The idiom says “two steps forward, one step back” — a description of how sometimes you make progress then lose a portion of it.
The idiom also is often flipped: “one step forward, two steps back.”
Either one often applies to the city of Sarasota. It rarely goes forward without going backward.
Which brings us to the proposed Walmart for the Alta Vista neighborhood.
In a city where fiscal problems are growing and economic growth and new development are hard to come by, a lot of people considered it a positive when Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced it wanted to build a 97,000-square-foot store in the dying, deteriorating Ringling Shopping Center between School Avenue and Lime Avenue/Shopping Lane on Ringling Boulevard, on the edge of Alta Vista.
The positives should be obvious:
• A new Walmart grocery store would replace the Publix store that moved, creating convenience for the nearby neighbors.
• The new Walmart would add value to the community’s property values, rather than have an empty shopping center become physical blight and pull down the values of the surrounding community.
• The new Walmart would bring about 250 jobs to the city, rather than the zero jobs that would exist with an empty retail site.
• The new Walmart, presumably, would increase its neighbors’ wealth and discretionary incomes. That is, if they shopped for groceries at the new Walmart. Walmart’s slogan is “Save money. Live better.” It’s Econ 101: When you pay less for a gallon of milk at one store than you would at another, you have more money left in your wallet; you are wealthier than you otherwise would be if you bought the more expensive milk.
• The new Walmart would help the city’s fiscal plight because it would pay more in property taxes than would be paid by the owner of the vacant, decaying retail site.
But true to the character of many Sarasota citizens, and certainly true to his character, former Sarasota Mayor Kelly Kirschner is among the leaders of efforts of 26 members of the Alta Vista Neighborhood Association who voted to appeal a planning board decision to block the development of the new Walmart.
They say the new Walmart is too large for the neighborhood.
To an extent, opposition to the Walmart raises the questions: Would these neighbors have opposed a 97,000-square-foot Publix? Or, say, a 97,000-square-foot Morton’s? Trader Joe’s? Harris Teeter?
Is it just the name — Walmart?
To be sure, America’s labor unions have done a thorough job of vilifying the Walmart name, portraying the world’s largest retailer as a rapacious, evil monster. And the mainstream media certainly contribute to this, giving airtime and news space to the unions’ empty causes.
Rarely, if ever, do American consumers see Walmart presented from the perspective of the other side: that it provides 2.2 million direct jobs (1.4 million in the United States); that it is the most environmentally conscious major company in the world (yes, that is a fact); and that it is the largest corporate contributor of cash to not-for-profit charities and organizations in the United States.
We could go on and on about all of the positives associated with Walmart. But in Sarasota, and among the 26 members of the Alta Vista Neighborhood Association who oppose this project, all of that would have little, if any, effect.
This is the anvil around the city of Sarasota’s neck — its residents’ too frequent, illogical rejection of economics. It’s mystifying how, in the face of what exists in the city — economic stagnation and deterioration and stressed city finances that are inevitably leading to higher taxation on homeowners, that small groups of citizens consistently obstruct new capital investment.
As the late economic genius, Milton Friedman, would often advise: Flip the coin; think of the other side and the alternative. Think of the “unseen.”
If Walmart is not permitted to build, what’s the economic and social benefit of having a vacant retail shopping site? What and who will fill the void — something better? Not likely. If the prospects for that existed, why didn’t Publix rebuild there? Why did the center fail to begin with? Certainly not because the area was on an economic upswing.
Capital — that is, money invested to create progress and improve the quality of lives — flows where it is welcome. It’s never welcomed enthusiastically in the city of Sarasota.
If we were Walmart, we would be of a mind to say to the neighbors of Alta Vista and the city: “Thanks, but no thanks. We don’t need to build our super center in this location. We’ll take our capital where it is welcome.”
Leaving Alta Vista and the city of Sarasota with what?
Rather than appeal to trigger the regimes of government to intervene (driving up the costs and antagonisms), with the goal of killing the project, perhaps it would be worth a discussion between the neighbors and Walmart. Maybe there is room for a compromise.
Of all people, the former mayor of Sarasota, Kelly Kirschner, should know: Fighting Walmart at Ringling Boulevard and Shopping Lane is not just a localized, neighborhood issue. Word gets around. If you chase capital away, those who have it hear about it. They’ll go elsewhere.
Sarasota: One step forward, two steps back.
+ Rational progress
They have gone full circle, and now let’s hope they stick.
That is, the city of Sarasota’s street parking regulations.
After changing them back to a more rational approach recently in St. Armands Circle, the City Commission Monday spread the same common sense to the rest of the city, in particular downtown.
The new rules:
• Eliminated parking enforcement after 6 p.m. from Monday through Friday.
• Eliminated parking enforcement on Saturdays.
Count this as the one step forward.
AN ECONOMICS LESSON FOR BARACK OBAMA
President Obama’s insistence on punishing anyone who earns $250,000 or more a year — i.e. who trades peacefully and fairly with another his labor for money — reinforces what most American proponents of free enterprise have known for the past four years: Obama is driven by socialistic ideology, not by economic common sense.
Raising taxes, especially the income tax, on anyone retards economic growth and kills jobs. In few instances is this better explained than in a classic book that should be required reading in all U.S. high schools and colleges: “The Income Tax: The Root of All Evil,” by Frank Chodorov, 1954. To wit, the following excerpts:
“If we examine the income tax carefully, we find that it is not a tax on income so much as it is a tax on capital.
“What the government takes from me is not what I consume, but what I might have saved. To be sure, I might have spent some of it for a new suit or to paint my house, but some of it I might have put in the bank, where it would have become available, at interest, to someone who would have used it to build a new factory, enlarge his plant, open a store or buy a farm.
“That’s what generally happens to savings. Certainly, a good part of the earnings of a corporation are put to plant improvement or expansion, which it cannot effect if the earnings are confiscated. Hence, the effect of income taxation is to impair the capital structure of the country.
“Since all wages come out of production, and since the amount of production is in proportion to the amount of capital in use, it follows that the income tax, by depleting capital investment, tends to reduce both job opportunities and wages.
“Furthermore, the goods that are not produced because of the lack of capital surely do not help the consumer; the less goods on the market the higher the prices he must pay.
“The income tax therefore hurts the wage earner to a far greater extent than by what is filched from his pay envelope. It hurts him by increasing his cost of living and reducing his earning power.”
The way Obama sees it, that is “fair.” In truth, Obama is “soaking” not the rich, he’s “soaking the poor.”