April 6, 2005

Bigger Boxes for Bennington

Though an elephant is still sitting in the corner, let's get back to work analyzing the Wal-Mart debate.

Art Woolf sends in a link to the Bennington Banner, which reports that citizens voted down the towns anti-big-box zoning ordinance:

Voters soundly rejected a bylaw that limits the size of large-scale retail by 465 votes, turning out for the special referendum on Tuesday in numbers greater than during Town Meeting.

"And this was the only thing on the ballot," said Town Clerk Timothy R. Corcoran.

The bylaw, adopted by the select board in January, was voted down 2,189 to 1,724. Although North Bennington voted 232 to 146 in favor of the cap, it wasn't enough to budge the overall tally.

The reporter, Laura Raskin, does a nice job of interviewing both sides. But two pieces of information are notably absent. How many poeple live in Bennington? How many people are registered to vote? How do I know that turnout was high?

Wikipedia says Bennington had around ~15,700 people as of 2000. This means that 1700 wanted to tell another 14,000 how their town should be ordered economically.

[UPDATE: Art Woolf emails that turnout was ~40%, which implies that ~9500 people are registered to vote in Bennington. To me it's unfortuante that even if a 50% quorom cannot be met, that a vote will have legal authority. Most condominium associations have more rigid voting requirements than small towns! In case, like me, you didn't remember who Art Woolf was, I refer you to his op-ed in The New York Times ($) about the National Trust for Historic Preservation and WM:

We are, however, reasonable people. If Wal-Mart saves consumers 10 percent on their average purchase, we would be willing to make a deal with the National Trust. We'll agree not to accept any more Wal-Marts in Vermont. And we'll even toss the existing Wal-Marts out. In exchange, each year the National Trust has to reimburse us for the $36 million extra we'll be spending by not benefiting from Wal-Mart's low prices.
The man is clearly an economist.]

I personally don't think the economic order should be a matter of majority vote; votes on where other people should be allowed to shop are not, in my mind, compelling political matters.

In case the Banner link breaks, here's CNN/Money's version

Posted by Kevin on April, 6 2005 at 08:56 AM