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Lawsuit Unlikely to Impede Wal-Mart

FILE: Walmart
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The lawsuit filed by the Save Our Neighborhood group against the City of Sioux Falls has only one chance of being successful. It is highly unlikely that the courts will provide the remedy that they are truly seeking.

The basis of the suit is that the City of Sioux Falls acted illegally when they didn’t coordinate with Lincoln County in annexing the land for the proposed Walmart site. Even if there isn’t some loophole that allowed the City to proceed in the way it did, there is ultimately nothing on the Lincoln County side of this from preventing the annexation from eventually going forward. At best this is a delaying tactic.

A new Walmart represents sales tax revenue that the City does not want to see located just outside its borders. There is a chance that a protracted lawsuit would make Walmart find a less contested location, but these sites are not just picked out of a hat. Walmart’s team has decided that this is the most profitable opportunity and you can bet that they are getting assurances from the City that this will all be over and done with soon.

A short term delay is not going to be enough to convince Walmart to seek greener pastures. It needs to buy time to get organized politically in an effort to change the makeup of the City Council. That is the only chance for a win here. Picking up one seat isn’t going to do it. They need half the Council to effectively block this contested Walmart from being built. Half of the seats will be up for grabs next spring, so it is possible.

Here is the problem. Most people just don’t care. They should care, but they can’t be bothered. In a previous piece, I outlined some of the problems associated with Walmart, and you should check out the 2005 documentary ‘Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices’ for a fuller treatment of the issues. Despite what Walmart’s commercials would have you believe, recent worker complaints demonstrate that nothing has improved since that documentary was made.

In theory, it shouldn’t be that hard to get the votes needed to win Council seats. If the dismally low turnout for the recent School Board election shows anything, it is that most people don’t give a hoot about local politics. A motivated group of citizens might just succeed if they can get enough people on their side and to the polls. After all, it isn’t as though there is a big public outcry demanding more Wal-Mart access.

The “not in my backyard” approach isn’t going to do it though. The case needs to be made that more Walmarts are bad for small businesses, employment, and the city as a whole, not just for one neighborhood on the south side.

If they choose to go the broader coalition route, opponents to the proposed Walmart would have the facts on their side, but the facts are rarely enough in politics. Dedication, effort and yes, money, are going to be required to convince the electorate and ultimately the Council and the Mayor, that the harm to workers and small business owners outweighs whatever net gains in sales tax revenues new Walmart’s might provide.

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