Gerbounka’s ShopRite boycott is short-sighted and wrong

Voice of the People by James J. Devineby James Devine

LINDEN — Mayor Richard Gerbounka’s call for a boycott of the ShopRite store in Aviation Plaza is “unfair and uncalled for” according to store owners but it should be more disconcerting to taxpayers.

Gerbounka said he plans to ask Duke Realty, owners of the General Motors property across the highway from the ShopRite, for permission to post a sign on the fence asking residents not to shop in the grocery store.

Gerbounka, who is a retired city police captain who has been Mayor since 2007, used his 2011 State of the City speech to urge his constituents to boycott the ShopRite store because its owner filed a lawsuit to block the development of a new SuperWalmart.

The owners of ShopRite are trying to protect the survival of their business against a huge predator, trying to protect the jobs of loyal workers and trying to protect the city from lost tax revenue that would result when it and many other stores shut down.

Gerbounka thinks it is unfair for ShopRite to have the same legal rights that Walmart repeatedly exercised by suing local communities that had the nerve to turn them down.

There are 15 Walmarts within 20 miles of Linden, including store #3469 in Linden on Edgar Road, but it is doubtful that would remain if a SuperWalmart opens across the street on a 104 acre site that was once a General Motors facility.

Gerbounka is counting on $5.2 million in taxes that Walmart promised to pay Linden when it opens, but that amount will be lowered by the revenues lost when the company closes store #3469 on Edgar Road, when ShopRite leaves town and when a nearby PathMark is shuttered.

The Mayor should not only respect the free speech rights of ShopRite, which has a right to pursue legal avenues to stop Walmart, but he should heed taxpayers who object to the greedy coporation invading the city.

Linden Development, a subsidiary of Indiana-based Duke Realty, bought the site in late 2007 intending to build a mixed-use complex comprising retail, commercial, residential, industry and warehouses. Legacy Square, a 40,000-square-foot retail center, would be anchored by a big box stores.

Research also shows that the big-box giant’s promises of jobs and increased tax revenue can propel communities straight to poverty.

According to a landmark 2009 study by Loyola University, within two years of Walmart’s opening in Chicago’s struggling West Side in September 2006, 82 local stores went out of business.

Low wages put so many employees on public assistance, the cost of welfare benefits to Walmart workers is estimated at $3 billion a year.

Gerbounka’s call for a boycott is poor leadership. He would do better by joining ShopRite to block the openning of a new SuperWalmart.

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