By CHRIS PEYTON
I am deeply concerned about the possibility of the big box ban passing in Keizer.
Like so many laws and restrictions that are foisted upon us, this is another “well intentioned” effort that would have unforeseen negative effects for Keizer that would far outweigh any benefits. With the arbitrary value of 65,000 square feet chosen as the cut-off for the ban, does this mean that a 66,000 square foot store would damage our community, increase crime in our neighborhoods and snarl traffic but a 64,000 square foot store would fit in nicely and cause none of those? Are we to believe that a store’s benefit to the community is inversely proportional to its size? Of course, this is ridiculous.
The economic analysis of Keep Keizer Livable (KKL) and the unions is weak. They argue that keeping out large stores would strengthen our local businesses and benefit all Keizer residents. This proposal is nothing but protectionism on a small scale and would bring the negative impacts that always follow protectionist policies. Added competition brings additional services, greater product variety and lower prices for all of us, all of which would be restricted by this ban. Jeff Anderson of United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) 55 also claims that chain stores hurt communities by lowering wages. It’s Mr. Anderson’s ideas that are damaging: forcing artificially high wages on companies, as he does, suppresses the number of employees they can hire. Wages are no different than any other expense and the higher they are the more limited a company will be in hiring additional workers. Some argue that the lower wage jobs that would come with a box store aren’t what we want. With Oregon’s unemployment rate, are we really in a position to turn away jobs because “they aren’t good enough?”
Proponents of the ban also cite increased traffic as a reason to block new businesses from locating in Keizer. This is a legitimate concern but the solution is to make the necessary improvements to our infrastructure to handle the traffic and alleviate potential problems. Where would we be today if the possibility of increasing traffic had been common criteria used to keep businesses out of Keizer in the past?
If we approve this ban, we have to accept that it will impact an untold number of companies in the future who may want to locate here, not just the common villain Wal-Mart. Would KKL feel the same about a Trader Joe’s or Costco coming if their proposed stores were larger than 65,000 square feet? This ban will create an environment that tells large companies that we don’t want their jobs, their services or their products.
Banning legal companies from coming is against the very principles that are critical to American economic prosperity. The way to voice your concern is through your mayor, city councilors and other city officials and to vote with your pocketbook by supporting the businesses you prefer. Saying “no” to this measure is not saying “yes” to Wal-Mart; saying “no” is standing against more harmful bureaucracy.
Chris Peyton lives in Keizer.