The Lompoc CA group Citizens Against Walmart Expansion (CAWE) came together again to plan community action to stop the proposed Walmart expansion. Most of the community activists were involved in the recent election campaigns.
In recent years the proposed expansion has divided the community. The current proposal was rejected by the Planning Commission, and will now be appealed to the full City Council in January.
The citizen’s group remains convinced the expansion will not benefit the community’s economy. Harry Keim, speaking for the group said, “We are coming back to save this town from folding in, and to save other businesses from closing.” He explained that “big box” retail “…radiates out impacts, and the city will lose revenues. These expansions have a domino effect because small businesses close, and the tax base shrinks. Walmart may provide 80 new jobs, but it’s an exchange of good jobs for low pay jobs, because when the retailers lose business they let people go”
“How many more billions do they need,” says Doug Philips referring to the corporation and the Walton family. “It’s adding to and taking from, they give poverty line jobs and taxpayers pay when Walmart workers qualify [for welfare benefits].”
Fanny Diehl typified the group’s feelings. “Walmart does not care about this town, because they don’t give commiserate with what they get. With the small stores the profits stay here, the money stays local. We need more small shops like Arroyo Grande and State Street,” referring to small shop districts in other communities.
In 1992 a similar coalition of community members opposed the original Walmart store. In a drawn out process the “mega” retailer ultimately prevailed. When in late 2006 Walmart approached the City to build a Supercenter at a new location, residents again organized in opposition, then Walmart dropped plans.
CAWE has been active the last twelve months since the Lompoc Walmart announced plans to remodel into a “supercenter” at the existing site.
The group declined to discuss specifics, but Keim sees “more of the same” in their efforts. “We got the public involved, had petitions signed, talked to small store owners, and brought people into the planning meetings.”
One member, who declined to give his name said, “This is really about this town deciding what it wants, what we need, and not letting this huge corporation dictate to us. This is our town.”