Norman vs. Wal-Mart

Nationally recognized Wal-Mart opponent debates corporation's spokesperson

The “guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement” faced off with a spokesperson from the national chain at Thursday’s luncheon meeting of the Hood River Rotary Club.

Al Norman, author of “Slam-Dunking Wal-Mart,” arrived in Hood River to take on Amy Hill, Wal-Mart community affairs director for the western region, over the giant retailer’s controversial plans to build a 185,000 square foot Supercenter at the junction of Frankton and Country Club roads.

“It’s not how big you grow, it’s how you grow big,” said Norman, who upheld that the proposed new Wal-Mart was “sprawl’s last hurdle” in Hood River County. He said action recently taken by both city and county officials now restricted the size of commercial buildings to 50,000 square feet.

“There are more than 3,000 Wal-Marts but there is only one Hood River and there are two things wrong with this project — it is the wrong size and in the wrong place,” said Norman.

Hill said Wal-Mart needed the bigger store in Hood River to meet a growing customer demand but would “far exceed” its standard architectural plans for that facility. She said the final designs would be submitted to the county by June 14 and include a topographical layout that would use landscaped buffers to screen the store.

“I think you will find that it will be very compatible,” said Hill. “Like other businesses we want to expand and grow to meet the needs of our customers.”

To Norman’s charge that the larger Wal-Mart would take away jobs by endangering small businesses, Hill countered that the expanded enterprise would provide 200 additional employment opportunities.

“We are not new to Hood River, we have been part of the community since 1992,” said Hill.

Hill’s assertion that Wal-Mart only had 189 “dark” stores which had been vacated for bigger facilities was refuted by Norman, who claimed the retailer had more than 400 “dead” retail outlets, many of which were left empty to ward off competitors.

“This is a company that doesn’t believe bigger is better, this is a company that believes bigger is everything,” said Norman.

Hill said, “There is no doubt in my mind there will be a new use for our existing store quite readily.”

When asked whether Wal-Mart would relocate if the application was denied, Hill became evasive and said, “We hope not. At this time we don’t have plans to do anything but the reality remains that our store is too small to serve our customers.”

Norman contended that the 72,000 square foot existing Wal-Mart provided sufficient floor space and said, as it was, the company only paid the city $23,000 per year in property taxes — a small return for the threat it brought to the local economy.

“Anyone who reads the comprehensive plan for the county will realize this is a bad fit, it just doesn’t make sense,” said Norman, describing the Supercenter plans as “frivolous and arbitrary.”

Hill claimed that Wal-Mart had turned over nearly $50,000 in charitable contributions to the Hood River community within the past year and a total of $200 million nationwide.

“We believe our growth represents the changing needs of the community and the real reality is that our associates in Hood River hear every day from customers how glad they are to have us here,” Hill said.

Norman was brought from Massachusetts for the two-day visit to Hood River by the Citizens for Responsible Growth, a land-use watchdog group dedicated to promoting sustainable development.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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