Thursday, July 27, 2006

Big-box vote too hot for Alderman Shiller

Big-box vote too hot for Alderman Shiller
Copyright by Crain's Chicago Business Newsroom
July 27 17:02:00, 2006
By Lorene Yue and Greg Hinz

(Crain's) - Helen Shiller was nowhere to be found. As the Chicago City Council was voting on the controversial proposal to mandate a minimum wage for large-format retailers, the alderman from the 46th Ward was absent.

The measure passed 35-14, an outcome that likely robs Mayor Richard M. Daley, who opposes the ordinance, of a veto. A mayoral veto can be overridden by 34 votes.

Ms. Shiller, who is entangled in an ambitious and contentious mixed-use development in her ward, did not return phone calls Thursday for comment about her absence. A spokeswoman from her office said Ms. Shiller was not commenting to the media until after she issues a statement to her constituents.

But remarks made prior to the vote suggest she was conflicted on the issue.

She told Crain's Chicago Business on Wednesday afternoon that she couldn't vote against the ordinance because doing so would help a "predatory" Wal-Mart Stores Inc. At the same time, Ms. Shiller said the ordinance, which phases in a minimum wage for so-called big-box retailers of $10 an hour plus $3 an hour in fringe benefits, could unfairly hurt other companies that have a better track record treating their employees than does Wal-Mart.

She said she wished both sides had sat down and negotiated a proposal that would have satisfied all involved, but the issue became polarized by Wal-Mart's involvement.

Retailers affected by the ordinance, those with stores of at least 90,000 square feet and with $1 billion or more in annual sales, have cried foul. Target Corp. has halted its Chicago expansion efforts, including development of a store in the Wilson Yard project located in Ms. Shiller's ward.

The project, expected to cost about $110 million, is planned for Chicago Transit Authority's Wilson Yard property, a nearly 6-acre site at Montrose and Broadway avenues. Community residents have battled over the housing component, which would accommodate low- to moderate-income individuals. Kerasotes Theatres recently pulled the plug on a movie theater in the development, but construction is moving forward on an Aldi grocery store. Target officials have told developers and alderman that the chain won't open any Chicago stores should the wage ordinance pass.

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Also don't miss.....
********************BIG BOX & Wilson Yard on WYCC TV********************

The impact of the Big Box on Wilson Yard will be featured on WYCC. (channel
20) Tune in...Friday, July 28, 6:30 p.m.WYCC, Public TV


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