City Council Approves Chicago’s First Wal-Mart

Published July 1, 2004

On May 26, the Chicago City Council voted in favor of one Wal-Mart construction proposal but against another, approving on a 32- 15 vote a store for the west side Austin neighborhood but rejecting by a single vote a store for the south side Chatham neighborhood.

“Somebody’s out there waiting on that first opportunity, ” said Ald. Emma Mitts (37th Ward) about gaining the Wal-Mart store for her neighborhood. Reported the Chicago Sun-Times, “residents of her West Side ward are crying out for jobs and shopping choices.”

Politics killed the proposal for the south side Wal-Mart. “To the extent that I did not come to my colleagues and ask them for their individual support, I have apologized for that,” said Ald. Howard Brookins (21st Ward) after his defeat. Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward), powerful chairman of the council’s finance committee, was quick to give Wal-Mart a second chance by re-referring the request to the Zoning Committee.

Noted Brookins, “It’s a temporary setback. It goes back to committee and we start all over. It’s not dead.”

Protestors jammed the second floor of City Hall before the Wal-Mart vote, demanding the company offer its employees a living wage.

Mitts responded to the protestors, “I started out at $4 a day–not an hour. I had an opportunity to keep elevating. … Those are opportunities you keep grabbing hold of in life.”

John Skorburg is managing editor of Budget & Tax News. His email address is [email protected].