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Speech from today’s anti-Walmart press conference.

2013/07/25 in Activism, Alex Morse, Capitalism, CBS3, Consume, Development, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Jobs, Mall, Masslive, Poverty, Walmart, Ward 5, WGBY, WWLP

Stop Walmart in Holyoke

 

The coalition, Stop Walmart in Holyoke, was joined by Mayor Alex Morse today to speak out against the proposed Walmart Supercenter plan for Whiting Farms Road.  A capacity crowd was there at Donahue School.  The majority being labor union folks and abutters to the site plan… but concerned citizens from all wards, business owners and a number of political leaders were in attendance.  See Masslive, WWLP, CBS3   (will update with other sources as they report on this)

The speakers were:

Mayor Alex Morse

Terri Laramee of Holyoke First, the organization of the site’s neighbors

Jason Garand, Business Manager of Carpenters Local 108

James Bickford, Spokesperson for Stop Walmart in Holyoke

Sister Kathleen Popko, President of Sisters of Providence

Here is what I delivered:

#####

I’d like to thank Mayor Alex Morse for joining us here today.  (gesture)

I hope you all don’t mind, but I am going to imagine you all naked while I do this.  (laughter, hopefully)

I speak for the coalition, Stop Walmart in Holyoke, a group of Holyoke area residents, business owners and organizational leaders with support from Holyoke First; Nueva Esperanza; Fluxmass; Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council; Sisters of St. Joseph; Sprawl-Busters; Holyoke Chapter of the ISO; United Brotherhood of Carpenters; and Western Mass. Jobs with Justice.

Proponents of the Walmart Supercenter will claim that new jobs and tax revenue for Holyoke as the primary selling points for the establishing of a store here.  This is ultimately deceiving.  While it is true that the municipal will have tax revenue added to the coffers with a Walmart; what they don’t want you to know is that there will be an incredible demand on individual tax payers.  Walmart’s success in the marketplace is mostly dependent on keeping the cost of labor lower than other large retailers.  They have the least number of employees per square foot of retail, pay low wages and maintain a large number of part time employees to avoid paying benefits.  These are jobs that keep people in poverty.  We only need to look at a recent congressional report on Walmart to see the impact down stream.  Since most Walmart employees are under-employed everyone else foots the bill for their EBT, medical and retirement.  It has been shown that the average Walmart employee costs taxpayers $6,000.00 per year…  this comes out to $900k to $1.2 million per store per year.  Again, Walmart’s success is dependent on social services taking care of their employees.  Walmart creates and perpetuates poverty.

Some criticize Walmart opposition as anti-business.  No, in fact, Walmart opposition is pro-business and pro-labor.  A new Walmart does not create new consumers.  Like I said previously, Walmart keeps labor costs extremely low.  As a result it has a competition advantage and will certainly draw customers from existing business large and small.  Their loss will force them to reduce payroll and possibly end in closure.  It will also limit new small business development in the retail sector.  Studies have shown that over time each Walmart employee ends up being a net loss of 1.4 employees in area retail labor.

Globally, Walmart is responsible for an incredible amount of sweat shop labor where human beings are considered expendable commodities like we have seen recently with its garment and textile supplier in Bangladesh.

On a national level Walmart’s negative impact is incredible.  Walmart’s expansion between 2001 and 2006 accounted for 11% of the growth of the total US trade deficit with China.  In 2000, Walmart was sued 4,851 times — about once every 2 hours.  Walmart also battled 1.6 million employees in the largest class action sex discrimination law suit ever — the potential cost at the time of $11 billion.  The Supreme Court ruling is considered controversial here as it was shot down not on the merits of the case but rather the scale, leading to individual suits instead of the class action.  The statistics do not lie… women were grossly underrepresented among managers, holding just 14% of manager roles compared with the more than 80% of lower-ranking hourly supervisor jobs.  Walmart retaliates against employees that organized for better working conditions.  The egregious business and labor practices of Walmart are alarming especially since it is the largest overall employer in the entire USA, and the biggest employer in 25 states.

One would think that such a large corporation with such amassed wealth and annual profits could do so much better for its employees.  We say that we can do better for Holyoke.

Critics of the Walmart opposition will state that lacking an alternative to Walmart is reason for Walmart to proceed.  HGE has stated that the sale is in the best interest of the rate payers – will we see a decrease in rates as a result?  In pennies?  Here’s a potential alternative: With the rising energy costs, the scheduled closure of Mt Tom power plant and the recent alarming reports of Pilgrim nuclear plant – which supplies 15% of the states electricity – shutting down periodically due to rising ocean temperatures.  Why not invite local solar experts Stiebel Eltron or Citizens Energy to survey the land for a potential solar farm?  This would be something that will benefit ratepayers for decades, much more than the one time sale of the property.

False promises and lack of an immediate alternative are not valid reasons for Holyoke to sell its soul for tax revenue burdened on the shoulders of poverty wage slave jobs.  We ask that city government – the Mayor’s Office, City Council, Fire Department, Planning Board, Redevelopment Committee and the Building Commissioner – oppose this plan and that HGE seek alternate uses for this parcel of land they have put up for sale.

Thank you.

#####

Casinos win by betting on losers.

2011/11/07 in Activism, Alex Morse, Bresnahan, Casino, Council, Development, Economics, Elections, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Jobs, Law, Lies, Lisi, Mailbag, Mall, Mayor, McGee, Murphy, Patti Devine, Pluta, Politics, Vega

How a Holyoke CASINO Will Affect You and Your Family

(and why your vote on Tuesday, November 8th matters)

A casino has been proposed for Wyckoff Country Club. Word is that a proposal for a casino in a different Holyoke neighborhood may be forthcoming soon. And outside casino developers are spending significant amounts of money to elect pro-casino candidates to influential positions.

With the Holyoke election just a few days way, you might want to consider how your vote could seriously affect your home, your family and your neighborhood.

Here are some troubling statistics on what casinos bring to their host communities:

within 5 years of the opening of a new casino:

• robberies are up 136%
• auto theft is up 78%
• larceny is up 38%
• aggravated assaults are up 91%
• burglary is up 50%
• rape is up 21%
• Incidents of prostitution, drunk driving and embezzlement also skyrocket
• all this happens despite significantly increased police staffing and increased police budgets http://uss-mass.org/crime.html

Casinos cause nearby property values to plummet by as much as 20%

Casino developers and proponents are touting “potential” property tax reductions, but you might want to do the math first. If your $200,000 home loses just 10% of its value after a casino comes to town – and assuming the City lowered your yearly taxes by $500 (which is way more than projected) – it would take 40 years for you just to break even.

If you own a business – or work for someone who does – you should be concerned:

Casinos siphon money away from locally owned businesses and into the pockets of distant owners. They bleed local businesses dry. Businesses close or move out of town, along with their owners. Neighbors lose their jobs. In Atlantic City, the number of independent restaurants dropped from 48 the year casinos opened to 16 in 1997. Within just four years of the casinos’ arrival, one-third of the city’s retail businesses had closed.

“There has been no economic development spin-off from the casino. Businesses do not come here. Tourists come mainly to gamble. Gamblers have one thing in mind: get to the casino, win or lose their money, get in their cars, and go home.”
– Mayor Wesley Johnson of Ledyard, Conn (home of Foxwoods casino in Connecticut)

Telling Statement from CEO of the American Gaming Association:

“If someone were to come along and tell me that they were going to put a casino in McLean Virginia, where I live, I would probably work very, very hard against it. What’s the old saying . . . ‘not in my backyard’. Now I may be in favor of ‘gaming’, but I just don’t want it in (my) area.” — Frank Fahrenkopf CEO of the American Gaming Association

 

WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT IF A CASINO COMES TO HOLYOKE:

Report after report shows that casinos negatively affect their host communities. They create traffic gridlock. They increase crime by an alarming percentage. They decrease property values. They siphon money away from local businesses, causing them to close or eliminate jobs. They discourage other businesses from moving into town. They increase the transient population. The middle and upper classes move out. Low-wage casino workers move in, often living in dorm-like arrangements. They ruin neighborhoods and communities and scare potential new residents away.

This effect has been repeated in community after community that has hosted casinos, and it is well documented. You don’t have to go to a fortune teller to know that all these problems are in store for Holyoke if a casino is built here.

Even the CEO of the American Gaming Organization – the very organization charged with promoting casino development – has said he would fight against a casino that wanted to locate in his home town.

While every one of us is for creating jobs, the “jobs, jobs, jobs” argument made by developers and proponents is irrelevant to Holyoke and is deliberately misleading. Virtually every applicant who would be qualified to work in Holyoke will be just as qualified to work in Palmer.  So, if it’s not really about jobs, what is it all about? The answer is money – how much and to whom. But no amount of money can make up for the permanent damage casinos cause to their host communities. And every one of those problems happens despite significant amounts of money being paid by casinos to host communities. Money doesn’t prevent the decline!

The City of Holyoke is poised to take its first giant steps forward in decades. With the green, high-tech Computing Center (and all the forward-thinking businesses and residents it is already attracting to Holyoke); with the budding artist community and the rejuvenation they bring to older communities; with the restoration of the Victory Theater; Canal Walk and Heritage State Park. A casino will stop much of that progress dead in its tracks and will only serve to send many of those investors, entrepreneurs and new residents fleeing in another direction.

ANTI-CASINO VOTER’S GUIDE:

On Tuesday, November 8th, casting your vote for the following candidates is the best way to stop a Holyoke casino:

MAYOR: Alex Morse

CITY COUNCIL:

(Reflects those in contested races who replied indicating opposition. Note: casting less than the 8 allowed votes in the At-Large race improves your candidates’ chances of winning.)

OPPOSED:

Peter Tallman
James Leahy
Rebecca Lisi
Gordon Alexander (Ward 7)

LEANING OPPOSED (SERIOUS RESERVATIONS OR TALKING SHIT?):

Aaron Vega
Kevin Jourdain
Yasser Menwer

Presented by:

Holyoke Against Casinos

Occupy Holyoke

2011/11/04 in Activism, Anarchism, Art, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Jobs, Occupy, Politics, Press, pronoblem, pronography

Poster I made for a local Occupy art show…  300dpi for print quality available to those that are at OWS events.

Alex Morse Speaks at the Artist Forum

2011/10/24 in Alex Morse, Art, Development, Elections, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Jobs, Mayor, Politics

Destination Holyoke.

A view of Race Street during a combined PCS80 and Parsons Hall Project Space Event

As mentioned in a previous post Dean Nimmer organized a meeting with Holyoke artists to discuss the city’s commitment to the arts and the possibilities of a “SOHO effect” of revitalization via the arts here in our city.  Alex Morse did seem to say what the group wanted to hear and he appears to have an understanding of the importance of an art community to urban success from his work in downtown Providence RI; a city that has seen much of its revival via public art and projects like AS220.  From my perspective, the group that was in that room witnessing tonight’s event makes up one of the cities greatest assets.  These folks have invested a lot of resources and sweat equity into the development of a downtown destination for artist in work spaces and for the public with open studios and galley / performance events.  It only makes sense that the city should work with a group that has had such great results with their successful DIY efforts at making Holyoke a cultural destination.

Full Audio of the event.

Thanks to Dean for organizing, thanks to Scott for use of the space and thanks to Alex for being there.

On Sunday October 30 at 6 pm the forum will conclude with a visit from Mayor Elaine Pluta

Audio quality is not the best…  there was no PA or audience mics and some environmental noise that needed removal.  I did the best I could with my field recorder and software – sound improves a lot after the heating system in the room shuts off.

Thanks.

Audio from the October 20th City Council Candidate Forum

2011/10/20 in Audio, Casino, Charter, Council, Development, Elections, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Jobs, Lies, Patti Devine, Politics, Press, Vega

 Audio from the October 20th City Council Candidate Forum held at Dean Tech High School.

 

The event was sparsely attended and was lacking H.U.S.H.’s favorite candidate Patti Devine.  Rumor has it that she was afraid to show up because I was recording the event and planned on editing her statements into a musical remix.  Rosado and Murphy’s main-squeeze McGee also had better things to do, but McGee was later seen in the audience during the At-Large portion of the forum. Rosado and McGee had placards with their name and empty seats.  The same should have been done for Devine, not sure why she gets special treatment here.

The format was a little odd with a different setup for the Ward versus the At-Large candidates.  The Ward candidates were able to ask the opponent a question and then have rebuttal where the At-Large were fielded questions, some repeated, asked by representatives of The Republican and El Pueblo Latino.  As a result the At-Large forum did seem to cover a lot more ground.  The issues of the night were casinos, attracting business with our tax rate and the charter question.

I do need to gripe about the audio…  next time rent some mics so that each person has one, put foam wind-screens on them and before the event explain to the candidates that they need to not touch their lips to the mic when speaking.  6″-8″ away and a normal speaking voice should be used.

If there was one clear winner here it is Gordon Alexander.  Sure, many of these folks might not have public speaking as their forte and might be nervous up there…  and certainly Jourdain, Tallman and McGiverin presented themselves very well, but of the newcomers it was Alexander that stood out.  I did speak to him after saying that I wished I lived in Ward 7 so I could vote for him.  Menwer was also a pleasant surprise.  I probably will be voting for him (and finding out who is his dentist).  If there was one person that looked like they did not belong there it was Brenna Murphy.  She appeared as if she was extremely bored.  Maybe lemon-faced is simply her normal demeanor but she does lack the charisma that sells candidates in the media – maybe she should have taken Devine’s cue and pulled a no-show…  I doubt that she won any votes with her performance.

There was a good deal of intentional and unintentional humor.  Tallman did declare that “we should not sell Holyoke short, so vote for the tall man”.  Yes, I will be voting for him and he is indeed tall.  Though, I do wish he’d invest in some pants that fit him as it was his bare shins exposed by his high-waters that kept distracting my attention.  Bresnahan went on a wonderful tangent about internal organs and sexual intercourse.  I am glad I have all that recorded, his dialog will be uploaded into my sampler this weekend.  Murphy stated that she went to college “because her parents told her to”…  obviously, she’s running for office for that very same reason.   Purcell claimed that some of the folks on stage were criminals.  He’s correct, but it was just funny to hear it said.  Vega was vague when asked about the charter question and wasted his time explaining to the audience that he did not want to tell people how to vote on the issue – thanks, we know how we are voting on the issue – we wanted to know where you stood.  Leahy expressed his love for some of the people in Holyoke, not all of them.  Fletcher claimed that the only crime to speak of at casinos is children and pets locked in cars at the parking lots?!?  Good stuff!

Listen for yourself…

 Ward Councilors:

At Large Councilors:

 

Attention all Holyoke registered voters.

2011/10/18 in Elections, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Jobs, Mailbag, Mayor, Pluta

I was forwarded this email:

 
From:scottben4one3@aol.com
Sent: October 12, 2011 10/12/11
To:benny.scott82@gmail.com
Subject: Attention all Holyoke registered voters….please read!!
 

Dear voters,

With the Holyoke mayoral election fast approaching, there’s something I’d like the voters of the great city of Holyoke to know about our current mayor, Elaine Pluta. Mayor Pluta claims she’s committed to creating jobs and helping small businesses within our city, but as an employee for a small business in Holyoke, I’ve witnessed first hand that this isn’t always the case. Crabtree’s Service Station, Inc., and Reardon’s Garage have been performing city contracted towing services in Holyoke for the past 12 years, providing efficient and quality service to its customers and the Holyoke Police Department. After Mayor Pluta was elected two years ago, the contract that had been renewed yearly for 11 years was rewritten. A third towing company wished to be put on the rotation. No problem, except that the third company was Hampshire Towing, a company based in South Hadley and operating primarily in Hampshire county. Hampshire Towing has a state-of-the-art facility, in South Hadley, and numerous trucks, with all taxes being paid to the town of South Hadley. In their defense, they do own a small piece of run down property in Holyoke. Great for South Hadley, not for Holyoke. Crabtree’s Service Station and Reardon’s Garage have been family-owned, tax paying small businesses in Holyoke since the 1930′s. Every single towing employee is a resident and tax payer in our great city, whereas Hampshire Towing employs no Holyoke residents. The inclusion of Hampshire Towing in Holyoke’s municipal towing contract has cost the employees, as well as the owners of these long-standing businesses thousands of dollars in yearly revenue. The loss in revenue to the companies has forced the owners of these two businesses to reduce their workforce. So much for CREATING jobs and HELPING small businesses. The reason why Hampshire Towing is now included in the city contract, in my opinion as well as many others, is political cronyism/favoritism. Jeff Chesky, a major player on Mayor Pluta’s campaign committee, is cousin to Bill Johnson, owner of Hampshire Towing. Clearly a conflict of interest and a question of patronage. I have no problem with Hampshire Towing, as they are a skilled and reputable company, but they aren’t a Holyoke small business. They opened a small office in Holyoke only after it became financially beneficial to do so. I’m also sure that Hampshire Towing and/or Bill Johnson make hefty donations to Mayor Pluta’s re-election campaign, as it is in their best interest to do so. Holyoke is a small city, but it’s our city, and there’s no room for political cronyism or the good ol’ boy mentality. On November 8th, please show that this isn’t acceptable in or city. Help make the change this city needs. Please cast your vote for Alex Morse.

Sincerely,

Ben Scott