This Week in Walmart News
Since there's enough news about Walmart to fill a blog all by itself, I think I'll start doing a digest once in a while. Here's what we learned this week:
Walmart may be all about everyday low prices, but it's not skimping on its local help: Along with David Wilmot, the company has retained Venable's Claude Bailey, who can be found sitting in the back of the room at most community meetings. As general counsel to the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, Bailey oversaw the construction of the Nationals Ballpark, Washington Convention Center, and Verizon Center. And he appears to be well-known in D.C. government circles, greeting people like the Department of Public Works' Bill Howland and DCRA's Nick Majett with grins and backslaps.
- Last week, the developer for the Ward 5 Walmart submitted his large tract review application before speaking with the Office of Planning, which director Harriet Tregoning says is unprecedented in her tenure. Tregoning met with the development team on Tuesday, and told me she thinks she'll be able to work with them to improve how the store addresses the street on New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road, as well as access for pedestrians and bicyclists.
- A workforce development plan is coming together with the University of the District of Columbia and the Department of Employment Services. Although Walmart would fund the program, it's starting to look like the company will be outsourcing its employee training to the District government, in a model that could be replicated for other large retailers. "They've got the logistics to run it," says Walmart community affairs guy Keith Morris, referring to UDC and DOES.
- Although Ward 4 has been most outspoken in its opposition to a Walmart on Georgia Avenue, Ward 7 community groups are perhaps the most organized and unified. The local ANCs and civic associations have put together a draft community benefits agreement with things like funding for scholarships and workforce development programs that would become a legally binding component of the planned unit development that has to be okayed by the Zoning Commission. Right now, that agreement only includes the co-developers, A&R Development and the D.C. Housing Authority, though local leaders hope to bring Walmart into it as well.
- Unfortunately for them, Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander doesn't seem to know how to enforce these kinds of agreements, even if they do become binding. "Whether someone upholds the law is a tricky question that we don't have any control over," she told constituents last night. "Do people follow the law? We hope they do. But sometimes they don't follow the law." Um, councilmember, isn't that your job?