In a unanimous decision the Long Beach City Council has voted to remove a ballot measure that would ban "big-box" superstores that sell groceries such as Wal-Mart. The monumental ordinance was passed last year, but because of "financial reasons" has decided to remove the ordinance from a public vote on Feb. 5th The council decided to vote against this because it would have cost the city $500,000 to keep it on the ballot for public vote during the statewide presidential primary ballot. The opposition to the bill came from none other than Wal-Mart who funded a coalition called the Long Beach Consumers for Choice. Wal-Mart funded a petition to be signed by residents which cited the $500,000 fee to keep this ordinance on the ballot. The petition was signed by more than the 20,613 needed to take the ordinance off the ballot.
The council specifically stated that this was not a victory for Wal-Mart, and that it simply came down to managing the few funds they had, and could use the $500,000 for something else the city needs. The council did say that they do admire what the bill stands for, and that they want to do everything they can to keep local businesses alive. Though paying the price for this was obviously too much. Rick Eiden of Local 324 said of the council
"We've seen the destruction of small businessess and quality jobs in our community, and that far outweighs the $500,000 the city would be putting forward to say we're going to stand up to a big corporation."324 has 3,000 members in Long Beach who would all be affected by the opening of a big box store.
"I cannot justify in these financial times, to spend $500,000 of our budget where we can use it in other places," said Councilman Val Lerch, who made the motion to repeal the law.
The city's $2.3 billion budget for the 2008 fiscal year that began Oct. 1 is estimated to be up to $10 million short of what is needed.
Even if the council had approved the ballot measure, the move likely would have been futile. Mayor Bob Foster announced Sunday that he would veto the measure if the council approved it.
Foster was quoted on Tuesday saying the council's vote wasn't a victory for Wal-Mart.