Black aldermen not unanimous in support of city Walmart stores

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At least two Black aldermen are opposed to Walmart Stores Inc.’s rapid expansion in Chicago despite the City Council’s recent approval for two South Side stores.

At least two Black aldermen are opposed to Walmart Stores Inc.’s rapid expansion in Chicago despite the City Council’s recent approval for two South Side stores. On June 30 the City Council approved Chicago’s second Walmart store in the Pullman community. And at its July 28 meeting it approved another store in the Chatham community. Currently there is only one Walmart store in Chicago located at 4650 W. North Ave. Ald. Howard Brookins had been trying for six years to win City Council approval for a Walmart in his 21st Ward. Now he has the green light for the Chatham store to be built there. “Today represents a new beginning for Chatham and the South Side. It represents more jobs and more economical development in the 21st Ward and I am happy this day is finally here,” Brookins said shortly after fellow aldermen approved his Walmart proposal last week. Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), who declined comment, was one the only Black aldermen to vote against the Chatham store. The proposal passed 41-4. The Pullman Park Walmart was approved unanimously and many Black aldermen said they voted for it to allow Walmart a chance to show it can be a good corporate citizen in Chicago. Ald. Joe Moore (49th), who voted against the Chatham store, said he did so because he would like to see if Walmart lives up to its commitments before voting for more stores. Those commitments include paying employees a minimum, starting wage of $8.75 per hour with a merit raise between 40 and 60 cents after a year, union participation in building the stores and hiring employees from the community, said Ald. Anthony Beale, whose 9th Ward would be home to the Pullman Park store. The Pullman Park Development is the brainchild of Beale and will be a 270-acre mixed-use development located along the Bishop Ford Expressway at 111th Street. The 150,000-square-foot Walmart slated to anchor the retail portion is expected to be up and running by late 2012, officials for the Benton, Ark.-based retailer said. Preckwinkle, who is the Democratic nominee for President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, voted against the Chatham store but did vote for the Pullman Park store along with every other Black alderman including Ald. Freddrenna Lyle, whose 6th Ward covers portions of Chatham. However, Lyle was not present when the Chatham vote came up, so she did not cast a vote. But she said if she had been on the floor she would have voted against it. “I definitely would have voted no. Walmart has a history of pushing small businesses out the community and I am not in favor of that happening,” Lyle told the Defender. Mayor Richard M. Daley said he supports a Walmart expansion and encourages aldermen to work with the retailer to help bring jobs to their respected wards. “A Walmart store means more jobs and economic development and I am all for that,” Daley told the Defender. “Since its 2006 opening Walmart’s West Side store has generated $4 million in sales tax revenue for the city.” The 143,000-square-foot Chatham store would be located at a retail mall currently anchored by home improvement retailer Lowe’s at 83rd Street and Stewart Avenue. It is expected to open by December 2011, according to Steven Restivo, director of Community Affairs for Walmart Stores Inc. Both stores would sell groceries and fresh fruits, something badly needed in many Black communities, said Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), whose West Side ward has the only Walmart in town right now. “The store in my ward has a proven track record of nearly five years of Walmart working together with the community to build and operate a store that reflects the people it serves,” Mitts said. “I was quite surprised (to hear) that some members of the City Council stated that it is necessary to take a wait-and-see attitude with Walmart to see if their actions reflect their words.” Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender

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