Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Anti-jobs "big box"ordinance passes Chicago City Council

Crossposted on Marathon Pundit.

Longtime Chicago Tribune sports columnist Bob Verdi often calls Chicago, in a play on words of Carl Sandburg's description of the town, the "City of broad shoulders and narrow trophy cases."

Now that the "living wage" ordinance focusing only on "big box" retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart has passed the Chicago City Council, the city's new moniker may end up being the "City of broad shoulders and empty storefronts."

A test case for my theory is the boondoggle known as the Gateway Shopping Center in Joe Moore's 49th Ward. Moore, the anti-foie gras zealot, was the main sponsor of the bill.

The bill passed the council by a surprisingly large margin, a veto-proof 35-14. However, Mayor Richard Daley could still veto the bill, forcing big labor to worry about a few defections as the Council attempts to override Daley's first veto in his 17 years as mayor.

It's easy to view Wal-Mart, Target, and Home Depot as the losers today. The real losers are the people who won't have jobs in the stores that won't be opening in Chicago. The "big boxes" have plans to put stores in the underserved areas of the city, with no viable retail presence there for the "big boxes" to displace.

Chicago will continue to tax revenue to the suburbs and the web. It's an old article, but in 2004 Crain's Chicago Business reported:

MetroEdge calculates that city dwellers spent $32 billion on retail goods in 2003, but only $25.5 billion of that amount was spent in the city. The remainder was spent elsewhere — anywhere from the suburbs to the Internet. The size of the gap is debatable; MetroEdge's sales estimates don't exactly match what the state reports. But what's beyond question is that the city of Chicago is understored.

Liberal activists, columnists, and bloggers are claiming Wal-Mart and Target are bluffing when the retail behemoths state they'll cut back or cancel their expansion moves into the Second City. My hunch is they're not. Look for Wal-Mart to create a "big box" necklace along the borders of America's third most-populous city if the "big box" ordinance stands.

The sales tax in Chicago for most goods is 9 percent, with 2.25 percent of each sale going into city coffers. If it's not sold in the city, the city collects nothing.

Chicago's first Wal-Mart will open next month on the impoverished West Side, employing about 450 people. Wal-Mart has told Chicago leaders that the retailer has plans--or had plans, I should say, to open 10 or 20 stores in the city. You do the math.

On the positive side, Wal-Mart Watch, the Service Employees International Union funded group, is looking to hire a press secretary. So a Wal-Mart opponent has one job to offer.

Also on Marathon Pundit: A review of Senator Ted Kennedy's children's book, and information on my ,Thursday radio appearance.


Anonymous,  7:39 PM  

But John, the ordinance doesn't apply to storefronts. If anything, the storefronts will be full, while the big boxes will be empty.

if you're going to coin a phrase, at least make sure it's accurate.

John Ruberry 9:31 PM  

It's called a metaphor...If you coin a phrase, it has to be concise.

Thanks for bringing up the fact that the "living wage" ordinance only applies to massive stores.

Anonymous,  10:43 PM  

John, you don't even live in Chicago. If you want more Wal-Marts, go to your city council and asked that one be placed in your neighborhood. I'm sure your neighbors will be supportive.

If you want to influence Chicago alderman, move back to the city and get involved instead of being just another armchair quarterback from the suburbs.

Bill Baar 9:10 AM  


You really think supporters, yourself included, don't wnat to see this spread through out Illinois?

Or is the moral wage tax just something we're going to impose on African Americans unfortunate to live in communities without much retail services.

I think it's a bit dishonest to say this isn't a model ordinance supporters wish to see spread wider.

John Ruberry 9:39 AM  

Although they're in different municipalities, there's a Sam's Club to the east about three miles away, a Wal-Mart (very close to the city limits, mind you), two miles to the south, and another Wal-Mart (under-construction) three miles to the west.

Skinner's point is perfect. Unions, who for the most part continue to hemmorage members, are using government to achieve---and the hell with everyone else---what they've failed at on the bargaining table, or by organzing.

Sam Walton,  9:47 AM  

"Or is the moral wage tax just something we're going to impose on African Americans unfortunate to live in communities without much retail services."

oooh. Someone's been reading his Limbaugh Letter.

John Ruberry 11:10 AM  

Tell that to Ald. Carrothers.

Bill Baar 11:50 AM  

Well Sam Walton, tell us: is this ordinace a model for the rest of Illinois?

Or just something that stays in Chicago?

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