The mayor's sister and father came out opposed to the mayor's and the council's stance. Council members had close friends and supporters coming out against their stance. Council members believed that their hands were tied by the law, that even if they opposed Walmart that they had to approve this preliminary plat because everything was up to code. My favorite council member left the chamber yelling at the folks who worked on her campaign but now opposed her stance (including me) and in tears. The meeting ran from 7:30pm until nearly midnight. Of the 40 people that expressed an opinion, 2 were in favor of Walmart.
One thing became clear. This is what the one council member was yelling at us about, and she was right. We need to make this into a movement. We can't come to one council meeting and demand change and then go home and do nothing. We have to organize picketting. We have to organize behind specific laws that we want council to pass and advocate for those. We have to educate the public about places they can shop other than Walmart. We have to educate the council on ways they can creatively oppose the Walmart.
I still think tonight's vote didn't have to be a done deal. I still think the council could have been (and can still be) more proactive in preventing Walmart from coming to town. But I do feel bad for the council members that are taking the brunt of the criticism. I remember when I was the Chair of a committee that was dealing with a very divisive issue and people accused me of being unjust and lacking social consciousness about the issue and it brought me to tears because I was doing my level best to be a fair mediator. I can imagine that same pressure but magnified by thousands and thousands of people telling you you are a bad person for doing the thing that you think is the best thing among a nest of bad options.
In other news the same council passed a Domestic Partner benefit tonight that extends the right to take bereavement and sick and family emergency medical leave to same-sex couples with a declared domestic partnership. That was cool.