Monday, September 13, 2010

Goliath (Walgreen's), meet David (Ald. Ted Ruffalo)

Politicians are expected to do things to make themselves look good to constitutents, particularly when citizens are fired up over something.

A good example is the lawsuit Milwaukee County filed against the Milwaukee Braves when the team's new owners announced it was being moved to Atlanta.  A hometown legal victory allowed the fans to blow off some steam but the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled baseball is exempt from antitrust laws and the rest is history.  But, hey, we got another year of baseball in Milwaukee and the locals at least scored a moral victory.

Fast forward 45 years to Kenosha where Walgreen's, the drug chain giant, abruptly closed its downtown store which had been at its present location for nearly a half-century.  A corporate p.r. moron had the audacity to suggest that the brand new Walgreen's store at 75th Street and Sheridan Road could serve the needs of downtown shoppers. 

The new store, of course, is 1.6 miles south of the one that was closed last week and by no means even remotely conveniently to those who live and work in the downtown area.  But that's not the point.

Rookie Ald. Ted Ruffalo, a young ex-Marine whose district includes downtown Kenosha, is floating a proposal to pull city approval of licenses and permits that allowed constructing and occupancy of the new Walgreen's. 

Ruffalo's proposal documents how Walgreen's officials during the licensing process for the new store led the city to believe that the downtown store would be kept open.

Of course the David vs. Goliath images Ruffalo's campaign conjures up are likely to endear him to a lot of voters, once the testoserone levels stabilize Ruffalo's idea actually is worth a shot.

Ruffalo suggests, probably correctly, that the city gave its approval for the new store on the condition and with the understanding that the old one -- which by no means suffered from a lack of patronage -- would be kept open and so by Walgreen's breaking its promise the city should be able to revisit the propriety of the new store.

He has a point.  Whether it would survive a legal challenge down the road is anyone's guess -- Walgreen's may be a corporate Goliath but it isn't major league baseball -- but in this case it appears city fathers were misled and, at a minimum, the remedy might be taking the approval process back to square one.

Of course there are those who will point out, with some merit, that the city shouldn't pit one neighborhood against another but that's not Ruffalo's idea.  Standing up for honesty and fair dealing is.

Yes, our David could be considered a brash young man not savvy to the all of the ways of city hall but, on the flip side, if the growing number of empty storefronts across the city -- even in prosperious neighborhoods -- is any indication, the ways of city hall haven't been very effective.

You go, Ted! Semper fi.


Anonymous said...

Dear're not seriously supporting this overreach of gov't power, are you?

What's next...are you going to try to pass a law that would mandate I get insurance to buy drugs at Walgreens? Wait, Obamacare already does that...never mind.

If there isn't a WRITTEN CONTRACT between the city and Walgreens which states that Walgreens will keep downtown open, then that's just tough. We should vote out the folks who approved it in the first place.

But to try to pull this cockamamie stunt of bullying a company who already has approval...why, what next? Will you have us impersonate Kathleen Sebelius and write to the drug stores, demanding that they lower their prices?

Come're a better businessman than this.

RAG said...

I almost deleted the silly and disingenuous anonymous comment.

Ruffalo's point is that if the approval of permits and licensing for the new store was predicated on promises that the downtown store would be retained, then the company misled the city in order to secure approval. That has nothing to do with Obamacare, overreaching government powers, etc. It is something that the city may well have every right to revisit and probably should.

Anonymous said...

Was Goliath misleading? Perhaps Walgreens had no plans to close the downtown store at the time the development of the new store commenced? Commercial development takes years. Have you forgotten the tough economic times that have taken their toll on even the Goliaths that exist out there?

Ruffalos actions will be noticed by every downtown business--existing and prospective. You may champion this, but it will not have the desired effect of elevating Kenosha's downtown. I promise you that.

Shawna said...

Wow imagine that, political misleading... NO it can't be. All I really have to say is The elderly, handicapped or anyone really, w/no vehicles that live downtown are estatic i'm sure that they will have to walk 1.6 miles in below zero weather to get to the new Walgreens. It's just sad that those facts are not the kind that come first. This is the type of action that makes me wanna take people with power,take away all there transportation, money and maybe kick em real hard so they have to limp that1.6 miles. Now that would be fabulous to actually have to literally walk in someone elses shoes wouldn't it. Things that make me go HMMMM