A battle againt Wal-Mart is being engaged in our neck of the woods. Here is an article from the San Antonio Express-News a couple days back:
On the edge of the Hill Country, Helotes long has been known for its rolling green hills, spacious wooded lots and Willie Nelson shows at the John T. Floore Country Store, which never was a store but a hopping dance hall.
Opponents point out there already are four Wal-Marts within about 10 miles.
Now the town of 4,285 in Northwest Bexar County is the latest stage for a showdown with the world's largest retailer.
Word that Wal-Mart is planning to build a supercenter has spurred residents to take a stand like never before. Some are marching door-to-door with petitions, declaring a big box store would spoil a scenic spot and possibly harm endangered species.
Others are trumpeting the would-be convenience of the store—"You can go to one place and get anything you want or need," area resident Shrille Murphy, 80, said—and projecting a 50 percent increase in the town's budget through sales taxes.
In the past few weeks, resident Carolyn Kennedy has bumped into people she hasn't seen in years.
"Everyone is coming out of the woodwork," said Kennedy, who has lived in Helotes for 47 of her 50 years. "They don't want this thing. It's really brought a lot of people together."
The Helotes opponents have joined a swell of community groups and unions bucking Wal-Mart supercenters, charging that the low-price behemoth underpays, decimates small-town retail strips and erects enormous blue-and-white eyesores for stores — stores they say contribute to the "genericizing" of America....
Long a quiet refuge, the town in recent years has seen banks and shops and restaurants pop up along its stretch of Bandera Road, where traffic moves fast these days.
That's what attracted Wal-Mart to Bandera and Scenic Loop roads, currently a brushy 30-acre lot dotted with squat trees. In September, the company made a deal with property owner Balous Miller, president of the Bill Miller barbecue chain.
Though neither side would disclose the selling price, Helotes Mayor Pro-Tem Charles James said he was told it was $3.5 million.
Residents took action, forming the Helotes Area Heritage Association and turning out en masse for a meeting with city officials and a Wal-Mart representative. In a show of hands, more than 200 opposed the project while three favored it....
In Helotes, "you can relax and step back in time a little bit," Kennedy said. "If the Wal-Mart is built, we're going to lose all of that."
We don't live in Helotes, but we're only a few miles away, and drive into that area frequently. Scenic Loop Road, which is indeed quite scenic (at least for now), is our route into that area and I would hate to see it despoiled by as despicable a corporation as Wal-Mart.
So on NPR this morning, local Texas Public Radio ran a brief segment that began with a mention of the opposition to this proposed Helotes Wal-Mart, but then segued into an essay that described a Wal-Mart in a small town in Mexico. It was a total puff-piece, suggesting that Wal-Mart was performing such a good service by providing such a wide variety of goods in such a back-water place. It wouldn't have been out of place as a paid advertisement. Damage control. Public relations. Run in a city that is gearing up to fight one of Wal-Mart's new "Supercenters".
A few minutes earlier, in the sponsorship promos during the NPR news segment, I had heard that NPR is now "brought to you" by, of all entities, Wal-Mart.
UPDATE: Here is the link to the Texas Public Radio essay/promotion piece by commentator Kristina Ruiz-Healy. Here is the intro, which sounds very similar to the intro that was read on the radio this morning:
Some residents in northwest Bexar County are very unhappy about plans for a Wal-Mart in their scenic neighborhood which, they say, could be harmful to endangered species. But commentator Kristina Ruiz-Healy talks about a Wal-Mart that is a welcomed addition, even though it is within sight of the Mexican Pyramids.
Wal-Mart is not listed as an underwriter at Texas Public Radio's website. Yet TPR's schedule on KSTX, the station on which Ruiz-Healy's commentary was played this morning, is dominated by NPR's programs, and NPR is very obviously underwritten by Wal-Mart. The relationship between TPR and NPR is very close; the relationship between NPR and Wal-Mart is very close. So what is the relationship between TPR and Wal-Mart? Is there a conflict of interest here?