By Alex Veiga
10:33 p.m. April 6, 2004
INGLEWOOD – A ballot measure supported by Wal-Mart so it can build a giant Supercenter store in this Los Angeles suburb was rejected Tuesday by voters.
With 27 of 29 precincts reporting, Inglewood voters opposed the initiative, with 65.6 percent voting 'no' and 34.3 percent voting 'yes,' said Gabby Contreras of the city clerk's office.
That amounts to 5,108 votes against the initiative and 2,674 in favor. Contreras said there are about 40,000 registered voters in the city. Absentee ballots also remained to be counted.
"This is very, very positive for those folks who want to stand up and ... hold this corporate giant responsible," said Daniel Tabor, a former City Council member who had campaigned against the initiative.
Residents of the working-class community went to the polls after days of debate over the measure, which opponents said would clear the way for Wal-Mart to build its planned Supercenter store next to Hollywood Park racetrack while skirting zoning, traffic and environmental reviews.
The City Council last year blocked the proposed shopping center, which would include both a traditional Wal-Mart and other stores, prompting the Bentonville, Ark.-based company to collect more than 10,000 signatures to force the vote.
In a statement, the company said the decision was unfortunate for Inglewood residents, who will now have to go elsewhere to shop at Wal-Mart.
"We are disappointed that a small group of Inglewood leaders together with representatives of outside special interests were able to convince a majority of Inglewood voters that they don't deserve the job opportunities and shopping choices that others in the LA area enjoy," the company said.
Wal-Mart has argued in Inglewood and elsewhere in California that its stores create jobs and said residents should be able to decide for themselves whether they want the stores in their community.
But opponents say the Supercenters amount to low-wage, low-benefit job mills that displace better-paying jobs as independent retailers are driven out of business. They also fear the super-sized stores will contribute to suburban sprawl and jammed roadways.
Objections to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have surfaced elsewhere around the country, including Chicago, where the City Council recently stalled a measure to approve the first Wal-Mart inside city limits because of concerns about the company's labor practices.
The company succeeded in lobbying residents in Contra Costa County, in suburban San Francisco. Residents there voted last month to allow a Supercenter, but Wal-Mart also lost a vote that day to allow it to open another store near San Diego.
Wal-Mart officials have said they have not decided what they will do if the Inglewood initiative fails. The company spent more than $1 million in its campaign, according to campaign finance records, while opponents have spent a fraction of that amount.
The opposition, however, enlisted public figures, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson to rally voters to its side.
On Monday, Jackson and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., urged residents to vote against the Supercenter.
But their message was lost to Inez Scott, who voted in favor of the ballot measure Tuesday in hopes that the Supercenter will bring jobs for the city's youth.
"They don't live here," said Scott, 72. "I voted 'yes' so the young adults and youth will have some place to work, to keep them off the street corners and out of gangs."