Since Walmart announced its plan to build a store in Chinatown, the local community and Los Angeles at large has been buzzing about it. Chinatown business owners, residents and various groups have spoken vehemently either for or against the pending Chinatown Walmart.
But what are our elected officials saying? Many are saying nothing. Our own mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, has been elusive on the subject. However, a few LA politicians have come out from behind the smokescreen and dared to voice an opinion on the hot topic.
Councilman Ed Reyes introduced a motion that would bar retail chains including Walmart from moving into Chinatown, but the other council members haven't taken a public stance on the impending store. Although the council unanimously approved Reyes's motion, Walmart obtained the building permits it needed the night before the vote, narrowly dodging the new ordinance. The unanimous vote may just reflect council members' tendency to defer to the local council member on a neighborhood development or zoning issue.
In the past, LA City Council has been unfriendly to Walmart. In 2004, the council passed an ordinance to hamper Walmart's attempt to move into Inglewood. The ordinance allows the city to review job quality and threat to other businesses before approving stores larger than 100,000 square feet. In Chinatown, Walmart is getting around the ordinance by planning a "Neighborhood Mart," which is one fifth the size of its superstores.
On Thursday, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy announced that it, along with the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and Chinatown business owners and residents, filed an appeal with the city's building and safety department. The appeal requests scrutiny into how Walmart, after months of waiting for permits, obtained them the night before the council vote.
The elected officials below, with the exception of the mayor, take a clear stand on the issue. Note: "ANTI" does not necessarily mean the politician is anti-Walmart, but rather, that he or she is against Walmart moving into Chinatown without further review and analysis.
Which politicians stand on the same side as you?
A month after Walmart announced its plan to move into Chinatown, Council Ed Reyes introduced an ordinance to ban retail chains from Chinatown. However, Reyes insisted the ordinance was not specifically targeting Walmart. On Mar. 23, the council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance. However, the ban will not apply to Walmart because, to the shock of many, the company obtained the permits it needs to start building in Chinatown the night before the council vote. Reyes said the ordinance is necessary because of traffic and safety concerns in the area and because there is no longer a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) to assess planning issues. He also spoke of the need to protect Chinatown's cultural character. He wrote in his motion, "There is a need to protect Chinatown's historically significant resources. Without the appropriate land use regulatory controls in place, there could be a decrease in the diversity of merchandise available to residents, visitors, and tourists." (Video Credit: YouTube)
Councilman Bernard Parks represents the low-income LA Crenshaw neighborhood, where a Walmart was built in 2003. He told The Huffington Post that Walmart filled a vacant store space and has been a source of paychecks and donations for community projects. "Walmart has been a godsend," he said. "I go to that store routinely. I've never seen an employee with a ball and chain around their ankle. All this supposed controversy stems from one thing: the unions, trying to save themselves." (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Assemblyman Mike Eng spoke to protestors rallying against a Chinatown Walmart the morning of City Council's vote on Reyes's motion to ban retail chains in the historic neighborhood. After the rally, as seen in this video, Eng spoke about traffic and parking concerns that already exist for Chinatown. He also commented, "The local community has a right to ask where are those jobs going to go. Are there going to be promotions for managers? How are they going to treat women? Walmart has been accused of being unfair to women in the past." "Just 48 hour ago, Walmart was fined 2.3 million dollars for lying to customers," he said. "We need to make sure they're telling the truth when they talk about the benefits they're bringing to this area." (Video Credit: YouTube)
LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina said that Councilman Reyes's ordinance would give the council a "black eye" if approved, the Los Angeles Times reported. "It's very aggressive. It's very anti-business, and it's unfair to Wal-Mart as well, which showed that it's willing to come into the inner city," she said. "That [commercial space] has been totally empty since the day it was built." (Photo Credit: Wikimedia)
U.S. Rep. Judy Chu joined her husband, Assemblyman Mike Eng, at the anti-Walmart rally the morning before City Council's vote. She spoke at the rally, as depicted in this photo, saying that Walmart would jeopardize Chinatown's small businesses, the Los Angeles Times reported. "[Walmart] has the ability to demand rock-bottom prices and to drive all other competitors away," Chu said. (Photo Credit: Facebook)
On the day of the council vote, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office released the following statement to The Huffington Post. While it supports the healthy food cause that Walmart claims, it does not actually mention Walmart. Villaraigosa's statement: I have long supported bringing fresh and healthy grocery options to all of Los Angeles. This issue is about providing fresh food to underserved communities and bringing new jobs to Los Angeles. I am aligned with the Community Health Council, the NAACP and the California Endowment's Fresh Works Fund efforts to bring fresh food to food deserts. All communities deserve access to fresh and healthy food. I have fought for this before with Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, which has opened locations in Los Angeles and I will continue that effort. If larger grocery stores are interested in these communities that badly need better food options, then I am ready to support them as well. We need to make it easier, not harder, for businesses to bring jobs to LA. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia)