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Who Do We Think We Are......And What are we Afraid Of?

"We got Trouble, right here in Altadena, with a capital T that rhymes with......."

I will never cease to be amazed at how people assign themselves as RIGHT and others as WRONG.  How does one become so omnipotent as to be angry with those who don't agree with them?  After centuries of human history, apparently we haven't learned that myopic finger pointing and blame do NOT a cohesive, cooperative and successful society, religion, country, business or Altadena make.

It is said that there is a thin line between love and hate.  I think it is more accurate to say there is a thin line between hate and fear.  What are we afraid of losing, and why is it that FEAR seems to be "steering the boat" in Altadena?  I have revisited some of the local issues reported in the Patch. So many things driven by FEAR.  Think about them:  the Patticakes mural protest, removal of quaint sidewalk signage on Lake Street, anger over children's artwork on the Monte Cedro fence, protest of live music and poetry at The Coffee Gallery, complaints about Food Truck Fridays, the demise of the fabulous Urban Farmer's Market, and the closing of Danny's Farm.

These things define who we are as a community.  The emerging portrait isn't very flattering.  The actions taken against these things could be defined as:  petty, closed minded, misanthropic, picayune, malevolent and unsocial.  They are also embarrassing - to me anyway.  What type of community complains over music, art, food and a farm for developmentally challenged children?  Apparently we're not sure what we want -- but we are "gull darned sure of what we ain't."

I find this unflattering picture of who we are as a community very disturbing.  How do we attract new and vibrant business to a community that JUMPS at the chance to protest what it DOESN'T WANT.  Who wants that kind of negativity and hassle?  The latest item to enter the fray is the "War on Walmart." From what I have read on these pages and others, there exists a "RIGHT" side of the issue and a "WRONG" side, and many out there willing to label us.

The fastest way to losing a strong, cohesive and positive community is to divide it into "us" and "them" -- no matter who "they" are.  And it comes down to FEAR again, fear of losing something or things.  There is a contingency in Altadena that is very afraid.  Could it be that the only thing that we have to fear is "fear itself"?  And if so, what are we SO afraid of?  

There existed for years, an ugly run down abandoned building on the corner of Lincoln and Figueroa.  The property owner -- when queried -- has been trying to attract a business for that location for eight years, with no success.  When finally a business came along that is willing to take a chance on the unwanted site, there is HUGE protest because the business is a Walmart grocery store -- and "WE DON'T APPROVE" -- at least those on the "right" side don't approve. Where was the protest over the empty, ugly, abandoned building?

Where is our protest over the big hole on Lake Avenue?  Where are the picketers and meetings over our embarrasing blighted buildings, empty businesses and non existent shopping areas?  Yes, as the Music Man said, "We've got TROUBLE" -- and it is here in Altadena -- but it isn't Walmart!  It is the fear of losing things.  Instead of focusing on the fear, is it possible to be proactive and NOT let the worst happen?  Let's focus on supporting ALL business in Altadena.  Focus on filling the empty stores that have been sitting vacant.  Focus on getting the owner of the Rite Aid center to upgrade it from its current eyesore status.  Focus on getting a shopping area on the corners of Lincoln and Altadena Drive.  Let's take all this negativity, name calling, partisanship being used against Walmart and refocus it on what can be done to IMPROVE, not prevent. 

Are we going to let FEAR govern us instead of governing ourselves?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

SteveB July 20, 2012 at 07:42 AM
Thoughtful, as usual, and I was with you up until the end, when you hopped onto the "Walmart the Destroyer" bandwagon. Such a gross oversimplification of a not-quite-so-simple situation. I would also make the distinction that there are very few people who are actually "pro Walmart". Most who have argued that Walmart coming to the Lincoln property is a good thing are just happy to see the property being renovated and occupied, eliminating one of our local eyesores. The fact that we are getting another grocery alternative is just a bonus.
navigio July 20, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Hi SteveB. Believe it or not, my destroyer comment was not intended to be a judgment (though admittedly, if it turns out not to be true one could argue it was one). Walmart did not become the largest company in the world because it's competitors continued to exist. I think one can say that as a simple matter of fact, even without any judgment. The very goal of competition is to create winners and losers. No company is different in that regard. We do not disparage companies for that act alone, in fact we usually call that progress because the metric we use to differentiate between the winners and losers is usually something along the lines of quality, efficiency or level of service. Walmart has extreme competitive advantages in the form of resources, economies of scale, size and business model (and in my opinion, a large percentage of a population in poverty that reduces its freedom to have wide array of economic decisions available). Those advantages are so great that I don't believe a local business can realistically compete over time and that's why I think the outcome is a given. Hope that makes more sense.
SteveB July 20, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Yes, Walmart has huge competitive advantages - and any business that competes with them directly is likely to suffer. The question that is applicable here, is which businesses are most likely to be in direct competition? A Walmart neighborhood grocery is probably most comparable to Ralphs, or the Vons on Allen which incorporates a pharmacy. To a lesser but perhaps significant extent, Super King. For many of the smaller businesses having concern, aren't they already competing with Ralphs, Rite-Aid, Vons, Trader Joes, etc.? And for a relatively short drive, you can reach a Target, Walmart Super-store, or Costco. Although many think of Altadena as a small "town", we really are just on the edge of the Greater LA megalopolis. It's not like we are a small isolated town in the midwest, and Walmart is plunking down a Super-store next to our cozy main street.
navigio July 20, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Hi SteveB. While what you say is true, I'm not sure it matters. The point of my original post was that focusing on the local impact is missing the point of much of the 'anti-walmart' contingent (sorry for using these bipolar, exclusionary terms, but with limited post length we must dabble in over-simplification :-) ). Whether walmart ends up in Altadena or not wont change the nature or existence of the company, at least not directly (indirectly I do think the 'anti' movement will have some impact, even if WM wins this particular round). From that standpoint, using the local impact as an argument to convince the 'antis' is still the two sides talking past each other, imho. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about these discussions is not so much the level of disconnect (though that is admittedly a pet peeve of mine), rather its the extent to which humans are placing value judgements on other humans based on the assumption that they are actually having the same conversation (when, in my opinion they are not). While I dont think that is anything new or unique to this conversation, I do think it would be nice if there could be a bit more objectivity and a more honest assessment of (actually listening to) the 'other side's' statements. Ok, now who is going to order the rainbows and unicorns..? ;-)
SteveB July 20, 2012 at 08:43 PM
How about a rainbow unicorn? http://www.walmart.com/ip/As-Seen-on-TV-Pillow-Pet-Rainbow-Unicorn/20575422

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