Activist campaign defeats Wal-Mart's supercenter

INGLEWOOD, CA: Wal-Mart's attempt to build a supercenter here was voted down because opponents put forward a broad range of local leaders to voice opposition to the plan, said a spokesperson for the anti-Wal-Mart coalition.

INGLEWOOD, CA: Wal-Mart's attempt to build a supercenter here was voted down because opponents put forward a broad range of local leaders to voice opposition to the plan, said a spokesperson for the anti-Wal-Mart coalition.

Inglewood voters on April 6 rejected a Wal-Mart ballot initiative that would have allowed the retailer to build on a 60-acre site.

Wal-Mart spent more than $1 million backing the initiative, working with LA-based PR and public affairs shop The Dolphin Group.

The opposition spent about $150,000, said Danny Feingold, communications director for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, one of the collection of groups that opposed Wal-Mart.

"Probably the single most important thing for us was having trusted community leaders to communicate the message," Feingold said.

Inglewood city council members opposed the Wal-Mart plan but the town's mayor come out in favor of it.

The anti-Wal-Mart coalition put forward political and religious leaders, small business owners, educators, and average citizens to voice opposition, said Feingold.

The coalition used a town hall meeting and numerous media events to get attention for its position, he said.

"Money is important but it's not everything, Feingold added. "One has to be creative in communications work. Communications doesn't just mean throwing a press conference."

While Wal-Mart did mass mailings to voters, it wasn't until just before the vote that it started trumpeting the mayor's support, said Feingold.

Wal-Mart referred a call on the matter to The Dolphin Group which said it would not comment beyond a prepared statement.

The statement said: "We are disappointed that a small group of Inglewood leaders together with representatives of outside special interests were able to convince a majority of Inglewood voters that they don't deserve the job opportunities and shopping choices that others in the LA area enjoy."

Feingold said Wal-Mart tried to paint the opposition as organized labor-led during the six months leading up to the vote.

"Wal-Mart said that, but that's not what people experienced and saw. I think there was a credibility gap for Wal-Mart," Feingold said.

The vote against Wal-Mart's proposal was 7,049 opposed, 4,575 in favor.

Some had criticized Wal-Mart's efforts because the ballot initiative would have allowed it to be exempt from local zoning, planning and environmental regulations.

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