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Editing | Liz Frank
Tulsa District 1 City Councilor Vanessa Hall Harper’s proposed moratorium to temporarily pause the construction of more discount dollar stores in North Tulsa has caused rumors and talk to erupt in the community. In this piece I hope to clarify the reasons our community needs this moratorium and what Hall Harper hopes it will accomplish.
MYTH: “There’s no need to change the status quo in North Tulsa”
North Tulsa currently has 14 discount dollar stores, and that number is comprised solely of Family Dollar and Dollar General stores.
Fourteen discount dollar stores is not the type of economic development and character that should represent North Tulsa. It is hard to drive a mile in North Tulsa without passing a a discount dollar store, yet developers now want to erect more dollar stores, some just a half of mile from an existing store.
At Regina Goodwin’s Capitol Dome to Home meeting, Hall Harper spoke to attendees to explain that she is not against economic development or discount dollar stores. She told the group, “Enough is enough.”
The language of the moratorium is being drafted with the assistance of the City of Tulsa’s Legal and Planning Department. Hall-Harper stated that she has also been working with this Department to develop a policy change to zoning codes, which would limit the distance of dollar stores from each other and address how prospective businesses will meet the needs of the community.
North Tulsa faces a serious health crisis, the life expectancy for North Tulsa residents is 12.3 years shorter than those who live on the south side of the tracks. Discount dollar stores have a hand to play in the community’s crisis because they sell dangerous and unhealthy products.
Processed foods are extremely unhealthy, but they are the least of our worry, studies has shown that 81% of their products are made with hazardous chemicals such as phtalates, polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC), and lead. Exposure to these chemicals leads to asthma, autism, cancer, and other health problems.
North Tulsa needs to have access to healthy, quality foods. The community is in great need of not just one full service grocery store, but several to provide community residents with shopping options, like in Midtown and South Tulsa. The proliferation of dollar stores actually hinder grocery stores owners from developing in North Tulsa because of unbalanced competition. (Some developers have even written open letters to the public to address the problem.)
Knowing these facts, why would anyone, who has the best interests of North Tulsa in mind, promote these stores in their communities? Former District 1 City Councilor Jack Henderson came out against the moratorium on KTUL (8) News:
“This little idea about a moratorium to stop small businesses, that’s not going anywhere, that’s nuts,” said Henderson.
The melee over moratorium, and whether or not it’s government guidance or getting in the way.
“We need more businesses not less businesses,” said Henderson.
MYTH: “Small Businesses will be hampered by the moratorium”
Let’s understand that the moratorium’s language will be specifically targeting discount dollar stores. It is inaccurate to describe Family Dollar and Dollar General as “small businesses.”
Dollar General profits rose 6.5 percent to $5.61 billion last year. It is a publicly traded company, with its shares are worth $1.03. Family Dollar made a profit of $76.7 million and sells it shares at 67 cents per share.
We don’t need more businesses that do not benefit the community. We need more businesses that directly benefit the North Tulsa community, which Family Dollar and Dollar General do not do. (But if you’re looking for an investment tip: These multi-billion and multi-million dollar companies are clearly growing their market and it might be a good time to stock up on some shares.) Small businesses? Ha!
North Tulsa deserves to have the best of a variety of stores, which will promote economic development and provide jobs to community members that pay a living wage. I would welcome more community gardens and co-ops, but not in place of a full-service grocery store in North Tulsa. These are valuable programs, but they are not substitutes for a supermarket. Additionally, visiting a “Candy Lady” is not going to build a healthy community.
Honor Capital, a group of Veterans who have been purchasing Save A Lot stores to eradicate food deserts by offering quality meat, fresh fruit, and name brand products, wants and is planning to build a store in North Tulsa. But Walmart and Reasor’s have declined to serve the North Tulsa community.
In reality discount dollar stores historically over-saturate poor communities across the country. The maps below graphically show the proliferation of these stores in North Tulsa. 14 discount dollar stores north of Admiral Place is not a coincidence.
We have to work together to fix this situation for the generations to come.