Post by Michael Ejercito
The War On Dollar Stores
JANUARY 8, 2020 / JACK MARSHALL
The problem–well, one of them—with trying to control how other people choose
to live their lives is that nobody’s smart enough to do it without making
things worse. Still,a lot of sociologists and politicians think they are
Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Fort Worth, Birmingham, and Georgia’s DeKalb County
have passed restrictions on dollar stores, and other communities are
debating whether to follow their example, where laws and zoning regulations
limit how many of these small stores can open within a particular area.
Other laws dictate what they can and can’t sell, most notably fresh food.
You see, the antipathy to dollar stores is based on the narrative pushed by
activists that they saturate poor neighborhoods with cheap, over-processed
food, squeezing out other retailers and lowering the quality of nutrition in
poor communities. An analyst for the Center for Science in the Public
Interest makes the argument, “When you have so many dollar stores in one
neighborhood, there’s no incentive for a full-service grocery store to come
in.” Dollar stores, like Dollar Tree and Dollar General, the researchers
say, make neighborhoods seem poor, and scare away better stores, “locking
in poverty rather than reducing it,” as one told the Washington Post.
Ah! Poor nutrition is the fault of dollar stores!
Once, academic researchers described poor urban neighborhoods as “food
deserts.” The insufficient numbers of grocery stores, it was determined
then, were the fault of suburban shopping centers and the decline of mass
transit. These food deserts caused an epidemic of health problems to the
poor. In response, urban governments spent millions in subsidies to attract
supermarket chains to these communities. Hundreds of new grocery stores
opened in depressed areas around the country.
Nothing changed. Obviously, the real problem was dollar stores.
The dollar stores are just the most recent victims of woke researchers’
resistance to reality when it doesn’t fit their illusions. Recent research
chews up the claim that unhealthy diets result from the lack of healthy food
options. A research paper published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics
found that people didn’t buy healthier food even when they had shiny new
supermarkets to shop in. “We can statistically conclude that the effect on
healthy eating from opening new supermarkets was negligible at best,” the
rsearchers wrote, and this was after studying grocery purchases in 10,000
households in former “food deserts” after supermarkets moved in. This
suggests that the theory that better food choices motivate people to eat
better is, in technical terms, baloney.
“In the modern economy, stores have become amazingly good at selling us
exactly the kinds of things we want to buy,” the paper explains. “Lower
demand for healthy food is what causes the lack of supply.”
Are you surprised? I’m not. Getting people to eat more healthily requires
teaching people why a better diet is important,why simply tasting good is
not the best argument for eating things, and why its worth the time and
effort to eat a healthy diet. I know all about the importance of eating
healthy foods. I’m not poor. Yet I often choose quick frozen dishes I can
microwave rather than preparing fresh vegetables, and it has nothing to do
with dollar stores. Six supermarkets are within 15 minutes of my house, and
only one dollar store.
Americans are getting fatter and fatter; diabetes is becoming an epidemic,
and for this we should punish—dollar stores? Anything to resist assigning
responsibility to where it really lies: the individuals, poor or rich, who
choose what they put in their mouths, and how highly they prioritize healthy
food over beer, drugs, or other things.
shoplifting. In their efforts to combat “over-incarceration,” many states,
including my suddenly super-progressive state of Virginia, raised the amount
of stolen merchandise necessary to qualify as a felony. At the same time,
law enforcement declined to aggressively prosecute shoplifting. Surely the
effect of this on supermarkets should be obvious. A Portland resident told
the City-Journal, In the Portland Oregon area the major grocery stores are
being shoplifted out of existence. The Multnomah County courts don’t even
Easily fixed, right?
Ban dollar stores.
Multnomah County stops prosecuting dozens of illegal acts as crimes, widening disparities between counties
By Aimee Green | The Oregonian/OregonLive
michaelschrunk.jpgView full sizeRob Finch/The OregonianMultnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk
After years of budget cuts,
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schrunk
says he's had no choice but to stop prosecuting dozens of illegal acts as crimes.
Among them, most addicts caught with small amounts of drugs such as heroin, cocaine or meth; first- or second-time shoplifters caught stealing anything worth less than $250; suspects who resist arrest, or who run away from police officers; drivers who hit and run, as long as they have insurance when they are caught.
Multnomah County is treating those offenses as violations -- similar to being cited with a speeding ticket. Pay the fine and walk free. There's no threat of jail time and no probation.
"In a perfect world, you commit a crime, you'd be prosecuted for what it is," Schrunk said. But, he added, "we don't have unlimited funds."
Schrunk says Multnomah County can no longer prosecute some lower-level crimes as misdemeanors or -- in the case of residue drug possession -- felonies, even though state law classifies them as such. The new policy -- implemented in waves over the past few months -- has widened the divide between Oregon's largest county and its neighbors, Clackamas and Washington counties, where prosecutors still aggressively pursue many of the crimes that Multnomah County is decriminalizing.
Some counties -- including Washington, Linn and Clatsop -- have public-safety levies or timber money that allow prosecutors to pursue every case they think is worthy. For example, a
Washington County levy
pays for 19 of the 100 positions in the DA's office. It's up for renewal this November.
Other counties also struggle to hold offenders accountable.
Marion County District Attorney Walt Beglau
said his office hasn't been prosecuting some misdemeanors at all -- not even issuing a ticket -- for as far back as 20 years. Among those crimes are minor vandalism, failing to appear in court to face misdemeanor charges and punching, slapping or spitting without causing injury, unless it involves domestic or sexual violence or an attack on police.
"The police investigate them, a crime has been committed and we do nothing," said Beglau, the frustration apparent in his voice. "...This sends a bad message."
Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner
said his budget has been grim for decades.
"We've been required to do more and more with less and less," Gardner said.
By his last count, levies that would beef up the number of police and prosecutors have gone to voters 14 times in the last 20 years.
"They all have gone down," Gardner said.
Even in Clackamas County, which can afford to pursue many of the misdemeanors Multnomah County is not, prosecutors have eased up on first-time shoplifters who steal less than $1,000 worth of merchandise. They are cited for violations if they immediately agree to plead guilty.
Reductions among Oregon prosecutors mirror a national trend, with prosecutors across the country laying off staff. The down economy has hurt, and violent crime in the United States is down. In Oregon, crime was at a 40-year low in 2009 -- although so far in 2010, some crime rates, including car thefts, have been ticking up in Portland.
Struggling DA offices say crime hasn't dropped enough to compensate for the lack of funding and increased costs.
Some worry that decriminalizing some crimes will embolden offenders to commit more crime. A lack of criminal prosecution also can be disheartening to victims. Schrunk said not fully prosecuting lower-level suspects encourages some residents and businesses to move from the inner core out to quieter neighborhoods or strip malls.
By and large, Schrunk has gotten nods from public defenders and players in the criminal-justice system for cutting where it's least painful.
Although the budget for the district attorney's office actually rose by about five percent this year, to $25.7 million, personnel costs accounted for most of the gain. The number of full-time deputy district attorney positions has dropped over two years from 85 to 73.
Schrunk says he continues to aggressively prosecute the most serious crimes -- murder, rape and armed robbery. His office also protected a host of misdemeanor crimes from the cut, including drunken driving, domestic violence, sexual abuse and weapons crimes.
However Schrunk's office is relying more on certified law students, who, for example, may end up going head-to-head in misdemeanor drunken-driving trials against some of the most experienced privately retained defense attorneys in the state, including Des Connall and
Prosecutor Jeff Howes, who oversees Multnomah County's misdemeanor trial unit, said his office has written lots of exceptions into the illegal acts that no longer will be pursued as misdemeanors.
"My hope is that word doesn't get out among the criminals that you can steal anything up to $249 and not be prosecuted for a crime," Howes said, adding that he will seek criminal convictions under aggravating circumstances or for chronic shoplifters -- those who are caught in the act three times in six months.