SIMMONS: Reasons why Mayor Gray needs to veto Wal-Mart bill

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

This week, the Large Retailer Accountability Act is expected to land on the desk of D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, and he would prove himself to be a savvy and gutsy politician if he vetoes the measure.

Forthwith are five reasons why.

Victor L. Hoskins, the deputy mayor for planning and economic development, is on the record saying that in addition to Wal-Mart, three large retailers are threatening to pull out of proposals to open shops in the city.

The city’s chief bean counter, the office of the chief financial officer, recently informed the mayor and all 13 members of the D.C. Council that “growth in employment in the District has slowed and commercial vacancies have risen.”

While nicknamed the Anti-Wal-Mart Bill, the wage legislation approved in an 8-5 vote on Wednesday by the council essentially thumbs the mayor’s nose as it relates to his “One City” mantra, his administration’s attempt to bridge the economic divide (Rock Creek Park) and the racial divide (Anacostia River) that have long split the city into three separate and unequal parts.

The bill arbitrarily forces large retailers to pay workers a “living wage” of at least $12.50 per hour, an argument that falls flat on the ears of residents who are making no dollars an hour.

Shoppers, as well as the unemployed and underemployed, want big-box retailers. To be sure, D.C. residents and small-business owners continue to spend money at the Costco warehouses in Northern Virginia (where tobacco prices are low and regionally competitive). The new Costco in Northeast reaps expendable dollars entering and leaving the city as it is strategically located at a gateway to the nation’s capital.

Two of Wal-Mart’s proposed stores would hold sway in similar fashion. One was to be situated at New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road, also in Northeast, and the other at Capitol Gateway on East Capitol Street, a commuter corridor whose closest competition is a Home Depot in Prince George’s County.

The mayor should look to the north, where folks in Levittown, N.Y., begin relishing the fresh produce, low prices and nonunion job opportunities that began Friday when Wal-Mart opened its first Long Island store in a shopping area of mostly boarded-up shops and other blight.

The Wal-Mart store planned for the Skyland shopping center is as underutilized and underdeveloped today as it was 20 years ago, and to know that D.C. officials urged the retail giant to come and are now threatening to closet-up city shovels is a huge mistake.

Regarding the political churn, the mayor should return the favor.

Ask council members Anita Bonds, David Grosso and Kenyan McDuffie, who voted in favor of the job-killing, business-deterring legislation, what’s going to replace the New York Avenue Wal-Mart and and become new neighbors to Costco.

Ask council member Jack Evans how he expects to become mayor, or even make a respectable showing next year, by supporting such an anti-business proposal.

For the most part, ignore council member Vincent B. Orange, the ambitious Democrat who, on this issue, can’t see the forest for the trees. Toss him a well-read copy of “The Prince” and perhaps he’ll get the picture.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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