I’ve been following this “Walmart attempts the District” thing over the past few weeks. Long story short, Walmart is trying to open four locations in the city, one just a few blocks away from our place. I’m pretty indifferent to the whole thing – I have a Safeway less than a few blocks away, and I’ve always considered Walmart pretty overwhelming. But there’s no doubt this store can be a lifesaver in an area where there isn’t much else around. So despite Walmart’s poor reputation among people who don’t shop (can afford not to shop) at Walmart, the project has people saying things like this:
Paul McElligott, executive director of the Perry School Community Services Center, spoke of the dire need for employment—his organization has in previous years placed around 25 people in jobs per month, but only averaged seven in 2010. “All things considered, this project is a benefit,” he said.
Yvonne Williams, chair of the Board of Trustees for Bible Way Church—which has built hundreds of low-income apartments right across the street from the proposed Walmart, and is at work on 60 more—brought 50 signatures in favor of the project from local residents, and says they desperately need more affordable groceries than what they can get in CityVista Safeway and NoMa Harris Teeter (Bible Way had tried to run a supermarket itself years ago, and failed. Now, according to St. Aloysius' Father Thomas Clifford, a local non-profit runs buses for seniors to a Walmart out in Maryland.)
“We’ve been praying for food in our neighborhood for 40 years,” Williams said. “We need Walmart here to meet the needs of our residents.”
Anyway, there was a community meeting last week in my neighborhood. And the Mt. Vernon Triangle blog’s report reminded me* of home:
You come to expect some irrational comments at a forum like this. However the low point of the evening for me was a member of our ANC6C PZ&E committee yelling at the Brig Owens about his Virginia residency status. He repetitively barked in a hostile tone “You don’t live here” and “Why don’t you move to DC?” There are alot of different legitimate stances on the Walmart project, but what’s the purpose of expecting everyone connected to it to live inside the District. A tad disappointing to see a member of a committee that evaluates ANC 6C Zoning projects be so caught up in xenophobia rather than the merits of the project or the credentials of the developer.
*(Particular episode that this reminded me of is outlined here. Courtesy Monica Conyers).