In The Wal-Mart de Mexico Scandal, Urban Planners Are Blemished Too

Wal-Mart de Mexico Logo

If you haven’t already done so, please read New York Times reporter David Barstow’s comprehensive reporting on Walmart’s intensive push for store growth in Mexico, involving bribes by executives of its subsidiary Wal-Mart de Mexico to local officials, including elected ones, for construction permits.

No, urban planners were not spared from the scandal, no matter how “obscure” they were (i.e., low on the land use and political power totem poll).

UPDATE: New York Times journalist David Barstow was recently awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on this scandal.

[image via CAC Porter Novelli]

Did Anyone Doubt Menlo Park Would Approve Facebook Expansion Project?

Facebook's Menlo Park Campus

On Tuesday night (17 April 2012), the Menlo Park City Council unanimously approved the plans for Facebook’s multimillion dollar campus expansion.

Did anyone doubt this project would not get approved?

This reminds me of the similar situation that the City of Cupertino was in when Steve Jobs blessed the City Council with his 7 June 2011 presentation of Apple’s plans for a new campus (see rendering below).

Apple'sProposed Cupertino Campus

Did anyone seriously doubt this project was going to not be approved?

Although I must say that despite the many potential benefits, residents should be somewhat antsy when their elected officials gush over such projects before any substantial planning or environmental review is done.

If I was a betting man, I would’ve loved Apple’s odds after Cupertino Mayor Gilbert Wong stated that “there [was] ‘no chance’ the city would deny the [Apple] project when it comes up for city review” (see Google’s cached search results of the Mercury News article).

[images via Social Searcher | City of Cupertino]

What Happens When We Lose A Video Store?

Blockbuster Video Store Closing

I just read an article on Indiewire titled “What We Lose When We Lose Video Stores” that was republished from Hammer to Nail about the closing of the neighborhood video store Reel Life in Brooklyn, and an interview by Alex Ross Perry with Reel Life store owner Joe Martin.

There have been plenty of articles recently that chronicled the falls of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, but this time feels different. Instead of reading mostly about the might of big box stores on small mom and pops, this article highlights the positive effects that passionate business owners and passionate people can have on their neighborhoods.

You can head over the article to read it in full, but here are some interesting takeaways (including a bit about video collectors, which I myself actually was one):

– Economics of video stores
– Death of collector’s editions of videos and DVDs
– Loss of local film expertise and strong likelihood that hard-to-find titles WILL ONLY be found online
– Loss of video stores means yet another lost opportunity at human interaction (i.e., neighborhood space)
– Relationship between independent cinema and video stores

I leave with this standout quote: “I don’t want to consider a future populated by people who grew up without nice places to go and explore their developing interests with a stranger whose opinion they trust.”

Director Michel Gondry addressed this inevitability in his 2008 film Be Kind Rewind with Jack Black and Mos Def. It’s worth watching.

So to summarize: there are less local bookstores, there are less local video stores. What will fill our neighborhoods? There are only so many bars, restaurants, and art studios…

[image via Ocala (Florida) Photos]

Backlash Against Publicly Funded Stadiums Now Involves Feds

New Florida Marlins Stadium in Miami-Dade County

Sports team owners have long leveraged their franchises to get cities to fight over the privilege of being their hosts. Who usually wins in these fights? Typically team owners. Who usually loses? Typically taxpayers.

Even when there are attempts to reduce the liability to taxpayers. See what happened in Pittsburgh with the new Penguins’ stadium.

It has been over a year since Deadspin leaked financial documents of the Florida Marlins that contradicted statements by team owner Jeffrey Loria that his team lost lots of money. After he used those statements to convince Miami-Dade County Supervisors to build him a new stadium. And after Miami-Dade County took loans that would essentially cost county residents $2.4 billion over 40 years. It finally seems that the Federal government, via the Security And Exchange Commission, is going to take an active role in investigating the information divide, which also involves Major League Baseball.

What does this mean for the future? I would not be surprised if the SEC began investigating the financial records of other baseball teams after it finishes with the Marlins. Of course, the backlash against publicly funded stadiums has been growing for year. Maybe, it will finally come to an end, or at least slow down. And this does not simply pertain to MLB. All sports stadiums are fair game.

[image via South Florida Baseball]

Amazon Just Destroyed My Carbon Footprint For The Week…

Super Mario Brothers: 2" Mini Figures Set of 18

A pre-Christmas present to myself arrived today that I bought on Amazon. Unbeknownst to me, the Super Mario Brothers: 2″ Mini Figures Set of 18 came in a big plastic bag, which would have been fine had not every 2″ mini figure been individually wrapped in plastic. See photo above.

Thank you, Amazon. You just destroyed my carbon footprint for the week.

P.S. I know shopping at Amazon has a carbon footprint, but I thought it was better than traveling from toy store to toy store looking for the figure set.

[photo via PJ]