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Wednesday, July 11, 2007 | Red alert, red alert! Thanks to Donna Frye, Wal-Mart is going to inundate our city with their Supercenters! The “mom-and-Pop” neighborhood grocers and retailers will now vanish for good … not!

I think I can safely assume that, in her heart of hearts, Ms. Frye — who I actually like a lot, even though she and I are philosophically different — did not vote to uphold the mayor’s veto because of a love of Wal-Mart and the other “big boxes.” She and every other City Council member understand that they would lose badly in a public vote on whether government should limit the choice of consumers in a free market.

Yep, this is the Robert E. Lee who is running for city council in District 3 saying these things. But lest you start condemning me, please listen to my explanation. I do not have any especially strong feelings one way or the other about Wal-Mart in particular. Yes, I occasionally shop there. But I also patronize the small, neighborhood businesses. I live in Normal Heights just a block away from the Adams Avenue business district. I love the personal service, attention and the unique items and services that these little stores and restaurants provide. For me, it doesn’t have to be an either-or choice.

Finally, I would say that I agree with those who think that a Wal-Mart Supercenter just does not fit in what is District 3. But that’s what neighborhood organizing and activism is all about. That’s what the extremely detailed, onerous city planning-approval process is all about. If a Wal-Mart or any other “big box” doesn’t “fit” in a certain neighborhood or area of the city, it’s not going to happen, folks.

Oh, and by the way, since I know it will come up in your responses to this letter, I’m not antiunion, either. I grew up in a household with a father who was a Teamster for most of his working life. I remember him and his colleagues going out on strike a couple of times when I was growing up, trying to make a better living for our family.

In the meantime, though, let’s not stand in the way of consumer choice and the free market, huh?

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