Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Anti-jobs "big box"ordinance passes Chicago City Council

Longtime Chicago Tribune sports columnist Bob Verdi often calls Chicago, in a play on words of Carl Sandburg's description of the town, the "City of broad shoulders and narrow trophy cases."

Now that the "living wage" ordinance focusing only on "big box" retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart has passed the Chicago City Council, the city's new moniker may end up being the "City of broad shoulders and empty storefronts."

A test case for my theory is the boondoggle known as the Gateway Shopping Center in Joe Moore's 49th Ward. Moore, the anti-foie gras zealot, was the main sponsor of the bill.

The bill passed the council by a surprisingly large margin, a veto-proof 35-14. However, Mayor Richard Daley could still veto the bill, forcing big labor to worry about a few defections as the Council attempts to override Daley's first veto in his 17 years as mayor.

It's easy to view Wal-Mart, Target, and Home Depot as the losers today. The real losers are the people who won't have jobs in the stores that won't be opening in Chicago. The "big boxes" have plans to put stores in the underserved areas of the city, with no viable retail presence there for the "big boxes" to displace.

Chicago will continue to tax revenue to the suburbs and the web. It's an old article, but in 2004 Crain's Chicago Business reported:

MetroEdge calculates that city dwellers spent $32 billion on retail goods in 2003, but only $25.5 billion of that amount was spent in the city. The remainder was spent elsewhere — anywhere from the suburbs to the Internet. The size of the gap is debatable; MetroEdge's sales estimates don't exactly match what the state reports. But what's beyond question is that the city of Chicago is understored.

Liberal activists, columnists, and bloggers are claiming Wal-Mart and Target are bluffing when the retail behemoths state they'll cut back or cancel their expansion moves into the Second City. My hunch is they're not. Look for Wal-Mart to create a "big box" necklace along the borders of America's third most-populous city if the "big box" ordinance stands.

The sales tax in Chicago for most goods is 9 percent, with 2.25 percent of each sale going into city coffers. If it's not sold in the city, the city collects nothing.

Chicago's first Wal-Mart will open next month on the impoverished West Side, employing about 450 people. Wal-Mart has told Chicago leaders that the retailer has plans--or had plans, I should say, to open 10 or 20 stores in the city. You do the math.

On the positive side, Wal-Mart Watch, the Service Employees International Union funded group, is looking to hire a press secretary. So a Wal-Mart opponent has one job to offer.

For more read Crazy Politico's Rantings, Bankrollers come first in Chicago, and McHenry County Blogs, Using government to do what unions can't.

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