Wal-Mart battles opposition in New Mexico
The Mercado Group that owns the property at SR 528 and Corrales Road will again face the River’s Edge One Neighborhood Association in court on January 28. The case was reassigned to District Judge William Sanchez in Los Lunas after District Judge Camille Olguin recused herself from the case late last year. Judge Sanchez will reconsider a motion for summary judgement on the validity of REONA restrictive covenants that would prevent a building the size of the 190,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter proposed for the site by the Mercado group.
REONA also seeks a judgement to bring the city of Rio Rancho into the case as an “indispensible partner” (however unwilling), since Mercado’s countersuit claims that they were coerced into agreeing to the covenants by a former Rio Rancho economic-development director who they allege had a conflict of interest due to romantic involvement with someone from REONA. Unless Judge Sanchez declares the covenants valid and enforceable, the case will be scheduled to go to trial on April 21.
One impetus for Rio Rancho’s push for rapid development is to become a large enough city to attract “big box” stores like Wal-Mart. Gross receipts taxes from large retail outlets would theoretically pay for the infrastructure (roads, water, schools, etc.) required to attract them in the first place.
Wal-Mart has offered this insidious bargain to hundreds of locations worldwide during its rise to the status of world’s largest corporation. Along the way it has been criticized for relying on foreign sweatshop labor, union busting, and making it impossible for small businesses to compete. In recent months, Wal-Mart has also been accused of using illegal immigrant labor. An audit by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of twenty-five thousand employees (Wal-Mart associates) uncovered thousands of labor violations, including minors working during school hours and workers not taking breaks or lunch.
Labor unrest at competing grocery stores in California where until recently union workers were paid a livable wage and provided with health insurance is blamed on Wal-Mart’s competitive edge in labor costs.
There have been several battles to stop Wal-Mart in the Albuquerque area and some residents of Taos are currently opposing a “Supercenter.” [See www.lajicarita.org for details.]
A Roswell businessman, Joe Chumley, was arrested at Wal-Mart while protesting unfair competition from the retail giant. In the January 19 Roswell Record, Melissa Hilgaman reported:
Around noon Saturday, 35 Farmers’ [Country Market] employees and customers gathered at Wal-Mart’s doors and protested the business which opened March 18, 2003. The disturbance followed a similar demonstration Friday, in which Chumley, 63, was thrown out of the Roswell Wal-Mart for handing out a two-dollar bill to anyone who wanted one—which is rumored to have been his trademark for at least 15 years. Christina Lucero, 26, who was present at the protest described the scene after the police arrived, “Chumley kept saying ‘They’re going to arrest me.’ He told the cops he wasn’t leaving because he has freedom of speech. The cop told him he was under arrest. He didn’t understand why and they threw him on top of the cop car,” she said. “At that time Chumley started screaming, saying he had pain in his hand. He was yelling out that he was in pain 'You broke my arm.’ The cop didn’t really give him a chance to explain, he just threw him in the car. They didn’t give a crap.”
During the chaos, police and Wal-Mart employees instructed all media to leave the scene, and a Wal-Mart assistant manager, who would only be identified as “James,” referred all questions to a corporate office which could not be reached.
Chumley entered a not-guilty plea in the Roswell Municipal Court where he was charged with resisting arrest and criminal trespassing. The Signpost was unable to contact Chumley for a statement.
Name Game—Part 2
Four years ago the Signpost printed the Name Game’s first twenty-four contestants. I invited all to contribute, but so far only one person has volleyed. My personal collection continues to grow. On the earlier list we found people like the following:
- Country singer: Aiken Hartt
- Farmer: Earl E. Reiser
- Comedian: Whittier Daniel Everbee
- Nashville art critic: Purdy Goode
Now there are a few new folks in town:
- Starbucks VP: Zapata Coffey
- Speed freak: Beth Anne Fettterman
- Cheerleader: Hugh Ray Urey
- Wishy-washy politician:
- Mayor May Knott
- Salvation Army Christmas
- Volunteer: Isabelle Ringer
- Sentimentalist: Maude Lynn
- Camp cook: Russell Grubb
- Editor: Perry Graff
- Mystery writer: Paige Turner
- Furniture refinisher: Lynn C. Doyle
- Veterinarian: Farrell Katz
- Cat lover: Claude Couch
- Smog specialist: Hayes E. Skye
- Aging hippie: Herb Gardiner
- Saudi prodigal son: Ben Manni Ammoun
- Chronic felon: Skip Towne
- Bargain hunter: Lois Price
- Scriptwriter (The Terminator): Al B. Bach
- Concerned friend: Joachim Holme
- Temperance agitator: Eureka Viskey
- Pigeon hater: B.B. Gunn