The Outstater

September 30, 2022

IT WAS MEANT TO BE a stirring summation of the decision to move forward on building a multi-million-dollar government-subsidized grocery in the center or her councilmanic district, one within walking distance of her downtrodden constituents.

She mentioned small children and healthy, fresh food to power their brains. She herself had witnessed a single mother laden with bags of groceries struggling to get off a city bus. She says it opened her heart to the inconvenience of long trips to get the basics of life, to escape a morally arid food “desert.”

But there also was a whiff of assumption and resentment in her telling of “BMWs, Mercedes, regular Chevys, Cadillacs, you name it” filling the parking spots at grocery stores in other parts of town, places where people enjoy benefits she thinks are denied to her constituency. She told us how proud she was to grant them “the opportunity to have the choice to walk out of their front door and get groceries.”

She alluded to the unfairness of using tax increment financing and such for downtown projects but not for projects in her district.

Mostly, though, she seemed to resent that another councilman, the lone vote against her magnanimity, had dared spell out his reasons a few days earlier in a letter to the newspaper.

Not that she addressed any of his arguments. Rather, she used her time before council this way:

“Anything we can do to keep that mother (on the bus) from making a two-hour grocery trip to get food for her baby is a win in my eyes. Others may not see it the same way, but our community doesn’t always get what it needs without having someone spur a balance of equality and equity.”

What hooey.

First, no children’s brains are being damaged — not at least for lack of community compassion. As research cited in the hated councilman’s letter attested, those in America’s lowest income quintile can access, with government benefits and programs, the equivalent of $49,000 a year. That does not take into account the city’s expansive network of churches and charities.

Second, what kind of business plan envisions a full-service multi-million-dollar grocery store to meet the needs of foot traffic? Private corner groceries could handle that for a fraction of the cost. In fact, that was the case not so long ago.

Which brings us to the crux. There are no private grocers small or large in the designated area because investment there is not safe. Rule of Law has been abandoned. And now, in an unholy arrangement, the government pretends to be an investor — a grocer, if you will — on the condition that the council abdicates government’s true and sole responsibility of protecting citizens and property.

So, that mother on the bus didn’t lose the convenience of a neighborhood grocery store. Her leadership, her council representatives, lost it for her. Crime matters. It should have been the issue of discussion.

It went unmentioned that the last private grocers left the area not because the owners were racist, the go-to explanation for anything wrong. They closed the store because there was no support for prosecuting shoplifting and employee theft, critical factors in any grocer’s bottom line. Also, grocery employees, who had to travel to work at all times of day, felt increasingly unsafe. On top of that, unthinking regulation and zoning, plus ruinous taxes on the profits of small businesses, didn’t help.

The council could have done something constructive about all of that. But does anyone think that the new woke grocery, with no actual owner and an as yet uncertain, multi-level, ostensibly profitless management, will not experience even greater losses? And with youth told that working is neither cool nor necessary, how safe will it be to walk to a grocery or anywhere else? Will a flash mob care about a business’s altruistic underpinning?

The saddest thing in the end was the view of that council table — Republicans, grown men, some of them eager to be thought “conservative,” staring silently at their hands as this uninformed, envy-driven virtuecrat berated them for the supposed greed and selfishness of their constituents.

Identity politics aside, couldn’t they have summoned the courage to cast a simple “no” vote against a patently bad idea, a vote in defense of those who elected them, at least those driving the “regular” Chevys?

Sitting in the chamber audience that night, an everyday hardworking citizen had a lot to think about. Black, white, hispanic or whatever, he must be excused for resolving to take his meager savings, pack up the family and get as far a way from such weak democratic representation as he could afford. — tcl


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