Get ready, Miami: Your friends, neighbors, and kinfolk are now fair fodder for the blog "People of Walmart." Last night, city commissioners approved a 203,000-square-foot, three-story superstore in midtown. For two years, proponents have argued the project would bring jobs and money to the Magic City, while critics have said a commercial behemoth next to a burgeoning arts district would stifle the area's growth.
The Planning, Zoning & Appeals board approved the construction project in October. If the commission didn't also give the go-ahead, the matter could have gone to a public hearing.
As expected, speeches on both sides were impassioned. The language used during final arguments, though, was comically melodramatic.
"There was once a remarkable dream called midtown Miami," Richard Lydecker, an attorney for Walmart, said before the commission. "That dream of midtown Miami was not completed, because there is another half of that tract that sits there just riddled with trash and junk."
But just because Lydecker waxed poetic doesn't mean the fight hadn't already grown ugly. Yesterday, Riptide published a blatantly classist email from the City of Miami's chief of urban design that revealed his opinion of Walmart customers.
Enrique D. Nuñez -- a man who was supposed to weigh in on the retail giant's fate without bias -- began his missive with the title "The Latest Walmartians." The message he sent to other members of his department contained images of overweight shoppers making bizarre tattoo and sartorial decisions. The implication was that Walmart shoppers are overwhelmingly lowbrow.
The debate lasted four hours. Three commissioners -- Wilfredo Gort, Marc Sarnoff, and Frank Carollo -- voted in favor. Two others were absent. The chamber was packed with people wearing "Miami Loves Walmart" T-shirts. One of them, who declined to give his name, told the Miami Herald that Walmart had paid him $100 to attend the meeting.
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