Wal-Mart flexing initiative power
November 24, 2011
Tired of opposition to its expansion, Wal-Mart is exploiting California’s initiative system to intimidate elected officials with threats of costly special elections, and to sidestep lawsuits originating with environmental groups. [CaliforniaWatch]
Using paid signature gatherers, the Arkansas-based retail giant plans to secure signatures from 15 percent of eligible voters in any given area. State law then will tie hands of city council members, who will be forced to either approve the store construction proposal, or put the question to a special electoral test, often at substantial cost to the community.
Wal-Mart officials have grown weary of constant civic combat, which comes from those who worry about existing small businesses, and unions, who are critical of the retailers’ low employee pay .
The company also utilizes the initiative process to fend off environmental lawsuits; once their ballot initiative qualifies, litigation regarding inadequate mitigation is off the table.
San Diego city officials this year repealed the city’s own superstore regulations when confronting an election that could have cost as much as $3.4 million.