Dems Say No Thanks to Walmart Offer to Eliminate Food Desert

A recent Boston Globe headline reports: "City won't back a Walmart in Roxbury, Sees it hindering Dudley rebuilding."  (An offer to rebuild "hinders rebuilding"?)  According to the story:

Menino administration officials declined to endorse a plan to open a Walmart Neighborhood Market grocery store at the former Bartlett bus yard, a shuttered MBTA maintenance facility near Dudley Square, where food-shopping options are few.

In a sane world, politicians would jump at Walmart's offer to invest private capital (as opposed to Obama's "investments" of our money) into Boston's Roxbury neighborhood, which is 80% black and Hispanic, low-income, with high crime.  Actually, in a sane world, politicians wouldn't have the power to reject a commercial real estate project, so long as it conforms to basic safety standards.

Antipathy toward non-union Walmart is not new among Democrat pols who receive hefty union campaign donations.  The Globe reminds us that Walmart is seeking to open a store in Somerville, and that "that city's mayor, Joseph Curtatone, has raised questions about the retailer's labor policies."  I.e., its non-union labor policies.

The developer also cited concerns about having a "mix of retail uses," implying that Walmart would overwhelm the entire space. The Bartlett bus yard, however, is described as "a currently empty, 8.5 acre bus maintenance lot two blocks from Dudley Square." 8.5 acres is over 370,000 square feet and the average Walmart Neighborhood Market is around 42,000 square feet (one quarter the size of a Walmart Superstore), leaving plenty of room for other retail businesses.

The mayor's office issued more lame excuses: "Dudley Square is a unique and special place in the heart of the city, and we don't believe Walmart is in keeping with that uniqueness."  No, Bartlett Yard is a weed-infested vacant lot in the middle of a high crime zone.

The mayor also indicated that Tropical Foods (motto: "Folow [sic] our sun to savings) was planning to expand, and Walmart would present unfair competition.  Unfair to Tropical Foods, or to the residents of Roxbury?

This story of the usual political backscratching takes on a new level of corruption when we consider that Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign is devoted to eliminating this exact problem of limited "food-shopping options" (see AT article).  Back in February 2010, she said the following:

Twenty-three point five million Americans, including 6.5 million children, live in communities without a supermarket ... So, we're working with the private sector to reach a very ambitious goal, and that is to completely eliminate food deserts in this country.

Mrs. Obama announced what Treasury Secretary Geithner termed a "modest investment" of $400 million a year in the "Healthy Food Financing Initiative ... to provide innovative financing to bring grocery stores to underserved areas and help places such as convenience stores and bodegas carry healthier food options."

A food desert is defined as an area "where the closest supermarket is more than one mile" away, and the supermarket closest to Roxbury is the Stop & Shop on Tremont Street, 1.3 miles from Dudley Square.  You can check this out on the USDA's latest waste of money, an internet "Food Desert Locator" which locates food deserts on the campuses of Harvard, MIT, and Boston University.

Within walking distance of Dudley Square there are four grocery stores: Davey's Supermarket, Gina Grocery Store, Tropical Foods, and the Warren Supermarket.  Despite the word "supermarket," they are all mom & pop stores, struggling in a difficult market selling lottery tickets, and advertising for WIC and EBT clients.  There are easier ways to make money, and these small businesses are commendable.

These stores, however, are precisely the kind that Michelle Obama criticizes for having high prices and a shortage of fresh vegetables -- those "convenience stores and bodegas" she's offering to "help."

One might expect support from the mayor for a grocery chain using United Food and Commercial Workers International Union employees, like Stop & Shop, or Safeway.  The reality is potentially worse.  The developer of Bartlett Yard is an organization called Neustra Comunidad Development Corporation, described on their website:

In 1981, residents of the Dudley Square neighborhood in Roxbury created Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation to take control of the land, build new housing, and combine their energies to create a better future. Today, [NCDC] is one of Boston's oldest and most successful community development corporations.  [NCDC], with a 2010 annual operating budget of over six million dollars, is managed by 23 employees and a 13-member volunteer Board of Directors that represents the diverse communities we serve.

Twenty-three employees, and six million dollars a year for thirty years, and we get Roxbury?  One could argue with their definition of "successful."

A certain pattern seems to emerge if we look at the first grants issued through Michelle Obama's Healthy Food Financing Initiative last year:

Anacostia Economic Development Corporation, Washington, DC: $800,000 awarded to re-develop the 20,000 square foot Anacostia Warehouse into the Anacostia Foods Project, a full-service grocery store located in the low-income community of Ward 8.

Brightwood Development Corporation Springfield, MA: $799,980 awarded to support the Western Puerto Rico Food and Agro Processing Center project. [described on its website as "a non-profit community development organization."]

Coastal Enterprises, Inc. Wiscasset, ME: $800,000 awarded to expand the Growing Rural Energy and Environmental Networks Revolving Loan Fund (GREEN Fund), currently supporting five small businesses.

Canaan Community Development Corporation London, KY: $800,000 awarded to support the First Choice Market Project, which will place a supermarket in the heart of Park DuValle neighborhood of Louisville, KY.

Desert Alliance for Community Empowerment, Coachella, CA: $275,000 awarded to develop a small grocery market and Laundromat.

An example in Washington, D.C. might be what we can expect to see in Roxbury.  In addition to the federally funded Anacostia Foods Project, last year the D.C. government encouraged a supermarket to open in the underserved Anacostia River neighborhood:

To lure Yes! Organic to one of the least served parts of the city, our District Government is incentivizing the deal with a District's Supermarket Tax Credit Program and $900,000 Great Streets grant from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. 

Almost a million dollars plus tax credits and they get a 7,500-square-foot health food store.  I would hazard a guess that prices are lower at Walmart, not to mention that Walmart wouldn't ask for handouts.

Mrs. Obama talks about "working with the private sector."  I see a lot of non-profit "food projects," but not much private sector involvement -- i.e., "stores" -- in her Let's Move boondoggle.  Could it be that the whole thing is a slush fund for Mr. Obama's former associates in the community organizing racket?

A recent Boston Globe headline reports: "City won't back a Walmart in Roxbury, Sees it hindering Dudley rebuilding."  (An offer to rebuild "hinders rebuilding"?)  According to the story:

Menino administration officials declined to endorse a plan to open a Walmart Neighborhood Market grocery store at the former Bartlett bus yard, a shuttered MBTA maintenance facility near Dudley Square, where food-shopping options are few.

In a sane world, politicians would jump at Walmart's offer to invest private capital (as opposed to Obama's "investments" of our money) into Boston's Roxbury neighborhood, which is 80% black and Hispanic, low-income, with high crime.  Actually, in a sane world, politicians wouldn't have the power to reject a commercial real estate project, so long as it conforms to basic safety standards.

Antipathy toward non-union Walmart is not new among Democrat pols who receive hefty union campaign donations.  The Globe reminds us that Walmart is seeking to open a store in Somerville, and that "that city's mayor, Joseph Curtatone, has raised questions about the retailer's labor policies."  I.e., its non-union labor policies.

The developer also cited concerns about having a "mix of retail uses," implying that Walmart would overwhelm the entire space. The Bartlett bus yard, however, is described as "a currently empty, 8.5 acre bus maintenance lot two blocks from Dudley Square." 8.5 acres is over 370,000 square feet and the average Walmart Neighborhood Market is around 42,000 square feet (one quarter the size of a Walmart Superstore), leaving plenty of room for other retail businesses.

The mayor's office issued more lame excuses: "Dudley Square is a unique and special place in the heart of the city, and we don't believe Walmart is in keeping with that uniqueness."  No, Bartlett Yard is a weed-infested vacant lot in the middle of a high crime zone.

The mayor also indicated that Tropical Foods (motto: "Folow [sic] our sun to savings) was planning to expand, and Walmart would present unfair competition.  Unfair to Tropical Foods, or to the residents of Roxbury?

This story of the usual political backscratching takes on a new level of corruption when we consider that Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign is devoted to eliminating this exact problem of limited "food-shopping options" (see AT article).  Back in February 2010, she said the following:

Twenty-three point five million Americans, including 6.5 million children, live in communities without a supermarket ... So, we're working with the private sector to reach a very ambitious goal, and that is to completely eliminate food deserts in this country.

Mrs. Obama announced what Treasury Secretary Geithner termed a "modest investment" of $400 million a year in the "Healthy Food Financing Initiative ... to provide innovative financing to bring grocery stores to underserved areas and help places such as convenience stores and bodegas carry healthier food options."

A food desert is defined as an area "where the closest supermarket is more than one mile" away, and the supermarket closest to Roxbury is the Stop & Shop on Tremont Street, 1.3 miles from Dudley Square.  You can check this out on the USDA's latest waste of money, an internet "Food Desert Locator" which locates food deserts on the campuses of Harvard, MIT, and Boston University.

Within walking distance of Dudley Square there are four grocery stores: Davey's Supermarket, Gina Grocery Store, Tropical Foods, and the Warren Supermarket.  Despite the word "supermarket," they are all mom & pop stores, struggling in a difficult market selling lottery tickets, and advertising for WIC and EBT clients.  There are easier ways to make money, and these small businesses are commendable.

These stores, however, are precisely the kind that Michelle Obama criticizes for having high prices and a shortage of fresh vegetables -- those "convenience stores and bodegas" she's offering to "help."

One might expect support from the mayor for a grocery chain using United Food and Commercial Workers International Union employees, like Stop & Shop, or Safeway.  The reality is potentially worse.  The developer of Bartlett Yard is an organization called Neustra Comunidad Development Corporation, described on their website:

In 1981, residents of the Dudley Square neighborhood in Roxbury created Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation to take control of the land, build new housing, and combine their energies to create a better future. Today, [NCDC] is one of Boston's oldest and most successful community development corporations.  [NCDC], with a 2010 annual operating budget of over six million dollars, is managed by 23 employees and a 13-member volunteer Board of Directors that represents the diverse communities we serve.

Twenty-three employees, and six million dollars a year for thirty years, and we get Roxbury?  One could argue with their definition of "successful."

A certain pattern seems to emerge if we look at the first grants issued through Michelle Obama's Healthy Food Financing Initiative last year:

Anacostia Economic Development Corporation, Washington, DC: $800,000 awarded to re-develop the 20,000 square foot Anacostia Warehouse into the Anacostia Foods Project, a full-service grocery store located in the low-income community of Ward 8.

Brightwood Development Corporation Springfield, MA: $799,980 awarded to support the Western Puerto Rico Food and Agro Processing Center project. [described on its website as "a non-profit community development organization."]

Coastal Enterprises, Inc. Wiscasset, ME: $800,000 awarded to expand the Growing Rural Energy and Environmental Networks Revolving Loan Fund (GREEN Fund), currently supporting five small businesses.

Canaan Community Development Corporation London, KY: $800,000 awarded to support the First Choice Market Project, which will place a supermarket in the heart of Park DuValle neighborhood of Louisville, KY.

Desert Alliance for Community Empowerment, Coachella, CA: $275,000 awarded to develop a small grocery market and Laundromat.

An example in Washington, D.C. might be what we can expect to see in Roxbury.  In addition to the federally funded Anacostia Foods Project, last year the D.C. government encouraged a supermarket to open in the underserved Anacostia River neighborhood:

To lure Yes! Organic to one of the least served parts of the city, our District Government is incentivizing the deal with a District's Supermarket Tax Credit Program and $900,000 Great Streets grant from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. 

Almost a million dollars plus tax credits and they get a 7,500-square-foot health food store.  I would hazard a guess that prices are lower at Walmart, not to mention that Walmart wouldn't ask for handouts.

Mrs. Obama talks about "working with the private sector."  I see a lot of non-profit "food projects," but not much private sector involvement -- i.e., "stores" -- in her Let's Move boondoggle.  Could it be that the whole thing is a slush fund for Mr. Obama's former associates in the community organizing racket?

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