Robert McCartney, Washington Post, February 10, 2011
When politicians, agency officials and other establishment types discuss the pros and cons of Wal-Mart opening stores in poor, retail-starved neighborhoods in the District, they often talk about pretty high-minded stuff. Fair pay. Job training. Environmental safeguards.
By contrast, in the scruffy blocks around the corner of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road in Northeast Washington, where the first of four Wal-Marts planned for the District would probably be built, the residents have more immediate, street-level concerns.
First, would a new Wal-Mart there really stock the same quality of food and products as its stores do in better-off, suburban communities?
Second, and I was amazed when this anxiety was aired in fully half the interviews, residents worry that the store would suffer severely or even fail because of petty theft.
“There’ll probably be a lot of shoplifting going on. They’ll need a lot of security,” Terriea Sutton, 35, said.
Brenda Speaks, a Ward 4 ANC [Advisory Neighborhood Commissions] commissioner, actually urged blocking construction of the planned store in her ward at Georgia and Missouri avenues NW partly because of that risk. Addressing a small, anti-Wal-Mart rally at City Hall on Monday, Speaks said young people would get criminal records when they couldn’t resist the temptation to steal.
It’s sad that people have such a low opinion of their own community. Happily, with prudent oversight from the city, Wal-Mart’s arrival should be a significant step forward for the neighborhood and the District as a whole.