A good compromise

Council was right to expect more from Walmart

Those who are clucking at the Chico City Council for asking Walmart to increase the benefits of its expansion project are missing the point. The council had no choice but to negotiate a better deal with the mega-corporation. It was that or turn the expansion down cold.

Why? Because so many people in Chico oppose having a Walmart supercenter in town. A vote in favor of the project as presented would have alienated this group and contributed to further polarization between its members and Walmart supporters. In addition, most of the Walmart opponents voted for the current council majority. They would have seen outright approval of the project as a slap in the face, and the council majority would have lost the trust of a key constituency as it pursues its goals in other areas, such as reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in Chico.

The five members of the council majority were within their rights to tell Walmart—the biggest corporation in the world, remember—that they didn’t believe the benefits of the project outweighed its negative impacts. As Councilman Scott Gruendl put it, Walmart needed to “step up” and provide additional benefits to the community, in terms of solving potential traffic problems, preserving jobs and offsetting air pollution, before they could make a finding of “overriding considerations” to support the project.

Clearly, the council members didn’t want to nix the project outright. They’re willing to approve the expansion, if Walmart shows it’s willing to “be a good neighbor,” as one member put it.

Those who attended the final Walmart meeting had to come away impressed by the thoughtfulness of the council members’ discussion. All of them—including Larry Wahl, who represented the pro-Walmart position with skill and passion—asked probing questions and offered intelligent perspectives. The people of Chico were well represented.