Housing Complex

Gray: Just Kidding About That Whole Walmart Ultimatum Thing

Do or die?

While "on vacation," I was pretty shocked to see the news that Mayor Vince Gray had told Walmart it better open a store in his neighborhood, at Skyland Town Center, if it wanted to open anywhere else in the District–even threatening to withhold building permits as leverage.

For one thing, Walmart would have decent grounds to sue over that kind of move, and would likely win; building permits have to be issued based on zoning and code compliance, not the Mayor's whims. For another, it's not like Walmart has been holding back from opening stores, even east of the river: They're exploring pretty much every available location, and very few places are too poor or too underpopulated to plunk down a store with the world's lowest prices. Besides, Gray has been talking for months about getting an enforceable community benefits agreement based largely around local hiring. Why put his foot down on this issue, without talking about the rest of the things D.C. wants from Walmart?

Well, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins did his best to walk back his boss' comments, telling the Post editorial board that they had been made in "jest." Gray has a decent sense of humor, but it didn't sound like he was joking here.

Adding to the confusion of this whole incident, one of the people in the Walmart meeting says the Post story was off base. "That's so not true," says Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander. "From my perspective, it was more of a negotiation with Walmart that we wanted a city-wide [community benefits agreement]. If they’re not able to do that, then maybe they’re not able to do business in D.C."

The city-wide CBA is under review, and will be presented to the full Council in the next week or so.

Meanwhile, Walmart is just going to keep on keeping on, waiting—like the rest of Ward 7—for the city to work out all the kinks at Skyland.

"From our standpoint, we’re just going to continue what we’ve been doing around that site," says Walmart spokesman Steve Restivo.

  • MadWard7Resident

    CM Yvette Pig Feet Alexander is just a puppet for Vince Gray! Ms.Piggy needs to share who paid for her trip to Vegas....Walmart!

    Vince Gray was not joking.....he only cares about his Hillcrest Community (Goldcoast of Southeast) ! The already have a grocery store and other shops in Hillcrest.

    Can that other part of Southeast get some development?
    It is selfish of Vinny to throw a money wrench in the game. All of the hard work by ANC commissioners in Ward 7 is going down the drain!

    Trust ans believe they will pay for this drama at the polls! Ms. Yvette Piglet Alexander.... your time is up!

    Oh....if you already do not know...Hill East and Rosedale hates your pink guts!

  • Truth Hurts

    Alexander's version doesn't sound much different from what Gray said (before he "explained" he was only "joking").

    And why is Hoskins, rather than Gray, telling WaPo Gray didn't mean what he said?

    This mayor does not have legal authority to tell business owners where they can (or can't) open outlets in DC, so long as they're not seeking taxpayer subsidies or violating DC laws/regulations.

  • Sally

    Who will be referring Gray's extortion threats to the Inspector General so that Willoughby will do nothing?

    One City, Fifth Amendment, Zero Standards.

  • hillman

    Grays comments were shockingly stupid. Any decent lawyer could easily reference this in all sorts of legal actions against the city any time developers feel they are getting blowback from the city on a project.

    And I don't believe he was joking. Even if it was a joke, other developers may not find the humor in a mayor suggesting he will deny legally obtainable building permits as some sort of political extortion.

    In short, very stupid move in an environment where every job counts.

  • briefly

    The other explanation for the walkback is Walmart found a way to bribe him (other than building at Skyland), which would ultimately be cheaper than fighting the thing out. Envelopes of cash via Sulaimon maybe?

  • deedle

    Poor Walmart, so frail, such a small, struggling enterprise, so sensitive to criticism. That mean old Mayor, how can he pick on lil' ol' Walmart.

    Oh, did he say he wanted them to open MORE stores? Never mind, then.

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