Don’t You Just Hate It When A Plan Goes to Pooh?

I know I do. Walmart v. Kelo, in a delightful episode of “reversal of fortune“.

The Hercules City Council will consider whether to use eminent domain to wrest a 17-acre property from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. after the nation’s largest retailer rejected a city offer to buy the site with views of San Pablo Bay, city officials said Thursday.
…Wal-Mart bought the property overlooking central Hercules in November after another developer received city approvals for a neighborhood shopping center.
In February, city planners recommended denying Wal-Mart’s proposal for a big-box store on its property, saying the plan was not in keeping with what had been approved for the location, which commands a view of one of the Bay Area’s most vaunted New Urbanist communities, with pedestrian-oriented streets and large open-space set-asides, as well as sweeping views of the bay.

I live vicariously through this

The same day the company submitted its revised proposal, Councilwoman Charleen Raines was hardly welcoming, although she said she had not read it.
“What the council has said is that we want to buy the property,” she said, describing the tussle with Wal-Mart as a “David and Goliath” struggle. “At this point, we’re concerned about moving ahead on this property. It’s been hanging over us for a long time.”

…as Casa de Major Dad is plopped in the middle of “Walmart Central”. (And make that count 12 stores, as they’re throwing one up between number 1 and number 4 as I write.) Pensacola/Escambia County never met a Walmart they didn’t like. (Although they’ll fight Publix tooth and nail. I guess they don’t pay off as well as other chains.) Of course, Walmart is playing the aggrieved party, somberly intoning such drivel as:

“We’re disappointed that the city is really playing politics with the future of Hercules rather than looking at the big picture,” company spokesman Kevin Loscotoff said.
“Many residents of the city who we’ve talked to are frustrated and anxious for this much-needed retail project to move forward.”

Now, I can’t speak for the residents who are anxious (as the folks I could find are NOT…), but I can read a store-finder map to address the ‘much-needed’. There are two Walmarts already within 10 miles of Hercules and, as any Californian will tell you, a ten mile drive is a walk in the park/no distance at all/hardly registers/do-it-in-my-sleep. ‘Much needed’ applies more to Walmart Corp. than the community, in my unscientific assessment.
Keno seems to have the council covered if they play hardball. Batter up!
UPDATE and BUMP: I meant to post on THIS Sunday, but I forgot. It complements the tenor of this post (and my reply to Life’s Fifth String in the comments) beautifully.

Wal-Mart Vies for Right to Put On a Happy Face
For decades, this feel-good symbol ? has encouraged millions to smile.
The happy face and “Have a Nice Day ?” helped to define the ’70s. With two dots and a pencil stroke, schoolchildren have brightened handwritten messages by filling in their O’s with mini-smileys. These days, nary a cheery e-mail is complete without a typographical smile.
But now a bitter legal battle over smiley could be enough to make the happy little symbol :-(.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which uses a yellow happy face to try to put its shoppers in a carefree mood, is saying — with a straight face — that it has exclusive rights to the familiar image*, at least among retail department stores.

“At least among retail department stores”, right. They’ll be petitioning freakin’ Congress and the Supreme Court for your email records like Metallica looking for downloads before you know it.
*My outraged emphasis
Take THAT …you corporate fascist BASTARDS!!!

18 Responses to “Don’t You Just Hate It When A Plan Goes to Pooh?”

  1. Dan Collins says:

    My advice to Hercules: if your wife gives you a shirt soaked in centaur blood, don’t put it on.

  2. Ken Summers says:

    This is outrageous (but ironic justice, if Wal-Mart has tried to use eminent domain in the past; I don’t know if they have). But I called it a long time ago:

    Then, when the community has enough money and many of the people are well off, it gets very easy to decide that “open space” is an important enough use to condemn property (that is NOT fiction).

    Putting the power to decide what constitutes “public use” exclusively in the hands of the ones wanting to take the property is obscene. Hercules has the power to deny Wal-Mart the opportunity to open a store; it does not have the right to take the property.

  3. mojo says:

    Must be the “sweeping views” of the San Pablo mud flats that’s worryin’ them, I’d say.
    Hercules. Sheesh.
    Why not Martienez?

  4. Ken Summers says:

    What Hercules REALLY needs is a good powder company.

  5. Hercules Powder Plant references aren’t Eddie Murphy funny in New Jersey or New York. Grinch grew up in Tarreytown/Irvington N.Y. and the 1940 explosion blew the windows out of buildings there, 60 odd miles away. It was also site of the closest roller rink for class outings and there was always a dee-licious sense of danger about passing the plant on the way down. Plus loads of creepy, Edgar Allen Poe type stories associated with the ’40 blast.
    And the city DID offer to buy the property from Walmart. I think Walmart telling them to pi$$ off was a bad move. As for Walmart having cities threaten/use seizure tactics, yup, they (and other big boxers) done it plenty.
    Alameda Square, Denver
    “Neighbors on the hill were forced to leave because of blight. Nothing could be more blighted than jamming an unwanted Wal-Mart on this site.”Newport, KY
    Jefferson City, MO
    Maplewood, MO, among others
    Alabaster Alabama
    On and on and ON, ad nauseum.
    Take it away, Hercules!

  6. Ken Summers says:

    If they’ve been doing it, then serves them right. As for the powder plant ref, not really meant to be funny except that (IIRC) Hercules, CA, got its name when the powder company built a plant there (might even have been the other way around, company took its name from the city).

  7. (You RC, as the company itself has a lovely website talking about the town.)

  8. Nightfly says:

    My admittedly-poor understanding is that one cannot copyright a previously-existing icon or image, such as the smiley-face, but only one’s own original work (the Kelloggs Corn Flakes rooster, the Morton’s Salt girl, etc.). WalMart can use the happy face because it’s public domain, but the image cannot be taken OUT of the public domain. Is this correct?

  9. Apparently THEY don’t think so.

  10. Mike Rentner says:

    My understanding of the smiley face suit is that Walmart has been forced to protect its use of the smiley face because others are threatening to claim it as their own. This has already been the case in the UK, where the smiley face is an owned symbol.
    The best defense is a good offense.
    I don’t much understand the hatred people have for Walmart. They have nice stores. They have an unmatched distribution system. They bring better products to more places cheaper. What’s not to like about them?
    But I support anything that will cause the reversal of the Kelo decision.

  11. John says:

    This is just like the Apple suit. You should not be able to copyright plain English words except in a very narrow sense. If Apple Computer Inc. opened a recording studio and started signing acts, that would be infringing on Apple Records’ copyright. But anything else, including iTunes? Does anyone really, seriously confuse the two? No. Hell, most people under 30 wouldn’t even know about Apple Records if it weren’t for the suit. Same with McDs suing the London restaurant owned by a McDoanld family – Ray Kroc took the name from his best customer (for milkshake machines). If the small-time McDonald’s was selling fast food and using the red and yellow McDs coloring (at least back at the time of the suit)- then the big firm has a case. Otherwise, STFU or find a corporate name that is not a family / clan name.
    If a big company wants a defendable icon or name, they need to pay a creative type to make one, and quit stealing public domain stuff.

  12. Mike Rentner says:

    Just to clarify, what I meant to stress is that Walmart was content to use a public domain logo, but is being threatened by others that claim the logo is theirs. Thus, to continue using the logo they are trying to force the issue. If they claim it as their own, a judge will likely make the common sense ruling that it cannot be a trademark. That will be the happy result of their attempt, and I think that’s what they want.

  13. John says:

    Mike – I agree. This time it’s not Wal-Mart, but the challengers who are trying to co-opt a common symbol for their own purposes, so that they can then license it back to Wal-Mart for a fee.
    But I still think that Wal-Mart was being lazy when they took the symbol.
    I’m a bit fed up with courts that entertain this crap and drive up the cost of doing business for everyone. The judge ought to take on look at the smiley face and say that there’s no way for anyone to claim it.
    This is another reason for not allowing anyone to hold public office who has no been in private industry. Having never had to pay for any of this crap themselves, these judges are content to let courts decide matters that should have been dismissed before the ink was dry on the paperwork.

  14. Ken Summers says:

    Once public domain, ALWAYS public domain. The guy who claims to have originated it is trying to trademark it, but I think the courts will agree that it’s about 30 years too late.
    But this is related to the reason Coke and Xerox and others have fought so hard against their actual, valid trademarks becoming common usage.

  15. Dan Collins says:

    When I was just an infant, I invented both defecation and urination. I want my royalties.

  16. But I invented projectile vomiting. Somebody owes me.

  17. Dave J says:

    “My admittedly-poor understanding is that one cannot copyright a previously-existing icon or image, such as the smiley-face, but only one’s own original work (the Kelloggs Corn Flakes rooster, the Morton’s Salt girl, etc.).”
    “If Apple Computer Inc. opened a recording studio and started signing acts, that would be infringing on Apple Records’ copyright.”
    Just to clarify: while as far as I know you’re getting it right, you guys are talking about trademarks, not copyrights.

  18. The_Real_JeffS says:

    Well, I invented sex, people. And I patented it as well. I just haven’t collected royalties out of the goodness of my heart
    But since we are busy playing oneupmanship here, I expect my payments pronto. Paypal is acceptable, but there’s a 5% discount for cash. Nothing larger than a twenty, please.

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