WUI (Writing under the influence)

Somebody once said we are all Americans, sometimes born in the wrong places.
On a warm autumn day in 1986, while enjoying beer with my college buddies,
I decided to join my new homeland.

I've come to appreciate the ideals that helped create this great country.
Liberalism, political-correctness, multiculturalism and moral equivalence
are destroying it.

This old house Grovenet Wal*Mart Visiting Poland American wine better than French.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

 

Wal*Mart as city square

Whenever I'm forced to travel to the Old Europe, which I try to avoid like a plague, one thing that I do find rather practical when I'm there are town squares. Even though town squares can be found in any Italian city, I find those in small towns especially charming. Sitting in a bar, sipping local white wine can't be beat by anything available to us in Forest Grove.

This is why I think that one of GroveNet's most prolific posters got it right when he wrote:
Almost the whole city block downtown bounded by Main Street, A Street, Pacific and 19th Avenues is up for sale. The only parts that are not are the bank building on the corner of Pacific and Main, the building occupied by the Scooter Shop at Pacific and A streets and the city parking lot in the middle of the block. I'm not sure about the vacant lot at the corner of Main and 19th.

What a nice place for a town square right in the middle of town! A place with a slope for an amphitheatre, room for things like the Renaissance Faire, the July 4th Event and endless other possibilities for town gatherings for not just locals but to bring in outsiders as well to enjoy special events. Lots of grass for folks to rest a bit, have a picnic and for children to play. How about a Gazebo for the city band and other entertainers to enjoy?

I've seen other towns like ours where the city square was filled daily with parents watching children at play, people reading, sketching, painting and talking over a cup of coffee or a picnic lunch. A busy, vital part of the town at almost any time. Even in the middle of winter, it's the focal point for the community holiday celebrations.
I agree. Would I be wiling to pay more taxes to pull it off? Of course not. The usual busy bodies in Forest Grove would quickly impose their own ideas of how the square should look like and what purposes it should serve.

But there is hope for the idea. And it may come from the most unlikely of sources.

Wal*Mart.
Just when things looked their worst, a Wal-Mart executive came to her restaurant, and, over a meal of chorizo and eggs, told her the company was preparing to take over the space vacated by Broadway. He asked Armstrong if she would like to move her restaurant into their store, the first Wal-Mart in Los Angeles and the first two-story Wal-Mart in the nation.

That she did, and now Mis Amigos is a fixture in the store and the community. So is Wal-Mart. The store has become a gathering place for seniors and a first job for teens who might otherwise be roaming the streets. Armstrong sees up close every day a truth that politicians such as Delgadillo don't seem to understand: Everyone working at the store is there because they decided the job was better than any other alternative available to them.

"In this community we have a lot of school drop-outs," she said. "They have a job. They're smart. They can do so many things if they put their minds to it."

Armstrong is not the store's only fan. According to published reports, other small retailers in the area saw a surge in business after Wal-Mart opened and brought traffic, and life, back to the neighborhood. Even Delgadillo says that gang crime in the area has declined and a national theater chain that opened a cinema complex nearby is doing a booming business, though he attributes those successes to the redevelopment of the former automobile plant.

Delgadillo is still proud of his role in bringing the theaters to town, but wants forgiveness for his Wal-Mart sin. Yet Wal-Mart provides more jobs, better chances for advancement and probably better benefits, too. Both employers serve the same purpose for most of their employees: an entry into the work force and a chance to learn skills before moving up.

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