to a new degree because of the damage caused by BP. Hence, it is a myth Walmart’s business model is based on a free market principals.

    Walmart is notorious for leaving the tax payers to take on the costs indirect costs of its business model. This of course is based on all points in the supply chain taking less. Tax payers are left to foot the bill to subsidize whether it be in lower wages or pay the clean up costs on non-ecological friendly manufacturing practices.

    American factories cannot compete in places where you are able to take the sludge and dump in the back yard or workers standard of living is based on shanty town conditions. Hence, Walmart’s business model is built on deflation and indirect subsidies. Not free markets.

    While there is a time and place to build the Walmart’s of the word, is this the right time for Sonoma County?

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  31. Jim says:

    @Ben Boyce

    Can you explain your reasoning that smart growth and shared prosperity is the new direction of the economy?

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  32. Political Scientist says:

    Robin Thomas- Your line of thinking makes no sense. Your statement…

    “These feel good plans of transit oriented development is a really nice idea – one that may happen some day, but not when we are still in a declining economy.”

    …is akin to an obese individual claiming that they would like to lose weight but are too hungry to eat less. If we don’t plan according to what we would like to see happen, when is it going to happen?

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  33. Sonoma Watch Ombudsman says:

    Ted,
    You need to upgrade your editing. Some of these comments, making references to Mr. Bennett’s appearance or wild accusations about him being a ‘commie’or ‘union hack’ should have been edited out. If you want to create a safe space for public discourse, where folks feel free to do real-name entries, you have to weed out the really nasty stuff. Don’t let this board get taken over by the Forum hate-freaks.

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  34. robin thomas says:

    What is he thinking? Sonoma county unemployment keeps rising, foreclosures are rising, and the cost of living is rising. I don’t know about you, but prices at Olivers and Pacific Market are way above my budget. People who shop at these “local” stores ( by the way they are also in Santa Rosa ) will not change their shopping habits.
    Why not create another 450 jobs? At least people can work rather than collect unemployment forever or have nothing and have to resort to government assistance.
    There are Walmart superstores all over the country. The current Walmart, is dirty, smelly and unorganized.

    These feel good plans of transit oriented
    development is a really nice idea – one that may happen some day, but not when we are still in a declining economy.

    Give Walmart permission and get over this – help people who want to work and want to purchase affordable goods. As noted above, this Superstore will still fall into the geographic paramaters of the TOD being only 1/2 mile from the proposed Smart Train Station…meaning people most likely would use mass transit to and from the store.

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  35. tensigh says:

    This guy is a fool. Nowhere does he really make the case that this shopping center would make lives worse for people.

    Has he even considered how the high prices of places like Pacific Market affect consumers? Or how much further people have to drive to places like Costco or FoodMaxx because the “high paying” stores are also “high priced”? No.

    He’s a union hack. No doubt about it.

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  36. Lyn says:

    The sad part of this debate is that one side refuses to consider that we should all respect different choices by people. You want shop at Mom and Pop’s Grocery, that’s OK by me. Why must do some feel the need to prevent others from shopping at the store of their choice just because they don’t like it?

    While I reject the heated rhetoric of calling people “commies” or other names, there is a distinctive aroma of elitism coming from those who feel the need to impose their choice on others. You don’t like Wal-Mart, don’t shop there. End of problem.

    Personally, Wal-Mart’s a little too far away for me to justify shopping there, but I do care about a free society. And that’s what is at stake here.

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  37. Ben Boyce says:

    “The Big-Box Dinosaur Era is Over”

    Mr. Bennett is right on the money with this analysis of the downside of big-box development. Over the last thirty years, since the advent of the conservative economic orthodoxy under the Reagan Administration, Wall Street has pursued a strategy of outsourcing our manufacturing sector to ultra-low-wage Third World producers, while simultaneously driving down the bargaining power of workers through crushing the union movement through a captured National Labor Relations Board and a huge, half-billion dollar a year “union avoidance” legal consulting industry. As a result, corporate profits soared, with the bulk of the benefits going to the top 1% of the income strata, while working folk’s wages remained stagnant.

    The American worker was heavily propagandized to keep up consumption through borrowing. That is the system that finally crashed and burned in the Great Recession of 2008. That economy is not coming back. That’s the memo. That’s why we need a new direction, based on smart growth with shared prosperity.

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  38. Patrick says:

    Walmart sells stuff from China…as does Safeway, Target, Macys and Ford. Your logic is terrible!

    Customers that want to pay more for better quality have many options.

    Customers love WalMart as do their employees…the only folks with a problem seem to be unions and the politicians they own.

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  39. Gus Anderson says:

    Walmart gets almost all of it’s products from China. China is an artificial system where manufacturers don’t have to repay government loans, workers’ pay and rights are suppressed to ridiculous lows. All of which has helped to destroy manufacturing in America in the mad race downwards. If these commie socialist conservatives were smart enough no know that they might leave more intelligent comments.

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  40. Patrick says:

    If the unions asked Mr Bennet to hop up and down he’d have better muscle tone…what a TOOL.

    No interview with WalMart employees, shareholders or customers huh?

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  41. Zuma says:

    It is clear the quality of life means little of nothing to Hitler look-a-like teachers.
    Most people dont want to live in apartments within walking distance of a noisy train that goes nowhere.

    Local produce farmers have to learn to compete with national firms and cant expect the local residents to overpay for all they care to buy just to support producers who are neither effective or efficient. The TV manufactures and Auto manufactures are cases in point.

    If planning commissions etc were worth anything the quality of life here would be increasing! Does anyone believe that?

    Russia had central planning and most Americans wouldnt want to live there, in fact most Russians dont either.

    Let planners explain why this area which has an income average of 60 -75,000 per houshold has had homes selling for 500,000 or more? Was that poor planning. Why is every civil servant in this county paid more than the national average, when our salaries for the public is about on par?

    What we need is more people with common sense as the theory of planners has failed? Capitalism expects the weak to fail, yet this county props them up much like Russia under communism!

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  42. Chris says:

    Two thoughts come to mind when reading this pieces. First, the scary thing is this guy is a college professor. I can only wonder what nonsense he teaches to his students of American History. Let me guess, capitalism is bad, America has caused all of the world’s problems, and big business is evil.

    Second, I wonder if Mr. Bennett realizes that it is the tax dollars generated from Wal-Mart like companies and it’s workers that pay for his salary. Keep on trying to kill successful companies Mr. Bennet and soon you to could be out a job, now that would be a real shame.

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  43. Rock says:

    That Marty looks like a former German leader in that pic. Smile man!!! Competition is natural. By the way, a job fair for these new jobs(paying $12.00 +) would of brought out thousands, guess these jobs are not good enough for you, even though they are for others.

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  44. A Gurwitz says:

    Let me see if I have this right? In a year where many parts of the country recovered some jobs and housing values, Sonoma County lost another 6% of its jobs, another 12% in home values, has over 10% unemployment and (if we use the figures mentioned in this article) 1/3 of your residents are “working poor”.

    Sonoma county’s cost of living is 26+% higher than the national average yet this article advocates NOT allowing a retailer known for low prices to grow in your community. Additionally you have local municipalities talking about raising taxes.

    http://www.bestplaces.net/city/Santa_Rosa-California.aspx

    With thinking, policies and laws like this why would any productive and thinking individual choose to make Sonoma County their home?

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  45. stew says:

    Socialist/Commie is what these Teachers are and look where are country is? In 1865 this country was reeling from the civil war. In the 1920s we lead the world in industrial production. In 1906 S. F. was destroyed by the earquake. In 1915, a mere 9 yrs later the Pan-Am exposition was held to show off what the city had done.People like Mr Bennett were told to step aside and stay out of the way. It’s time to tell them that again.

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  46. Lyn says:

    Transit Oriented Development is one of those ideas that looks good on paper yet fails a reality test. First and foremost, where it is deemed successful is where you will find large taxpayer subsidies needed to build it and keep it “working.” For all those in favor of sustainable growth, is that sustainable?

    Really, does anyone think people are going to take the bus or train to Costco? And, yes, many people prefer to buy from places like Costco, Wal-Mart, and Target. I know, people are dumb and should step aside in favor of those who “know better.”

    Santa Rosa’s good mayor thought the Sky Hawk Market was a perfect example of the kind of retail development she favored. Never mind that neither Joe or Wendy Sixpack afford to pay its prices. Still, despite its perfection, it is no more. Too many people drove past on their way to one of those evil boxes.

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  47. Beef King says:

    Martin Bennett is another ‘Progressive’ talking out of both sides of his mouth.
    There are Wal-Mart supercenters throughout the country, and they have improved the lives of citizens through the magic of competition bringing better quality products at lower and affordable prices.
    ‘Progressives’ hate competition while craving nanny governments. Why?
    How can ‘Progressives’ oppose Wal-Mart selling groceries close to the train, and then tell us how good it is the train is close to Coddingtown? The $45,000 gift from the Codding family to the SMART board is looking like a real ‘buy local’ program.
    This man teaches our young people at our college? What is he teaching them?
    That they shouldn’t want the best groceries available at the best price for their families?
    That they should accept lower quality and higher prices because Mr. Bennett says it is for the ‘common good’?
    Why do ‘Progressives’ hide their agenda?
    Is it because it doesn’t make sense?
    Vote NO on ‘Progressivism’ in November.

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  48. sam zuech says:

    This guy is nothing more than a stooge for the big unions out of Santa Rosa. He is so out of touch with reality he should be wearing a straight jacket.
    He doesn’t even know that the Obama health care plan was endorsed in magazine advertisements paid jointly by the AARP and Wal-Mart. The big unions could care less about low income people, consumers shop Wal-Mart because of the value and low prices.

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