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Walmart reneges on Ward 7

No surprise the retail giant is abandoning D.C. locations

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Walmart, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Mike Mozart of JeepersMedia; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Last week, Walmart announced that it plans to close 269 stores worldwide (154 in the United States) and that it would not move forward on its D.C. stores in Capital Gateway and Skyland, both east of the river in Ward 7. Don’t let the store closures fool you, Walmart still plans to build hundreds of new stores this year. Furthermore, most of the stores that are closing are Walmart Express stores. Only 12 Supercenters are closing and the two Ward 7 stores were slated to be Supercenters.

In a previous column that I wrote on Sept. 7, 2013, titled, “D.C. residents a pawn in Walmart’s chess match,” I expressed doubt that Walmart would build the east of the river stores if they did not build those stores first. This was during the time that District officials were contemplating passing the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA), which would have required businesses that are at least 75,000 square feet and have more than $1 billion in sales to pay a living wage. Walmart balked at the bill and said it would not build any stores in D.C. if the bill passed.

To quote my previous column, “if LRAA passes, Walmart is threatening not to build the two planned stores east of the river and the one in Ward 5 [which ended up being scuttled], which are slated to be built in communities where retail is needed most.” Our local politicians succumbed to Walmart’s threats, then-Mayor Gray vetoed the legislation, and just enough Council members followed suit to prevent overriding his veto.” Despite giving Walmart what it wanted, unfortunately, my prediction has come to fruition. Walmart was allowed to build the three stores in Northwest first and it has now backed out of its agreement to build the two Ward 7 stores.

While I acknowledged then (and still acknowledge) that I’m not a fan of Walmart due to its labor practices, I felt that if Walmart were to come to D.C., it was imperative that it moved into the under-resourced communities first.

In my 2013 article, I stated, “We would not even be having this debate if Walmart built the first D.C. stores at Skyland Town Center and Capital Gateway, both in Ward 7, instead of in Northwest. Walmart’s leverage is based on the fear that it is those communities’ only hope to get major retail. I guarantee you that if the stores currently under construction were the two in Ward 7, the LRAA vote would not have even been close. It would have passed the Council by a veto-proof margin and Mayor Gray would have signed it. So, we are mere pawns in Queen Walmart’s chess match because city officials failed to request that Walmart build the Ward 7 stores first and now Walmart has backed the city into a corner.”

I still stand by this sentiment, but I want to be clear that this is not intended to point fingers at anyone other than Walmart. Walmart is the bad actor. Whether I agree or disagree with the actions of some elected officials, I truly believe that everyone (our previous mayor, our current mayor, and our Council members) was acting in the best interest of the city with the information that they had at the time.

So, where do we go from here? Well, we could boycott the three stores in Northwest, but let’s be honest, that won’t be effective. Those of us most willing to boycott don’t shop there anyway. There is clear evidence that Walmart is targeting stores in areas with high minimum wages for closure. We can’t let Walmart get away with this and stagnate wages nationwide, so a movement to illuminate Walmart’s latest instance of corporate greed may be effective.

The District has spent a lot of money over several decades to force existing businesses to leave Skyland by eminent domain in order to redevelop it. While some members of the nearby community wanted to upgrade the business amenities, there were others who regularly patronized these businesses. Now those businesses are gone and there is nothing to show for it.

Furthermore, there is still the matter of the Safeway covenant at Skyland, which covers the parking lot that Walmart may have used. According to the Washington Business Journal, Walmart signed its lease at Skyland in December 2014. D.C. government condemned Safeway’s covenant by eminent domain in June 2015 and asserted that the covenant had no value, but Walmart refused to move forward as long as the covenant existed. Thus, the District settled with Safeway to have the covenant removed.

Perhaps one of the best things that we can do is take this as a learning opportunity. The next time an entity wants to build in multiple parts of the District and there are some areas that need the resources more than others, the District has to be firm and demand that those areas come first. That means the District has to actually be willing to walk away from a deal if that condition is not met. This is not the 1980s. We are not begging businesses to come into the District. We have more leverage than we know, and it’s time that we, as a city, started using it to ensure that all communities have access to quality services.

Lateefah Williams writes regularly for the Blade. Her views are her own and do not represent any organization with which she is affiliated.

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1 Comment

  1. I'm Just Sayin'

    January 28, 2016 at 11:03 am

    Believing that you are acting in our best interests and demonstrating competence are two different things. How much information did DC need to incorporate penalties into a contract for non-performance? If DC was going to spend $3.6 million in taxpayer money to get Safeway to release their parking convenant, then shouldn’t they have required Walmart to reimburse the city in the event they did not follow through at Skyland. We spent the quid without the quo. Somebody was asleep in Contracts class.

    No one is shocked (other than apparently DC government) that Walmart acted unilaterally in support of their own interest. There is ample evidence of them earning the moniker of “Bad Actor.” Plus anyone who has downsized a workforce or moved jobs overseas knows that in the end compassion and conscience are subrogated to profitability. Walmart has a fiduciary responsibility to maximize share owner value not be philanthropic. This is why government needs to regulate business.

    Walmart is able to walk away with three prime business locations because DC officials aren’t being held responsible for their bungling. Giving Bowser and her minions a pass is a strange position for someone who wanted to be DC’s first elected Attorney General. In fact shouldn’t AG Racine be looking into the whole matter?

    City officials groveled at Walmart’s feet and in the end Ward 7 residents got stepped on. Walmart is not the one being paid to look out for them. Finger pointing is exactly what’s called for here.

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Opinions

The future of lesbian bars

Resolve to support our queer spaces in 2022

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lockdown zone, gay news, Washington Blade

This New Year, I hope you wish for more lesbian bars across the country. The story of lesbian bars in the U.S. has been slightly tragic of late: as of January 2021, there were only 15 clubs or bars dedicated to queer women across the country. 

That’s right—only 15. Across all 50 states. 

In Washington, D.C., my hometown, A League of Her Own stands out as the only lesbian bar in the city, dedicated to queer women. Located in Adams Morgan, A League of Her Own, also known as ALOHO, is a small mecca for queer ladies to pass through, socialize, and flirt. ALOHO is a chic gathering point for all queer folk, with posters of softball players dotting the walls and gender neutral signs lying about. 

Several years ago, another lesbian bar called Phase 1 existed in Southeast, where queer women could slam eight balls in pool games and engage in raunchy yet ever-so-hot jello wrestling competitions. 

Unfortunately, Phase 1 shut its doors in 2016. 

So what explains the closure of so many lesbian bars, while bars for gay men continue to flourish? Perhaps many queer women view gay bars as a space for their own as well, whereas gay men view lesbian bars as less of a place for them to socialize. 

Either way, we need to give support to lesbian bars now more than ever. Tokens of support can take many forms. 

For one, make sure to socialize in spaces dedicated to queer ladies. There are three lesbian bars in New York City: Cubbyhole (281 W. 12th St.), Gingers in Brooklyn (363 5th Ave.), and Henrietta Hudson (438 Hudson St.). Next time you visit the Big Apple, make sure to give these three spots some love. Maybe drag your experimenting bi friend to these locations. Or your pansexual roommate. 

Back in D.C., you can buy unisex shirts in A League of Her Own’s merchandise store, available online. 

Proceeds will go toward funding the bar, and making sure it stays afloat, especially during this COVID economy. 

Most of all, I hope you encourage your queer lady friends to keep on frequenting queer lady destinations. After all, there is only one thing that will keep lesbian bars afloat—and that is attendance. 

I, for one, will be frequenting many lesbian destinations this new year.  

Isaac Amend is a Yale graduate and participated in National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ documentary. He also is a member of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, and contributes regularly to the Blade. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @isaacamend.

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Breaking barriers as an out trans ‘Jeopardy’ champion

Amy Schneider’s run inspires us all

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Amy Schneider (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Television)

“When was the last time anybody said ‘wow!’” a friend asked me.

I couldn’t remember the last time anyone I know (including me) had any “Wow!” moments. Until I heard about trans woman and software engineering manager Amy Schneider’s 29-game winning streak on “Jeopardy.”

You wouldn’t think anything could dispel our COVID exhaustion and political divisiveness. Yet, news about a champion on “Jeopardy,” a quiz show that has been on TV since 1964, has broken through our gloom.

In our culture, there are few things that everyone loves. But, “Jeopardy” is beloved by many, from theater geeks to 80-year-old sports nuts. A progressive friend was over the moon when his brother was a “Jeopardy” contestant. A buddy, a hetero (non-Trump) Republican, is a “Jeopardy” fanatic and a gay librarian pal is a “Jeopardy” freak.

Many of us daydream about being on “Jeopardy.” But we know that we wouldn’t have a chance on this legendary quiz show with its deceptively simple format: You give the answer to the (often incredibly hard) clues in the form of a question. You have to have a strategic military commander’s and a world-class athlete’s coordination: so you can press the buzzer to answer the clue.

The game’s categories run the gamut from opera to mountain ranges. Most of us, mere mortals, would be lucky to know even one category in the first round of the game. Let alone in the “Double Jeopardy” round or the “Final Jeopardy” clue. I might jump on clues about Katharine Hepburn movies or M&Ms. But that would be it for me.

It’s exciting to watch a “Jeopardy” contestant become a long-running champion. You marvel at the player’s intelligence, endurance, and nerve. It’s thrilling when the contestant on a winning-streak is part of your community.

Many of us LGBTQ “Jeopardy” fans are thrilled by Schneider’s record-setting winning streak. As I write this, Schneider has won more than $1 million in 29 games of “Jeopardy.” She is the fifth millionaire in “Jeopardy” history, and only the fourth player to reach this milestone in the regular season. She has won more than any other female “Jeopardy” contestant.

Schneider, like so many of us, doesn’t want to be defined by her gender identity or sexuality. Schneider’s life is multi-faceted; she has many interests. Schneider lives with her girlfriend Genevieve. They have a cat named Meep.

Yet, Schneider doesn’t want to hide that she’s trans. On “Jeopardy,” Schneider brilliantly dealt with this dilemma. She didn’t make a big deal about being out. She just wore the trans Pride flag pin.

“It was something that I wanted to get out there and to show my pride in while not making it the focus of what I was doing there,” Schneider told the New York Times. “Because I was just there to answer trivia questions and win money.”

As a cisgender lesbian, I can’t speak to how Schneider’s record-setting “Jeopardy” streak feels to transgender people.

But, as a trans ally, I’m cheering for Schneider. Kudos for her bravery! At a time when many states are passing anti-trans laws, it takes guts to be out on TV and the Internet.

Few things are as mainstream as “Jeopardy.” I bet that many “Jeopardy” viewers who are frightened at the idea of trans people, will become more comfortable with transgender people after watching Schneider on the popular quiz show. Because folks on TV come into our living and bedrooms and we feel as if we know them after watching them for a while.

“Amy looks like everybody else,” my neighbor said when I told her Schneider was trans. “She doesn’t act odd. She’s not strange.”

Transgender people encounter violence and discrimination in everything from housing to health care to employment.

I know Schneider’s “Jeopardy” triumph won’t end transphobia. But her winning streak will go a long way toward jumpstarting a change in hearts and minds.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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SCARY: Tucker Carlson now the conscience of GOP

Cruz bows down, kisses ring of Fox host

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Tucker Carlson (Screen capture via Fox on YouTube)

The Republican Party has sunk to a new low, hard to do, when a sleazebag like Tucker Carlson is now their conscience. Seeing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) groveling before him is laughable, disgusting, and frightening all at the same time. 

As reported in Rolling Stone, Cruz said, “We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week. It is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery, risk their lives to defend the men and women who serve in this Capitol.” Then “Cruz was lambasted by Tucker Carlson that night, prompting him to hop on Carlson’s show Thursday and beg for forgiveness. “The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy and it was frankly dumb,” Cruz said before Carlson cut him off and said he didn’t believe him. Cruz took it up a notch, stammering through an absurd bit about how he wasn’t talking about the “patriots across the country supporting President Trump,” only those who assaulted police officers, and that he’s always described anyone who assaults a cop as a terrorist.

Carlson has made a career of being a pompous commentator. Interestingly he worked at CNN, PBS, and MSNBC, before finally landing at Fox in 2009. According to his Wikipedia page he went to Trinity College where he earned a bachelor’s degree and Carlson’s Trinity yearbook describes him as a member of the “Dan White Society,” an apparent reference to the American political assassin who murdered San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. After college, Carlson tried to join the CIA, but his application was denied, after which he decided to pursue a career in journalism with the encouragement of his father, who advised him that “they’ll take anybody.” Reading this clearly raised my opinion of the CIA and based on what we see in some media today I agree with Carlson’s father on his view of journalism. 

When you have a moment of silence in the House of Representatives to honor those who lost their lives on Jan. 6 and only two Republicans show up, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and her father Dick Cheney, the former vice president, one understands the influence Carlson has on the GOP. The rest were afraid of being criticized on-air by him or lambasted by Trump. 

Dick Cheney remarked on the GOP, “It’s not a leadership that resembles any of the folks I knew when I was here for 10 years.” He spoke to ABC News saying, “I’m deeply disappointed we don’t have better leadership in the Republican Party to restore the Constitution.” 

There is a leadership void in the Republican Party today. Their so-called leaders are afraid to say what they think if it differs in any way from Trumpism or Carlson’s view of the world, which requires total fealty to Trump. He found a home on Fox where he can lie with impunity and have millions believe his lies. 

President Biden said, in what many think was the best speech of his presidency so far, these people are “holding a dagger to the neck of democracy.” He went on to say, “For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.” 

Tucker Carlson and his ilk have never bothered to answer a question the president threw at them, which is how they can accept all their down ballot victories, governors, and members of Congress, which occurred on the same ballots, cast by the same people, on the same day, as those for president. Of course, Carlson has no need to make sense, tell the truth, or speak rationally because of his platform on Fox, which doesn’t require that.

My question is whether Carlson is as dumb as he makes himself sound or is he brilliant and this is all a big act? Either way the acolytes that follow Trump don’t seem to care and are bowing down to Carlson’s big audience. It’s as if he can tell any Republican senator or congressperson, or Republican candidate for those jobs, to just ‘bend over and take it’ and they do. All we can do is mourn for the GOP of Lincoln and Eisenhower. Non-Trumpers will have to work hard and speak out if they ever want to resurrect a GOP that can be respected.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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