Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Ahhh.... box. Redux.

Those regular readers of this feature will remember that the city in which the 19 Minutes Media Empire is based was in the midst of a weeks-long mail-in election over whether to allow enormous box stores (big box stores of the 'supercenter' variety) to set up shop here. The polls closed at 7:00 last night, the ballots were counted by 9:00, and the pro-big box side (which, oddly enough, was represented by voting 'no') came out on top by just over 350 votes out of the 17,000+ cast.

This has caused much anguished hand-wringing in some circles here in 19 Minutesland.

Mike Royko, who the 19 Minutes staff considers its spiritual mentor, once comforted then-newly elected Chicago Mayor Harold Washington's foes by writing, "So I told Uncle Chester: Don't worry, Harold Washington doesn't want to marry your sister."

And so I reassure my fellow Flagstaffers: Don't worry, you won't have to buy your hiking boots, your organic produce, or your lycra biking outfits at a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

As has been noted, Flagstaff has a difficult enough time hanging onto its small box retailers that a massive influx of big boxes still seems to be in the pipe dreams of the Chamber of Commerce. Wal-Mart will put up its Supercenter, we'll gripe about the traffic jams outside, we'll continue to buy camping gear, incense, and pottery at a downtown retailer, and occasionally we'll hold our noses and sneak into the Supercenter to buy a humidifier.

The sun will come up, smoke from prescribed burns will settle in the early morning air and make us sneeze, passing trains will still delay our trips everywhere, and coffee will still be available in copious amounts.

Royko concluded his Harold Washington column by writing, "Who knows -- we might even like him." Something tells me the parallel with the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Flagstaff might end at that point.

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