Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'll never get Salem's Mayor Driscoll

I always hear how great she is by other party activists and I know people in Salem love her, but stuff like this baffles me.

The plan submitted to the Salem Planning Board would demolish the present Walmart and construct another building about 50 percent larger, with 611 parking spaces. The Lowe's facility would encompass 153,000 square feet, including a garden center. It would have 378 parking spaces.

Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll has been supportive of the project that the Everett-based Kennedy Development Group claims will create 105 new jobs and produce $225,000 in annual tax revenue. Aspects of the project were first proposed publicly over two years ago and informally for nearly two decades, at least where Salem's need for a new municipal water tower are concerned.
First off, the Kennedy Development Group is full of it. They can spout all the numbers they like, but until they talk about the costs, no one else should give them the time of day. The fact of the matter is the Big Box stores like Wal-Mart and Lowe's don't actually create new jobs or tax revenue, they just cannibalize what's already there in the economy, sucking it up from the small businesses and spitting it out to national and international investors and stock holders.

We know this now and we've known it for a pretty long time.
That Mayor Driscoll never questions these kinds of things is a big mistake for Salem.

None of this is to say Mayor Driscoll doesn't have her strong points -- she's eminently approachable, kind and she gets out there. I can speak from experience on that. She's done lots to make the symbiotic relationship that exists between Salem and Salem State work best for both parties. Salem's been doing well over the past few years and I have no doubt she deserves a lot of the credit.

However, for whatever reason, she's unapologetic about her support for Big Boxes seemingly all over the place, many of which will compete with Salem's hugely important small business community. If she keeps at it, it's these sorts of things which could kill the uber-cool Downtown Salem. It seems like she's stuck somewhere between the '80s and '90s when it comes to this issue -- don't we know better by now? Shouldn't she?


Anonymous said...

One of the best Mayors in the commonwealth. A former friend of Devals.

Gladys Kravitz said...

She never saw a casino she didn't like either... Simply put, casinos and the Salem brand go so well together.


Anonymous said...

Even if the big stores only transfer revenue that's already there, as a consumer I get better prices. If Joe's hardware can't compete, he'll go under. Do you ever shop at WalMart, or Home Depot?

Anonymous said...

Kim Driscoll is a great Mayor. She has overseen major change downtown and her willingness to tell Deval Patrick to screw when necessary sets her apart from the spineless democrats in the commonwealth

Ryan said...

Anon 12:11,

It may benefit you on a personal level (though, again, it may not), but at a societal level, it's an Epic Fail. A Big Box generally sucks up 2 jobs for every job it creates, whereas a small business generally creates an additional job for every job created. When we lose those jobs, that effects the entire economy -- with the reverberations felt everywhere in the local area, quite likely including where you work. Additionally, while WalMart may have cheaper prices, they have a poorer selection and have such a strong power over their suppliers (even the biggest ones) that they can single-handidly force them to completely change their practices, such as forcing them to close their American factories to open up Chinese ones, often accompanied by a severe reduction in quality... or led in our children's toys. This is to speak nothing of environmental consequences, traffic consequences, or increased crime.

As for you purity test -- no, I don't shop at WalMart. The last time I've purchased something there was in 2005 or 2006 -- a pair of socks. I don't think I've ever purchased anything at Home Depot...


Anon 1:45 -- I'm not saying she's not a great Mayor, but her support for Big Boxes and 2 local casinos threatens to seriously and irreversibly undermine what she's done with the Downtown area. The Big Box expansion on Highland Ave is bad enough, but casinos at Wonderland and Suffolk Downs would absolutely devastate Downtown Salem. It's days as an area-magnate and cool and huge tourist stop would almost certainly be over within a few years of those casinos.

David Moisan said...

I'd be OK with just the Wal-Mart project, but I thought having a Lowe's would be reaching, due to the housing bubble.

Thing to remember about downtown shopping, and the shopping on Highland Ave. is that these two areas evolved very differently. Highland Ave became the default shopping area for Salem and (northeast) Lynn as the old downtown stores faded away.

Wal-Mart took over the old Rich's store space when that old chain finally called it a day 10 years ago.

It's important to remember that, as far as downtown Salem and Wal-Mart is concerned, that ship has long sailed. I don't see it likely that a new, bigger Wal-Mart will do anything more to downtown Salem than the other establishments, such as Target and the big discount grocer Market Basket, haven't already done.

Remember that; it isn't as if Highland Ave. was just pristine wilderness last week.

I am concerned about the traffic levels on Highland Ave. I don't agree with Mayor Driscoll on casinos. And as a necessary user of public transit, I am well aware of the need for pedestrian friendly areas which Highland Ave. is not.

I'm just not convinced that Wal-Mart and Lowes alone is going to end downtown Salem just like that. (Arguably, generic condos may be doing just that. But that's another concern.)

Ryan said...

Dave -- I agree with you. If I were Mayor Driscoll, while I may not necessarily support an expanded Walmart (2x the size of the one that's there), I would very much oppose the Lowe's. It's just unnecessary and would be that much worse for the environment, traffic and the local economy.

I am 100% more concerned about the casino issue and what *that* would do to Salem's business community. An expanded Walmart and even Lowe's wouldn't kill it, but casinos at Wonderland and Suffolk Downs definitely could.

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