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Wal-Mart in Jefferson
Letter to the Editor, January 16, 2003 

January 16, 2003

Daily Jefferson County Union
Fort Atkinson, WI 53538

Dear Editor:

I must confess. I am the one who submitted a typed (gasp) question to Al Norman at his recent anti-Wal-Mart presentation in Jefferson. What sinister motivation drove me to commit such a crime? One, I anticipated that he would accept only written questions, so that he could control which questions to answer. I anticipated that there would be no opportunity to dispute or contradict Mr. Norman. Rather than writing my question out and risk not having it legible (a distinct possibility!)...I prepared it ahead of time. 

I was not surprised that Norman twisted this simple gesture by insinuating that because it was prepared ahead of time it could not be credible. He seems to twist a lot of things to make the point he desires. For example, he told people not to talk to any Chambers of Commerce or city managers because they would probably give out positive information. He tells us not to believe Wal-Mart. In short, he doesn't want us to talk to anyone that has any positive information about Wal-Mart.

His own town, Greenfield, MA, is suffering after nine years since they turned away Wal-Mart, yet he blames the Wal-Marts in other towns. The Chief of Police in Greenfield told me (direct quote): "At the present time I must say that I think Al Norman has single handedly caused my community to nearly go bankrupt with his pompous campaign against big box businesses. ...He killed Greenfield, don't let him do the same to your town."

Mr. Norman appears to be losing his battle to keep Home Depot out of his own hometown because his neighbors actually want it. It is going on an existing retail spot—no new sprawl, yet he is fighting it. I have been told that he was hired to fight Walmart nine years ago and that he has been hired to fight Home Depot, just like he was hired to speak against Wal-Mart in Jefferson. A local jeweler in Greenfield called Norman a 'hired gun' and said he did not feel Greenfield was better off without a Wal-Mart. Check out yourself for some hometown comments about Al Norman. There are many people in Greenfield, MA who do not like Norman's involvement there, and this is nine years after he supposedly saved them from the 'evil empire'.

His presentation used old information. He still plays a seven-year-old 60 Minutes tape. He uses old studies and old information. When confronted about his outdated material he told us that "it really hasn't changed." If he knows it hasn't changed then shouldn't he have the more recent information that he's compared it to. Doesn't it seem odd that facts and figures haven't changed over a seven year span?

He glossed over information not promoting his cause. For example, his evaluation of sales data from 1997 showed that Jefferson does have a need in the general merchandise area but he didn't spend any time on this. He concentrated more on the negative effect of Wal-Mart on our local grocery stores, the very businesses I suspect hired him to come. Yet my typed question raised more doubt about credibility than this clear conflict of interest?

The mysterious 'Coalition for a Better Jefferson' has spread inaccurate and biased information, copying advertising based on other communities and simply inserting the name of Jefferson. Coalition tactics seem to include raising credibility questions about anyone who is not clearly ANTI Wal-Mart. Because I've asked questions and tried to seek accurate, current studies I have been told to 'move to Watertown' and 'get screwed', plus a rumor was brought to my attention that I've been accused of having a conflict of interest because my brother's home (on one acre of land) would be sold to Wal-Mart. Mayor Brawders is now being attacked because of comments he has made that are not anti-Wal-Mart. 

At the last City Council meeting the Coalition asked the Council not to lift the moratorium until they heard both sides. Yet the Coalition has been circulating anti Wal-Mart petitions for months, even before Wal-Mart made their presentation to Jefferson, including having the petitions available right before Norman's talk. It seems a lot of minds are made up before hearing all accurate information

In my opinion if there is division and divisiveness in Jefferson it has been instigated by the Coalition for a Better Jefferson.

To the Coalition: Please step forward and let us see who you are. Who are your paid members and how much does it cost to become a member? Be honest about who paid for Al Norman as well as the two large Wal-Mart bashing advertisements. Have the fortitude to put your names on your work, or are you embarrassed to do so for some reason? Please stop circulating inaccurate information, making exaggerated general statements, trying to intimidate people and attacking the credibility of those who might not agree with you. There are always two sides to every story. Let people see both sides and judge based on the facts. 

To the City Council: Please do something! We have known about Wal-Mart's interest for about nine months yet we still don't have a plan to get the information needed for anyone to make an informed decision. People keep saying "I have questions that need to be answered" but no one seems to actually ask them. I am NOT saying 'let Wal-Mart into our town'. I am saying that our city officials should communicate with Wal-Mart. We need detailed information about their plans, we need to do our own analysis and research. A vote to lift the moratorium is a not a vote for Wal-Mart, it is a vote for openmindedness. 

To the citizens of Jefferson: Please keep an open mind. Don't jump to conclusions without seeking facts. Consider the source when given information. 

To the Daily Union: Shouldn't you be more objective in your reporting? You ran an editorial stating that bringing Wal-Mart to the area could be detrimental to your advertising income. Your news coverage often seems to support the anti-Wal-Mart sentiment. Isn't that a conflict of interest on your part? Or perhaps this is not a question that needs to be considered because this is a typed question.

Tom Pinnow