Redlands' first Coffee with the Council event Saturday kicked off with a spirited exchange between residents and again highlighted a division in the city over Wal-Mart.
About 40 residents sat down with Mayor Pete Aguilar and councilman Bob Gardner at Kiddough's Bakery, just steps away from Congressman Jerry Lewis’ Brookside Avenue office.
Occupy Redlands had a strong presence. Their questions were primarily centered on their opposition to a proposed Super Walmart and their pleas that the council adopt a resolution opposing the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission court decision and “corporate personhood.”
The decision, made by the US Supreme Court, prohibits placinglimits on independent spending for political purposes by corporations and unions.
In anticipation of the Walmart - in the area of San Bernardino Avenue, Tennessee Street, New York Street and Pennsylvania Avenue - some residents have placed "for sale" signs in front of their homes, one resident told the councilmen.
“We’re talking about people in the community that are clearly affected by a Super Walmart coming into town,” said Kent Marten, committee member with Occupy Redlands.
One resident questioned the motives of the retailer that is locating another Super Walmart not more 4½ miles away in Highland. And a majority of the residents there expressed concern over Walmart’s impact on the city’s uniqueness and its small businesses.
One woman told the crowd about her hometown in Kansas, which suffered because of a Walmart.
“Walmart killed the downtown,” the woman said. “When Super Walmart came in, they used to have five grocery stores, now there’s one competitor.”
At least one resident was in favor of the Walmart, reasoning that in difficult times, the affordable prices help families make ends meet. His views led to a tense exchange
“Personally I go to the (Highland) Walmart now because I do like the fresh produce,” said a different resident. “If you’ve been there, it’s so much cheaper. It’s about 30 percent, 40 percent cheaper than any of your union-run grocery stores around here. Personally, in this economy, I think everybody deserves a break as far as being able to get groceries and everything else and not have to pay the super premium for unions who are putting them to electing and doing everything else that unions do.”
After the discussion wound down, Gardner felt positive about the first discussion of the year.
“These (topics) are things that are on people’s minds,” Gardner said. “That’s why we want to hear them. The purpose is to listen. The purpose is to educate a little bit as far as information that we have.”
A snippet of the discussion on the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is included with this article.