Jae C. Hong / Associated Press file, 2006

Wal-Mart is one big employer targeted by a bill in the California Legislature. The bill would impose a penalty on large employers who don't offer health benefits and pay workers so little they qualify for taxpayer-subsidized Medi-Cal.

City Council to vote on superstore policy tonight

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2013 - 9:58 pm

The Sacramento City Council is scheduled to decide tonight whether to make it easier for big-box stores to move into Sacramento.

And some residents are planning to ensure a lively debate.

Council members are considering amending current requirements that force superstore chains to submit economic impact studies and wage analyses before opening new stores in Sacramento. The ordinance has prevented big-box stores from opening in Sacramento since it was passed in 2006.

Supporters say neighboring jurisdictions have benefitted from the sales taxes generated by Wal-Mart, for example, opening new stores there.

Opponents contend that the retail giants' ability to lower prices undercuts small businesses. Eric Sunderland, a former city school board candidate, urged the council to vote against the repeal at a news conference Monday. He cited concerns about small business owners and neighborhood diversity.

Sunderland also objected to Wal-Mart's large contributions to charities affiliated with Mayor Kevin Johnson.

"We're concerned this is not a good, clean vote," Sunderland said. "We think it smells."

According to a Bee report in June, the mayor and City Council have reported more requested charitable contributions than all of the state Senate and Assembly combined since the start of 2011. Last year, that amount was up to $7.1 million from $15,750 in 2005.

Sunderland has filed complaints with the U.S. attorney's office and the Fair Political Practices Commission, calling for an investigation into what Sunderland believes might be a conflict of interest. Sunderland said the FPPC will respond by Thursday and that there shouldn't be a vote before then.

Also at the news conference were Timothy Kamermayer, a chair with the Stonewall Democratic Club of Greater Sacramento; Michael Murphy, a member of the Marshall School New Era Park Neighborhood Association; and Rick Guerrero, president of the Environmental Council of Sacramento. They all echoed Sunderland's concerns.

"Our neighborhoods evolve because of small businesses," Murphy said.

The City Council meets at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 915 I St.

Call The Bee's Janelle Bitker, (916) 321-1027. Follow her in Twitter @JanelleBitker.

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