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Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Letters to the editor

Wall to wall business

Skimpy benefits follow huge retailers entering the community

Editor, The Times:

I was extremely disappointed by The Times' Sunday cover story (and accompanying business section article) on Wal-Mart's expansion in Western Washington ("When giant Wal-Mart knocks, there's a town battle in store," Page A1, and "Walmart expanding: The big guys come to town," Business & Technology, July 28).

The Times could have used this as an opportunity for some investigative journalism into the way Wal-Mart has impacted communities in Washington state, how they treat their employees and how they bully local governments, vendors and anyone else who stands in their way.

Instead, the article was little more than a puff piece for the company. For example, the articles referred to Wal-Mart's "low prices" several times without backing up this as fact. Previous investigations by many media outlets have shown that Wal-Mart, in fact, often has the highest prices in their market for many of the products they stock. This after a period of predatory low prices after they enter a new market to drive the competition (often neighborhood mom-and-pop stores) out of business.

The article talked of the tax benefits and jobs created by a new Wal-Mart. Again, The Times only made only a passing reference to the "controversy" over this when in fact there are numerous studies showing that cities and counties are net losers when a Wal-Mart comes to town, after taking into account the tax revenues lost from the businesses that fail.

As for the jobs created: most are part-time. Most come with no or marginal health benefits. You cannot support a family on a wage as a Wal-Mart "associate."

I would hope your readers would educate themselves on the facts about Wal-Mart before supporting its move into their communities or shopping there. I would hope The Times would revisit this issue again, this time doing a little research.
- Doug Dosdall, Seattle

Some things are priceless

To those who are dismayed at the Wal-Mart invasion, I say this: take heart. At least you are not expected to fill out lengthy applications, including very personal information, attach your first-born male child, and hope the company will recognize you as a "loyal customer" and allow you the privilege of flashing a special card to buy their merchandise at a fair price.

Wal-Mart also does not track your purchases and put you on a multitude of mailing lists just because you are a "loyal customer."

Count what few blessings you have left.
- Mertie Bourque, Edmonds

On the move

Bid for a bridge

Doug Kelbaugh's essay on alternate uses of the Alaskan Way Viaduct is at least unique among the plethora of mundane alternatives ("Preserve the viaduct as waterfront linchpin," guest commentary, July 23). But Seattle's love of dressing up sows' ears (Seattle Center) just won't cut it for the viaduct.

Turning the viaduct into urban archaeology is a poor substitute for exceptional design, architecture and engineering. Times reporter Mike Lindblom's article on the cable-stayed bridge for the monorail points out that bridges can be signature structures ("To go onward, monorail needs to go upward over ship canal," Local News, July 20).

Why not replace the viaduct with a cable-stayed or suspension structure? These structures will not collapse in an earthquake, have a small footprint, can be multi-decked for car or (mono)rail, and can be very light in structure. No posts and pillars. This could be a beautiful structure that would complement the Space Needle and the stadiums.

The Oresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark cost $4 billion. A tunnel for $11 million, not counting the cost overruns? For an example of how wonderful these structures are, look to the works of Santiago Calatrava and Mark Ketchum. Inspiration awaits anyone willing to peek past the WSDOT drawings.
- Dave Riggs, Seattle

Reality at the curb

Michael Goodreau is the one living in fantasyland ("Main Street light tirade," Letters to the editor, July 24). I live up 15th Northwest in Ballard and work downtown. Since I don't have the means (as Goodreau must have) to drive my car to work every day, I am forced to use the bus.

The only bus line out that way is the No. 15 and it stops near my home two times an hour. The ride downtown takes about 35 minutes. There are a few expresses in the early morning and the afternoon — and I walk five blocks north or south to catch them because they have limited stops on 15th.

Then when I get off the bus downtown, I walk seven blocks to work because it's faster than waiting for a bus I could connect with, but would have to walk two blocks to catch, then still have to walk another two blocks after getting off at the closest point to the building I work in.

I'm of the belief that most people like Goodreau will be happy only when we use our tax money to build roads that lead from the front door of their homes to the front door of the place where they work. At least the monorail and light rail will be there for people who have no other choice but to take mass transit to their jobs. And yes, I too have to get somewhere real to earn a living and pay for the darned things!
- Tim Criss, Seattle

balanced bias

Overtly conservative

I have written many letters to the editor, and I'm sure other readers have, pointing out conservative bias in various reports by The Times, but I don't see these letters printed. Why is it The Times felt compelled to print letters complaining about the omission of Rep. James Traficant's party affiliation? (Letters to the editor, July 27.) Since he voted with the Republicans 95 percent of the time, his Democrat affiliation is hardly significant. To put the word "liberal" next to the name "James Traficant" is laughable.

I think there is a "vast right-wing conspiracy" that is out to slander liberals and The Times is not innocent in this situation. I can only hope that enough people are still seeing through the biases of the media when they read news stories and understand, the corporate media is only looking out for itself and thrives on being called the "liberal media."
- Thomas Robert, Redmond

Blatantly liberal

In a recent Associated Press article by Paul Queary, the press bias is plainly exhibited ("Millions at stake as national GOP failed to report contributions," Local News, July 23). The bias was expounded upon by the contributions of Times' Olympia bureau reporter Ralph Thomas.

The original story was mainly about irregularities of Democratic contributions by unions, yet early in the article a big play was made to demonize the Republicans. It said it could cost Republicans millions, without giving details. This article basically played down (while still subtly telling the truth) about union contributions to the Democrats.

Grant it, a small mention that the Republicans were being investigated would have been prudent. However, The Times reporter played up the Republican angle even greater. This article downplayed the facts that the unions and Democrats were investigated and found guilty on many counts of violating campaign finance laws.

Bias — there's no bias here!
- Roger Hancock, Auburn

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