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I read DePillis pretty regularly, and I don’t usually see her calling out, say, people opposing a local Wal-Mart as “NIMBYs”; they’re “opposition groups”. The term NIMBY seems to be reserved for people who oppose locating things in their back yards that DePillis herself thinks are laudable. Small wonder that when she uses the word, people take it as a perjorative.
The problem here is that people have a ton of different reasons for opposing Walmart. A very small minority of those people actually qualify as NIMBYs. Most of them make universally applicable arguments against Walmart, and would better be described as NIABYs: Not In Anybody’s Back Yard. Here’s my typology of Walmart protestors:
- The union organizers who—-rightfully—-see Walmart as a threat to their bargaining contracts with Safeway and Giant, and also argue that Walmart will never offer its employees a real voice in the workplace.
- The small-to-midsize businesses that see Walmart as a threat to their very slim profit margins, and therefore existence.
- The smart growth liberals who are offended by the anti-urban form that Walmart typically takes, but who aren’t particularly bothered by the business model. These folks don’t have a problem with the mixed-use Walmart on New Jersey Avenue, but they also hate the massive complex that’ll soon bulldoze wetlands in Fort Lincoln.
- The global economic justice liberals who see Walmart’s history of workers rights abuses and market-bending purchasing power as a baleful influence on the laboring class around the world (even though it can sometimes be used for good, in the case of Walmart’s more recent sustainability measures).
- A very, very small minority—-in my experience confined to nutty Ward 4 ANC commissioner Brenda Speaks—-who are fine with Walmart in concept, but just don’t want the traffic and street activity it would generate near their homes, and would rather drive to shop at Walmart in someone else’s neighborhood.
(Watching all of these people try to put out a consistent message has been a pretty classic case of the challenge of coalition building.)
Anyhow, I do try to be consistent in my application of the term NIMBY. Walmart opposition in D.C., by and large, hasn’t merited it.