Loading...

Goliath Down 

Inglewood voters kick Wal-Mart’s ass

Thursday, Apr 8 2004
Comments

When push came to shove, Inglewood voters rejected an Astrodome-size Supercenter where they could have picked up bargain-rate frozen chicken wings and a pair of really cheap underpants and instead chose self-determination. Wal-Mart’s Measure 04-A would have circumvented volumes of environmental and land-use laws to allow the Arkansas-based retail giant to plant a huge big-box megastore between the Forum and Hollywood Park, but it was simply crushed on Tuesday, defeated by more than 60 percent of Inglewood voters. No one was more surprised than the faithful band of activists who have campaigned for more than a year to block the development.

“I didn’t think we had a chance in hell,” one leader of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy confided at the raucous victory party, held in the backroom of an Inglewood Mexican seafood restaurant. “I thought we were going to get our asses handed to us.”

It was, in fact, hard to discuss the dramatic turnaround without mentioning rear ends. “Remember the day the bully got his butt kicked?” Councilman Eloy Morales asked cheering anti–Wal-Mart activists. “That’s how we feel today. You guys kicked their butts.”

Related Stories

“All that walking that you did today is what’s kicking butt,” the Rev. Altagracia Perez chimed in.

Wal-Mart reported spending $1.6 million on its effort to pass the initiative. Opponents, headed by the Coalition for a Better Inglewood, could muster only about $100,000. A representative of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor — another key member of the anti–Wal-Mart coalition — said polling as recently as two weeks ago showed the world’s largest corporation sweeping through this city of mostly African American and Latino residents by more than 20 percentage points.

Had those numbers held, every developer and corporate interest in the state that gets irritated by traffic studies or zoning commissions would line up to follow Wal-Mart’s lead and mount an initiative campaign to steamroll their projects through, or around, city hall. But in the final two weeks the coalition of labor and community activists opposed to the measure turned the numbers around with a relentless ground assault of phone-banking and door-to-door visits. Public meetings in the campaign’s final days featured civil rights icons such as Jesse Jackson and James Lawson.

Precinct walker Henry Brown said he spoke to about 1,000 people in the last 10 days, trying to explain the hidden dangers of a 71-page initiative that even a judge said was too complicated to understand fully. “We spent most of the time educating the voters on what the initiative was really about,” Brown said.

Among the measure’s unprecedented features was a provision that would essentially bar Inglewood voters from ever changing their minds and repealing the initiative. One door tag passed out by the anti–Wal-Mart groups depicted an assault rifle and warned voters that “buried in 71 pages of gobbledygook in Measure 04-A are provisions that make it impossible for Inglewood to regulate, ban or limit gun and ammunition sales at Wal-Mart in any way.”

 

Wal-Mart expanded out of Arkansas and across the South and Midwest through the 1960s and 1970s, earning the ire of union workers, who have never been able to organize the chain’s low-paid employees. Critics blast the discount chain for its buying practices, which squeeze cheaper and cheaper goods out of poorly paid foreign workers.

The chain moved into Los Angeles in the last several years by filling shopping-mall vacancies left by dying department-store chains.

Wal-Mart opened its first California Supercenter last month in La Quinta. Supercenters combine traditional discount big-box stores with full-size grocery sections. The looming presence of Supercenters contributed to the recent grocery strike as supermarket chains tried to cut labor costs to compete with Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart may still come to Inglewood and may construct a Supercenter at the same “Homestretch at Hollywood Park” site where Rothbart Development planned to build. But now it will have to go through the same planning processes as any other development.

Nearby, Los Angeles has been tinkering for more than a year with an ordinance to bar Supercenters. Its chief proponent, Councilman Eric Garcetti, said that in Inglewood “Wal-Mart tried to bypass not just the conversation about the standard of living but the democratic process as well.” He said he hoped the experience would lead the company to work with Los Angeles to “figure out a collaborative approach.”

Lizette Hernandez, the young ponytailed activist from LAANE who pulled together the coalition and kept it going when the polling showed the cause was hopeless, smiled and cried simultaneously late Tuesday as the unexpectedly high numbers of “no” votes came in from the Inglewood City Clerk’s Office.

“So many people thought we couldn’t do this, and we did it,” a teary Hernandez said. “We kicked their butts out of here.”

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets

Slideshows

  • 21st Annual Classic Cars "Cruise Night" in Glendale
    On Saturday, spectators of all ages were out in multitudes on a beautiful summer night in Glendale to celebrate the 21st annual Cruise Night. Brand Boulevard, one of the main streets through downtown Glendale, was closed to traffic and lined with over 250 classic, pre-1979 cars. There was plenty of food to be had and many of the businesses on Brand stayed open late for the festivities The evening ended with fireworks and a 50th anniversary concert from The Kingsmen, who performed their ultimate party hit, "Louie, Louie." All photos by Jared Cowan.
  • The World Cup Celebrated And Mourned By Angelenos
    The World Cup has taken Los Angeles by storm. With viewings beginning at 9 a.m., soccer fans have congregated at some of the best bars in the city including The Village Idiot, Goal, The Parlour on Melrose, Big Wang's and more. Whether they're cheering for their native country, favorite players or mourning the USA's loss, Angelenos have paid close attention to the Cup, showing that soccer is becoming more than a fad. All photos by Daniel Kohn.
  • La Brea Tar Pits "Pit 91" Re-Opening
    Starting June 28th, The Page Museum once again proudly unveils the museum's Observation Pit, which originally opened in 1952 but has spent most of the last half century closed. Now visitors can get an up-close look at Pit 91, which is currently under excavation. The La Brea Tar Pits, home of the Page Museum, is one of the world's most famous ice age fossil locations, known for range of fossils from saber-toothed cats and mammoths to microscopic plants, seeds and insects. The new "Excavator Tour" is free with museum admission if purchased online at tarpits.org . All photos by Nanette Gonzales.