Letter: City of Burbank could improve shopping, dining choices

Gregory Krikorian's Dec. 18 op-ed piece about Walmart supported occupying empty buildings and staffing them with low-paid, part-time employees to boost employment statistics. His and other letters imply that what is most important is for Burbank citizens to be able to buy cheap merchandise and not see vacant buildings around the city.

Businesses do exist in order to make profits but they are dependent upon workers and obligated to provide decent working conditions. Workers have legal rights to protect them from unfair employment practices and should earn a living wage for their labor. Walmart has failed to recognize either. Many of us who oppose Walmart do so not because they sell cheap stuff but because of their long history of worker exploitation and unscrupulous business practices.

What is the city's rationale for proposing a Walmart next door to Costco, a very reputable company? A larger issue that has been neglected is why Burbank is unable to attract top quality retail stores and restaurants. If the City Council wants to keep shoppers' dollars in Burbank, they need to prioritize attracting higher quality establishments and improving the shopping and dining options. One only has to compare the Burbank Mall to the Glendale Americana. Where would you rather shop? Burbank has no top notch restaurants such as The Yard House, Wood Ranch, or Cheesecake Factory. Even our Macy's store is vastly inferior to the Macy's in Sherman Oaks or Glendale. The Burbank Mall is dirty and unattractive and even the pedestrian promenade at the AMC 16 is becoming neglected.

It is difficult to shop locally when the options are so limited. Clearly, more effective leadership is needed in attracting businesses that the majority of residents would want to patronize. The City Council needs to anticipate the future with the predicted demise of Sears, Kmart, Best Buy and Olive Garden. Yes, the vacant stores should be occupied, but by businesses that handle quality merchandise, provide shoppers a positive experience, and offer employees a living wage.

Thomas Saito

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