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Voters in Inglewood, California, are scheduled to go to the polls tomorrow to determine whether Wal-Mart will be allowed to build a supercenter in that part of Southern California, in the shadow of Los Angeles International Airport.

The Los Angeles Times reports that this battle is over more than one store, noting that Wal-Mart is using a new strategy in Inglewood, putting "an initiative on the ballot that would sideline local officials and allow the development without the usual traffic studies, environmental reviews and public hearings." Labor and community groups oppose the effort, charging that Wal-Mart will "depress wages, drive out existing businesses, create traffic problems and actually reduce the total number of jobs in the surrounding area."

Wal-Mart disagrees, saying that the company just wants to offer low prices, jobs for young people and sales tax revenue for cash-strapped cities. "It's important that Inglewood consumers have the same shopping that many of the neighboring communities have had for years," Wal-Mart spokesman Peter Kanelos tells the LAT. "Wal-Mart and our customers are tired of being bullied by the unions. If the unions and the local politicians they put in office want to attack Wal-Mart, they can rest assured that we'll fight back."

The stakes are high. Wal-Mart reportedly has spent more than $1 million on a referendum in which fewer than 10,000 people are expected to vote. And nearby Los Angeles residents and officials are watching the ballot initiative with great interest, as elected representatives are working on an ordinance that would effectively prohibit supercenters in much of the city limits.
KC's View:
We've said it before in this space…we can't imagine an area of California better suited for a supercenter than Inglewood, which always has seemed to us to be mostly shopping centers, anyway. It's also not an affluent area, and the local population might well benefit from a Wal-Mart.

But we have to admit to being concerned by the Bentonville Behemoth's efforts to do an end-run around local review processes. Just saying that these rules and regulations are controlled by officials who are controlled by the unions doesn’t seem to be a good enough reason to try and void them. After all, the people who elected those folks aren't all puppets of the unions. Are they?

Sometimes there seems to be a belief by those who support Wal-Mart that everyone who disagrees with them is a union dupe. Which strikes us as a rather simplistic way of looking at things.

We're also not sure that it is helpful to Wal-Mart's cause for it to cast itself as a victim of union bullying. It stretches credibility a bit, since as best we can tell, Wal-Mart seems to be winning a lot more often than the union.

We suspect that Wal-Mart will win in Inglewood. But if it were to lose, it would be interesting to see what its next step would be.