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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Council Follows Novick's Charge Against "Soviet-Style" Walmart

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Oct 2, 2013 at 12:14 PM

Despite some expected harrumphing from the Oregonian's editorial board—which wrote an exaggerated piece this week defending Walmart as an unfairly maligned target of misguided progressives—the Portland City Council this morning unanimously and enthusiastically followed Commissioner Steve Novick's lead and agreed to stop investing city assets in Walmart.

"This may seem like a little thing," Commissioner Amanda Fritz said when voting "aye." "But what if everyone did it. Then it would be a big thing."

Novick's proposal this morning was two-fold. It would adopt city guidelines for socially responsible investments, leading up to a continually curated "do not buy" list of corporations that the council decides fall short. The other piece was creating a temporary list consisting solely of Walmart—based on Novick's sense of what those guidelines might eventually consider.

In making his case for a Walmart ban—Walmart-bashing has historically been a popular sport in some corners of city hall—Novick invoked all the usual reasons why reasonable people might try avoiding doing business with the place. A bribery case in Mexico. Tax avoidance allegations. Abuse of workers—like a decision to cut hours to avoid health care costs.

Novick makes the case that extreme tax avoidance, setting up foreign subsidiaries as part of a legal shell game to hide money, hurts Portland because it reduces money the federal government can rely on when meting out community grants for programs like affordable housing construction.

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