Although Im a member of our local co-op and also support independent supermarkets in the area, there are times when the need for some hardware or whatever leads me down the miles of aisles at the big M.
But lately, you cant help but wonder if Meijer is the sort of good neighbor thats worth supporting.
Its troubling to see, for instance, that Meijer has replaced many of its cashiers with digital scan terminals. If a large corporation isnt bringing jobs to our community, why should we support it? I cant imagine that many of the cashiers replaced by digital robots were exactly on Easy Street to begin with.
More disturbing is the ongoing scandal in Acme Township. Last December, it was revealed that Meijers used corporate money to fund a recall drive against officials in the township who had a zoning issue over the construction of its new superstore. The funds included $30,000 spent on a public relations firm to sway public opinion.
Township officials werent bent on scuttling the proposed store; they simply wanted it to fit Acmes master plan with some requirements that the Meijer bigwigs found inconvenient. The townships intention was to develop Acme in a way that would still bear a slight resemblance to a nice place to live, rather than the depressing, run-amok, urban sprawl scenario that corporate America seems to prefer.
Using corporate funds in a recall campaign is a felony. In an article in last weeks Detroit Free Press, Rich Robinson, the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, spelled out what that means:
Meijer spent years and tens of thousands of dollars bullying local officials, suing them and generally making their lives hell because they dared to exercise local control in a zoning decision. In this case, justice demands more than a wrist-slap and a token fine.
Now, there is also an issue over whether Meijer has to respond to the subpoenas of Grand Traverse Prosecutor Alan Schneider, who is seeking communications documents from the corporation regarding the recall. In an April 11 ruling, Circuit Court Judge Philip Rodgers noted that our Legislature has created a special political class under the law which could provide Meijer with a way out. Under the Campaign Finance Act, only Michigans Department of State can pursue this criminal investigation.
Judge Rodgers‘ opinion stated: While all other citizens are subject to the full brunt of the justice system for their alleged crimes, the Legislature has created a political class of those who are elected or would be elected to office and exempted their alleged campaign crimes from scrutiny by experienced county prosecutors.
And, quoting again from Rich Robinsons excellent article: In this case, the member of the political class getting the exemption was the secret source of money behind an election campaign.
So, that leaves the investigation hanging, and Robinson claims that Meijer hopes to get off with a fine through Michigans Department of State, which has no subpoena power, and therefore, no real ability to investigate a possible felony.
Ultimately, this is all just splitting hairs. If Meijer had funded the recall through a political action committee instead of corporate funds, it would still be the mark of a bad neighbor, and the result would be just the same.
True, there are many residents of Acme Township who are angry at their local officials over this case: Funds have been squandered on the Meijer battle at a time when Acmes roads and sewers need serious attention. And many were giving Meijer the thumbs-up from the get-go.
But, if ever there was a time to support your local, independent supermarket or food co-op, this sure seems to be the proper occasion until Meijer proves that it can be a good neighbor and corporate citizen. Since I stopped shopping at Meijer, Ive been delighted to find that local stores such as Glens, Olesons, and certainly the Oryana Food Co-op, have made significant improvements that are well worth your consideration. See you there.