Perhaps you missed this news item the other day: Mayor Vince Gray is telling Wal-Mart they can locate themselves where he wants, or else he'll blow up their plans to build in D.C. Someone needs to tell him that he's not a member of a protection racket:
At a retail convention in Las Vegas, Gray and five D.C. Council members met with Wal-Mart executives Monday. He says the company should build a fifth store to redevelop the Skyland complex in southeast Washington — beyond the four sites Wal-Mart has proposed.
Gray told the company it could build five stores or none at all.
Yes, five stores are better than four, but even better to let businesses make business decisions for themselves. It would be one thing is Wal-Mart were getting subsidies to build in D.C. Although they do that in many places, they are not doing it here. So this isn't a threat to withold a favor, but rather simple extortion by the D.C. government.
I am familiar with two of the four locations Wal-Mart has proposed. They can be chartitably referred to as "blighted," and a WalMart with an urban design (no huge box store or parking lot, but a sidewalk-front store with underground parking) would do them each a lot of good. What's more, Wal-Mart is not just trying to locate itself in posh areas where it will only serve the well-to-do. All four locations are going to serve working-class neighborhoods that are mostly black, some of which are currently considered "food deserts" because there aren't enough affordable grocery options (another problem that Wal-Mart will fix).
Mayor Gray has been offered lemonade, and he's turning it into lemons. He thinks he has the leverage to make these threats. I sure hope he's right, because I'm tired of having to get in my car and drive for an hour into the 'burbs if I want to buy anything. Does the mayor prefer for us to spend our money outside the city and create jobs in Maryland and Virginia?