Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wal-Mart in Mexico and the US

Photo by Ron Raedle for Getty Images
When Wal-Mart expands in Mexico, it simply bribes government officials to get its way, as the story in this morning's NY Times lays out in great detail (The Bribery Aisle: How Wal-Mart Got Its Way in Mexico)---19 stores were located in Mexico by bribing Mexican officials. 
But when it wants to expand in the US, Wal-Mart has to be more sophisticated, which means it has to try to twist the political process to its advantage, as Will Evans reported last month in Bay Citizen and California Watch:

Wal-Mart has said the strategy is necessary to avoid politically motivated lawsuits under the California Environmental Quality Act. Voter-approved ballot measures that stem from petitions are exempt from environmental review and protected from CEQA lawsuits. Wal-Mart argued that when a city approves one of its petitions without an election, the project would be protected, too.

Mexico doesn't have a pesky CEQA for developers to worry about, but it does have zoning laws and permits required before a project gets okayed. What were Mexican officials worried about in Teotihuacan, along with the fact that the Wal-Mart store is next to an ancient pyramid? Traffic:
There were obvious reasons for traffic regulators to balk at Wal-Mart’s permit request. Traffic, of course, was one of Teotihuacán’s biggest headaches, and a supermarket at the main entrance would only make matters worse. But there was a far bigger complication. The town had recently approved a long-term plan to ease congestion. The plan called for building a bypass road through Mrs. Pineda’s alfalfa field.
Scott Wiener and Leah Shahum may wish California would dump CEQA and just go back to the Wal-Mart way of dealing with obstacles to their favorite projects: backroom deals, perverting the political process, and bribery. 

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Jennifer Friedenbach now in the city "family"

Photo by Lea Suzuki for the SF Chronicle

If you hang around long enough in San Francisco, the media will eventually legitimize you or your organization. The Chronicle's soft-focus profile of Jennifer Friedenbach and the Coalition on Homelessness is the latest example, and the story was by Kevin Fagan, of all people, who did the fine Shame of the City series on homelessness in San Francisco back in 2003. Fagan's  homeless series was largely descriptive, but C.W. Nevius picked up the issue and wrote about the political and policy implications, much to the anger of the city's left and Friedenbach.

Fagan gives Friedenbach too much credit, since for years she---and Paul Boden before her---and the coalition opposed everything the city has tried to do to deal with the growing squalor on our streets and in our parks:

"The outside world tends to think that we're just a reactionary organization, but we see the coalition as a place where people---and that mostly means homeless people---can come and create change," said Jennifer Friedenbach, the 46-year-old director of the coalition. "And I'd say we've done quite a bit to help create solutions."

Maybe it's different now, but Friedenbach was zealously obstructionist in the past. As Gavin Newsom left office as Mayor of San Francisco, the Chronicle acknowledged how successful his homeless policies had been in moving more than 12,000 homeless people off the streets of the city:

Outgoing San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has moved more homeless people into supportive housing in his seven years in office than any other mayor in the city's history---and has one of the best track records of any mayor in the country on that score..."In terms of housing homeless people, he probably has the best record of any mayor in the history of the United States," said Randy Shaw, who runs the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and operates many of Newsom's hotels for formerly homeless people.

Jennifer Friedenbach's estimate of Newsom's achievement? "He's promoted hatred against homeless people."

Friedenbach on Newsom's Community Justice Court, which has been a success in dealing with quality-of-life problems:  "He's made it clear that all along he's been wanting to criminalize homeless people."

And Friedenbach on sit-lie: "It's just this big power grab by the mayor."

Odd, by the way, that Fagan's piece on the Coalition on Homelessness appears the day before a front-page article in the Chronicle on a young woman who's applying on a daily basis the idea behind Newsom's successful Project Homeless Connect program.

City progressives have accepted Friedenbach's extreme views on the city's homeless policies, which have reinforced the left's mythology on homelessness in San Francisco.

Chris Daly consistently had a similarly simplistic view of Newsom and homelessness, here and here.

And Tim Redmond, political editor of the Bay Guardian, maintains the left's delusional perspective on Care Not Cash and the homeless issue.

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