Monday, December 6, 2010

Ontario consumers continue to suffer in Cory Briggs' union war

Yes, the Ontario WalMart project is delayed yet again.

City officials may be forced to scrap their three-year-old approval of a Walmart Supercenter and review the project again.

If the tentative opinion by the state 4th District Court of Appeal in Riverside holds, city officials will have to set aside approval of the superstore and study the possibility of urban decay due to business competition.

Possibility of what?

"We won on key issues: urban decay and losing the grocery store. Both are big issues," said Cory Briggs, an attorney for the group of homeowners opposed to the project at Fifth Street and Mountain Avenue.

"This proves what we've said all along. Walmart doesn't create new jobs and does more to displace employers."

Here's what is alleged:

The analysis conducted by the city found that no significant urban decay would occur as a result of the project.

The city's report also found that if a grocery store were to shut down as a result of the Walmart project, other uses could fill the vacancy. An Albertsons market lies three blocks to the south.

But the court doesn't agree.

The report, the opinion states, "does not look at the actual demand for vacant food store space, and therefore did not adequately assess the likelihood of urban decay resulting from the project."

Urban decay, as the opinion described, can be attributed to increased competition and the economy. Both could lead businesses to close and, over time, the buildings to deteriorate.

The evaluation of that possibility, Briggs said, will paint a clearer picture of the project's economic impacts for the council and other city officials.

Any economists or politicians, Briggs said, will argue that small businesses are the backbone of the economy.

"Walmarts are small-business killers," he said.

Now bear in mind that the so-called "small business" that worries Briggs so much happens to be an Albertsons grocery store. Albertsons is part of SuperValu, Inc., traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the "SVU" ticker. As of Friday, SuperValu had a market capitalization of US$1.79 billion and revenue of US$38.62 billion.

And while Briggs speaks of urban blight, he completely ignores the urban blight that I have to face every day - namely, an abandoned grocery store AND and abandoned Target AND an abandoned Toys R Us. If you want to see urban blight, go to the corner of Mountain and 5th. Cory Briggs has preserved that urban blight for several years running.

Matt Munson still seems to think that this can be settled:

Here is my suggestion so we can get the project settled once and for all.

Listen to the residents, figure out what accommodations which could be made so we can get the project built. Having a pure super center like Chino is out of the question and having the project terminated is also out of consideration as well.

Um, Matt, it's not. Briggs and his friends would love to see the Walmart project completely terminated. Even if the store were only open five minutes a day and if you had to use mass transit to get there, Briggs and his friends still wouldn't want the Walmart in Ontario.

To realize why, you have to look at Cory Briggs' previous activity.

You see, Briggs hasn't only opposed the Walmart in Ontario. At around the same time that the Ontario Mountain Village Association started its battle, there was a battle that was being waged in another city. I've talked about this before (also here, but perhaps it's worthwhile to recap.

On January 2, Cory Briggs of Upland registered an organization called the "Murrietans for Smart Growth." (He also registered an organization called "Blythe Citizens for Smart Growth" on the same day.) One day later, the Murrietans for Smart Growth filed a suit to block a SuperTarget in Murrieta.

Now the city of Murrieta hadn't run into a lot of Murrietans who were demanding smart growth, and people began to wonder if the only one demanding this was non-Murrietan Cory Briggs. North County Times picked up the story:

Earlier this summer, after Regency's attorney suggested Briggs was the only member of the group, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Stephen Cunnison ordered Briggs to produce an actual member of the organization before allowing the lawsuit to proceed.

The first "Murrietan" to step forward was Richard Lawrence - who lives in San Diego and has no business affiliation to Murrieta, let alone Riverside County, according to court documents. In a deposition, Lawrence said he was the group's president.

Hubbard, however, continued to press Briggs to bring forward an actual Murrieta resident, according to court documents. And a few weeks later, on Sept. 4, Briggs produced a woman named Felicia Munoz-Graham, who lives on the city's west side and works at the Ralphs supermarket on Washington Avenue.

According to her deposition, Munoz-Graham was one of the founders of the group - but she said she had never heard of Lawrence.

The lack of familiarity between the two members further clouded the group's legitimacy in the eyes of Murrieta leaders.

So Matt Munson, I'm sorry, but you can't expect someone who will invent a group to reasonably negotiate - especially when you consider one other parallel between the Murrietans for Smart Growth and the Ontario Mountain Village Association.

Felicia Munoz-Graham works at a Ralphs in Murrieta.

Cory Briggs is, as previously noted, really really concerned about the Albertsons in northwest Ontario.

Why is Briggs worried about the Kroger unit (Ralphs) and the SuperValu unit (Albertsons), but not about WalMart or Target?

Well, I won't say the name of the organization that links the two grocery stores, but its initials are UFCW.

You probably already know how UFCW feels about WalMart. Here's how they feel about Target:

Of more than 1,400 Target stores employing more than 300,000 people nationwide, not one has a union. Employees at various stores say an anti-union message and video is part of the new-employee orientation. At stores in the Twin Cities, where Target is headquartered, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union Local 789 has been trying for several years to help Target employees organize, with little luck.

"People ask what the difference between Wal-Mart and Target is," said UFCW organizer Bernie Hesse. "Nothing, except that Wal-Mart is six times bigger."

So, in response to Matt Munson's question regarding "what accommodations...could be made" to get the WalMart in Ontario approved, it's really very simple - unionize the entire WalMart workforce, and Briggs will cease his opposition to the project.

Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

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