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Queens Chronicle

It’s only fair to welcome Walmart

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Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2011 12:00 am

For more than 30 years the small business community has supported the Queens Chronicle, and we have supported the small business community. Like any free paper, the Chronicle simply wouldn’t exist without revenue from advertisers, most of them independent or small chains. In fact, Queens itself would not exist as we know it without our beloved mom-and-pop shops.

Now some members of the business community — not all, but some — are worried about the possibility of Walmart opening its first store in the city. They should be concerned. There’s no doubt that when a superstore offering rock-bottom prices challenges an independent shop that pays more wholesale than the big store charges at the register, the little guy can’t compete.

But that’s the price of economic freedom. New companies are constantly emerging and growing while many older ones fail. Growth in technology, shifts in consumer tastes, the modernization of faraway countries and other factors all drive changes that few can predict. Even Walmart started as a single store in Arkansas — back when Sears was nearly as dominant in retail as Walmart is now, and had been in business far longer. But Sam Walton’s outfit did better, and became the world’s largest retailer by far.

Now a misguided minority, led by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the retail union, is trying to use brute political force and scare tactics to keep Walmart from opening a store in the city. They’re utilizing tired old arguments about low salaries, mistreated workers and market dominance to rile up the public. Their motives, techniques and false claims to represent the little guy have been disgraceful. All they represent is elitism and favoritism.

And they’re failing: More than 70 percent of residents want a Walmart here. They know it’s one thing to limit, for example, the size and location of stores. It’s another thing altogether to try to keep a particular company out. That’s the kind of thing you expect in authoritarian countries like Russia, or the old Soviet Union.

Other big box stores such as Home Depot, Costco, Sears and Target, one of Walmart’s chief competitors, are in the city. There was no uproar over their opening. McDonald’s is here, and it pays entry-level workers far less than Walmart. No uproar there either.

New Yorkers spend $162 million a year at Walmarts in the suburbs. Shifting that spending to the city would mean another $6 million a year in needed tax revenue. A single store could provide more than 400 jobs. That’s not counting the construction jobs needed to build it — which Walmart pledged will be a union project.

Fairness dictates that Walmart be treated like anyone else. And that American citizens shop where they wish. Let’s see the world’s No. 1 retailer finally open up in the world’s No. 1 city.

Limit state terms

Thirty-eight years upstate. Thirty-one years. Twenty-nine years. Prison terms for murder? No. Those are, respectively, the tenures in the state Legislature of ex-Sen. Frank Padavan, the late ex-Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio and, so far, incumbent Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn, all of Queens.

Those are just three examples of the tenures entrenched lawmakers in Albany often serve. They’re among the longer ones, but they’re far from unique in the capital.

This has to stop. Albany needs fresh thinking, not career lawmakers. Now reformist state Sen. Tony Avella is pushing a bill for 16-year term limits. It’s a long overdue measure we hope will pass, despite the odds against it.

Welcome to the discussion.