I read with interest the Star's report of the Tucson City Council vote to recommend denial of the liquor license application by Walmart for its El Con location, ("City opposes liquor license for El Con Walmart," March 22.)
I was convinced this issue needed clarification when I read the sentence, "They (the neighbors around El Con Mall) said they fear unsavory characters fueled by late-night binge drinking would spill into their yards and cause disturbances." I spoke on behalf of my neighborhood association to the mayor and council that night, and since I said nothing resembling the statement in the Star's report, it's time to get the facts straight.
On June 6, 2010, Councilman Steve Kozachik hosted a question-and-answer meeting for the affected neighborhoods at the Ward 6 office with a Walmart representative. Former Police Chief Richard Miranda also attended.
The Walmart representative had no answers for questions about plans to combat the crime that always comes when a Walmart opens. However, Miranda acknowledged not only that the Valencia Road location saw a sharp rise in crime when it opened (as also the Star reported on Jan. 11, 2006) but that police expected to have to increase its patrols when Walmart opened at El Con.
This was also when Walmart announced plans for 24-hour operation that includes alcohol, and firearms and ammunition sales.
Since that time, requests from the Ward 6 office to discuss these issues have been met with no response from Walmart.
Colonia Solana and four other midtown neighborhoods made repeated requests to Walmart to consider modifications to the store's design and operations, including limiting liquor sales that would mitigate the effects of a 24-hour superstore upon the adjacent residential neighborhoods. Walmart has not been willing to engage with the neighborhoods in a dialogue about these issues nor to make any modifications to its plans.
There are ample supporting data to establish two facts: Crime is higher in the vicinity of Walmart stores, and there is a link between crime and alcohol. The list of cited data we provided for our hearing before the Arizona State Liquor Board far exceeds the limits of this format, and we urge readers to research this - there is plenty of evidence.
Colonia Solana is not against the presence of Walmart. We are encouraged that El Con Mall will continue to make a greater economic contribution to Tucson's tax base.
However, we are frustrated with the lack of cooperation from Walmart in mitigating the proven record of increased crime coming our way. The conditions under which they plan to conduct business are unacceptable - selling alcohol alongside firearms and ammunition 24 hours a day.
Now Colonia Solana is in the position of having to ask the State Liquor Board to do what we had hoped to accomplish in dialogue directly with Walmart.
Steve Behr is the vice president of the Colonia Solana Homeowners Association.