For the folks in Burbank who oppose Walmart under any and all circumstances, a California court’s recent decision to halt construction on our new store in Burbank is cause for celebration.
But it is hardly good news for those in the construction industry who would benefit from hundreds of needed construction jobs, nor for Burbank residents who want the retail positions and expanded access to affordable goods that would accompany the opening of a Walmart in Burbank.
Our critics’ rationale for the delay is that the city must build certain traffic improvements before it issues a building permit to Walmart.
This ignores the fact that our building permit is no different from the more than 1,300 other building permits that have been issued over the past 12 years at the Empire Center. To understand their true motivation, one doesn’t have to look further than the attorney leading the charge. He has a track record of opposing us in places like Torrance and downtown Los Angeles, and worked with the United Food and Commercial Workers union and other labor interests to oppose us on this project and the one in downtown Los Angeles.
In all cases, his clients’ goal is not to do what is in the best interest of the community, but to stop Walmart at all costs.
In our conversations with residents, many express frustration with the fact that they have to travel to Walmart stores in Porter Ranch or Santa Clarita in order to access the products their families need. In fact, Burbank residents are currently spending close to $7 million at other Walmart stores in the surrounding area. That’s hundreds of thousands of sales tax dollars that are going to other municipalities. The Burbank Walmart would put that tax money into the city’s coffers.
We decided to open a store here because we knew local residents wanted good employment opportunities, a convenient place for one-stop shopping, and a new business to bolster the local economy.
Ironically, the groups that oppose our efforts to open a new Walmart often claim to share these very goals. But their actions only serve to undermine the city’s need to energize its economy and to improve its residents’ quality of life.
This injunction is no victory. It is a setback for the entire community.
STEVEN RESTIVO is senior director of community affairs for Walmart.