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Jim Snoke & Georgann Wilmot
07/24/2014 12:37 PM

As homeowners, residents, and community-minded citizens of Pine Grove, Amador County and its surrounding areas, we do not want to see a Dollar General built in our neighborhood for the following reasons: we already have good, well-supported, community-based stores, including a grocery, banks, pharmacy, restaurants, hardware, convenience and other retail stores, each of which gives back to our community with their mutual support and community action; Dollar General has stated that they will not contribute to the support of our community as a matter of company policy, and we know from the experience of other towns and cities that any money spent locally will simply be funneled back to their corporate headquarters in Tennessee; hiring four to six workers, at minimum wage, while destroying other, established businesses in our community and putting as many as 40 people out of work, is not only anti-business, it is anti-community and downright immoral; in our opinion, Dollar General is guilty of predatory business practices, and sells cheap imported goods produced by laborers in other countries who work in sweatshop conditions while being paid as little as one or two dollars per day; we believe that our community has been targeted by their company headquarters as an unincorporated area that could easily be exploited, regardless of the consequences to us and to the families of those who would lose their jobs as businesses are forced to close; Dollar General is a publicly traded company on the NASDAC stock exchange, not a local, private business. Its investors are some of the wealthiest stockholders in the world. Dollar General is obligated to its shareholders, not to our community. The biggest investor in Dollar General is The Vanguard Group, the world’s largest mutual fund company, owning 2.4 trillion dollars in publicly traded stock; efforts on the part of other communities in California and in other states to stop the intrusion of Dollar General have succeeded because of the negative primary and secondary impacts associated with their box stores and their 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., 365 days a year, business practices — increased crime, lower property values, noise and traffic problems; we know that many important changes to the immediate Pine Grove area have taken place since the original EIR was proposed in the 1980’s and we are convinced that it is incumbent upon Amador County to reconsider this development on those grounds alone; the public then, as well as now, did not have sufficient input into what simply became a negative declaration on the part of the county; in 2005, Dollar General was forced by the Securities and Exchange Commission to rectify falsified stock values and dividend reports for the years 1999, 2000 and 2001; last year, in Illinois, the Chicago office of the EEOC filed a nationwide lawsuit against Dollar General, based on discrimination charges filed by two rejected applicants. That lawsuit charges that Dollar General conditions all of its job offers based on background checks that unfairly discriminate against applicants on the basis of race. Dollar General operates 10,000 stores in 40 states, plus 11 distribution centers. Ninety percent of all Dollar General employees nationwide are store clerks, who are both stockers and cashiers at the stores; the 2008 Vision Plan for Pine Grove is in direct conflict with the Dollar General proposal; and, we are convinced that there has been sufficient traffic-flow increase since the 2010 traffic study to warrant both an update in 2014 and a new, full-scale EIR, detailing proposed mitigations to resolve the negative primary and secondary impacts to Pine Grove.

As petitioners, we adamantly oppose the building of a Dollar General store in the Pine Grove community; we believe strongly that we have not had the opportunity to provide input into this project and the negative impact it will have on our community; we believe building Dollar General will destroy existing businesses in Pine Grove, create traffic problems and noise, attract loitering and other illegal activity, and will not meet the business needs of our community; we urge Dollar General to stop this project immediately; we welcome conversations with the landowner to discuss other types of businesses more appropriate to our community.

Should we not succeed in persuading the Amador County Board of Supervisors to change their position, we are prepared to seek an injunction to stop the project and will do so if necessary.

Copyright © 2014 Amador Ledger Dispatch
Jim Snoke & Georgann Wilmot
08/02/2014 1:12 AM
Re: Rejoinder to the “Declaration Against Dollar General”

The only misrepresentation, untruth, and phony “them versus us” rhetoric comes from the letter writer who tries to assault the effort to stop Dollar General from coming into Pine Grove by attempting to convince the readers that we apparently are trying to harm good, democratic discourse. Every statement included in our letter to the Ledger-Dispatch is supported by data or it is directly stated to be opinion. We have given opinion and factual information, and we have clearly distinguished between the two. This is truly democratic discourse, and is an expression of our deep concern for the trend toward multi-state and multi-national box stores that continue to destroy local businesses and communities. The only undemocratic debate and discourse can come from someone who violates the “law of argument” and the “law of rationality” by attempting to shout down the facts by labeling them “phony”. Where are the data to support his claim? In modern, issue-based discourse, the emphasis should be on the issue – not on an attempt to hide the issue by attacking the person who raises it.

Here are the points we attempted to make in our original commentary:

1. “We already have good, well-supported community-based stores, including a grocery, banks, pharmacy, restaurants, hardware, convenience, and other retail stores, each of which gives back to our community with their mutual support and community action”.

There is not a shred of “untruth” or “phony them versus us rhetoric” about that statement.

2. “Dollar General has stated that they will not contribute to the support of our community as a matter of company policy, and we know from the experience of other towns and cities that any money spent locally will simply be funneled back to their corporate headquarters in Tennessee.”

This is patently true. In addition to the data from other communities in California and from other states, we have testimony from the management representative of Dollar General that this statement is, indeed, true.

3. “Hiring 4 to 6 workers, at minimum wage, while destroying other, established businesses in our community and putting as many as 40 people out of work, is not only anti-business, it is anti-community and downright immoral.”

This is an estimate of course, but it reads: “as many as”. We can’t know the exact number, but if Claypool’s Market and Pinecone Pharmacy were to close because of the ability of Dollar General to import directly from China, the number of local employees directly affected could easily reach 40. And these are 40 families affected – not simply 40 individuals. Dollar General employees earn minimum wage, and the overwhelming majority of them are part-time cashier/stockers who do not get benefits. Also, Dollar General sells Folgers Coffee for $3.00 discounted from $7.98. Fred Claypool cannot sell it for that and stay in business. Dollar General’s Web site advertises more than 76,000 products for sale. While many of those items have American brand names, the majority are imported, and delivered directly from China to American ports by air, through FedEx and their 35 flights per day, and by sea. Some of those items, such as Gillette razor blades, are actually illegal copies produced in China and sold for less than the authentic product in the United States. Local businesses simply cannot compete with a multi-national corporation that is set up to import goods at one-seventh the cost that local businesses must withstand (importer’s statement of cost savings).

4. “In our opinion, Dollar General is guilty of predatory business practices, and sells cheap imported goods produced by laborers in other countries who work in sweatshop conditions while being paid as little as one or two dollars per day.”

This statement begins with: “In our opinion” – how is this a misrepresentation, untruth, or “phony them versus us rhetoric”? Anyone who doesn’t understand this needs to do some reading. The IMF, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank give loans to struggling and emerging nations. To repay those loans, emerging nations – including China – pay their workers between one and two dollars per day, in sweatshop conditions, to produce the goods that are imported to the United States. For further information on exactly how this process developed and how it works today, see the film: “Life and Debt”. I am tracking more than 100 such loans to African, Asian, Pacific Ocean, Caribbean, and Latin American countries currently. Many of the poorest countries are deliberately defaulting on the loans because of the predatory interest rates and short-term payoff demands.

5. “We believe that our community has been targeted by their company headquarters as an unincorporated area that could easily be exploited, regardless of the consequences to us and to the families of those who would lose their jobs as businesses are forced to close.”

This statement begins: “We believe….”. How is that misleading?

6. “Dollar General is a publically-traded company on the NASDAC stock exchange, not a local, private business. Its investors are some of the wealthiest stockholders in the world. Dollar General is obligated to its shareholders, not to our community. The biggest investor in Dollar General is The Vanguard Group, the world’s largest mutual fund company, owning 2.4 trillion dollars in publically-traded stock.”

Nothing in this statement is false, nor does it suffer from anything “misleading”. The point of this statement is that Claypool’s, Pinecone, Up Country Hardware, and the other businesses in Pine Grove are not publicly held companies. They do not answer to investors. And, they cannot compete with a corporation that deliberately sets out to undersell every other business in the area. This is Dollar General’s stated goal – do some reading.

7. “Efforts on the part of other communities in California and in other states to stop the intrusion of Dollar General have succeeded because of the negative primary and secondary impacts associated with their box stores and their 8am to 10pm, 365 days a year business practices – increased crime, lower property values, noise, and traffic problems.”

This is a direct reference to Joshua Tree’s successful ruling against Dollar General because of the secondary impacts to the general community environment. The current CEQA regulations make this action possible.

8. “We know that many important changes to the immediate Pine Grove area have taken place since the original EIR was proposed in the 1980’s and we are convinced that it is incumbent upon Amador County to reconsider this development on those grounds alone”.

This statement is certainly not misleading, and Amador County agrees. However, Amador County also believes that it is okay to violate its own ordinance against combining parcels with different zoning categories because “we have done it in the past” – a quote from the BOS.

9. “The public then, as well as now, did not have sufficient input into what simply became a negative declaration on the part of the county.”

This is certainly true. Nevertheless, Amador County is pressing ahead with the project.

10. “In 2005, Dollar General was forced by the Securities and Exchange Commission to rectify falsified stock values and dividend reports for the years 1999, 2000, and 2001.”

This is true, and the data are extensive. Look it up.

11. “Last year, in Illinois, the Chicago office of the EEOC filed a nationwide lawsuit against Dollar General based on discrimination charges filed by two rejected applicants. That lawsuit charges that Dollar General conditions all of its job offers based on background checks that unfairly discriminate against applicants on the basis of race. Dollar General operates 10,000 stores in 40 states, plus 11 distribution centers. Ninety percent of all Dollar General employees nationwide are store clerks who are both stockers and cashiers at the stores.”

This is also true – look it up.

12. “The 2008 Vision Plan for Pine Grove is in direct conflict with the Dollar General proposal.”

We can provide a copy of the 2008 Vision Plan. There is nothing misleading here.

13. “We are convinced that there has been sufficient traffic-flow increase since the 2010 traffic study to warrant both an update in 2014 and new, full-scale EIR detailing proposed mitigations to resolve the negative primary and secondary impacts to Pine Grove.”

“We are convinced” – this is a statement of our beliefs only.

We don’t care if some, or even many residents in Amador County disagree with us and our effort to stop Dollar General. In fact, we fully expect it, and that is obvious since there is already a WalMart, Kmart, and other box stores in Amador County and people continue to shop there every day – regardless of the fact that Walmart has the worst employment record of any company in the United States. These stores have had the combined effect of literally destroying local business in cities and towns all over America. Walmart is finally being attacked at the federal level because its low-wage policy costs the American taxpayers more than 62 billion dollars annually due to the fact that Walmart employees must apply for government assistance in order to survive. That assistance comes from you and me as taxpayers. We fully expect that Dollar General, and the other “dollar” type stores will also be attacked at the federal level as well.

The letter writer would have you believe that pensions and investments create a return to the people of Pine Grove, but that is simply a revolving door, and a sad example of supply-side, trickle-down economics. Any money that comes in through the pension or investment is a singular value. The majority of the money that pensioners receive is money they contributed to their own retirements. Any other return goes out at least twice in the form of taxes to pay for assistance to current workers because of substandard wages paid by the box stores, and to, in addition, directly buy the products that companies like Walmart and Dollar General sell. Dollar General lives off of the detritus left over after Walmart takes the biggest bite. Let’s give that to our local businesses instead of to the 533 major investors in Dollar General. If you disagree, then side with the letter writer who feels that we are somehow anti-business, or anti-democratic because we wish to protect our local community from harm. Come to think of it, given the fact that Walmart survives in Jackson, and that Dollar General is not only coming to Pine Grove, but also to Plymouth, Jackson, and Ione, those who place shopping at box stores above supporting and protecting local businesses will have a grand time shopping until they drop while killing – yes, killing – local, home-grown business and turning our communities into strip malls.

Jim Snoke
Volcano, CA
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