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The [Wednesday] Papers

The City Council's vote today on the proposed Big Box ordinance that would establish a separate, higher minimum wage for large retailers such as Wal-Mart is going down to the wire - the margin could be as slim as last night's one-run victory by the Twins over the White Sox.

While pro-ordinance forces still hold an advantage, according to today's media reports, Mayor Daley is twisting arms, and given the nature of our aldermen, it wouldn't be surprising for a few to say Uncle, especially in return for, say, some extra street paving in their wards.

The question from the mayor's point-of-view is whether he's too late. If the ordinance passes, the Sun-Times's Fran Spielman writes, the mayor and the business community will only have themselves to blame.

"The business community didn't wake up fast enough," Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Roper told Spielman. "Over the years, the City Council has been somewhat pro-business. We've always known the mayor was there to be a bridge. We let the mayor down. We didn't recognize early enough - two years ago - that this was an issue we should have engaged on."

Roper diplomatically refused to lay any blame at the feet of the mayor. Spielman, however, reports that the mayor was "asleep at the switch."

"Distracted by corruption scandals and disengaged from recent City Council action, Daley waited too long to jump with both feet into the big-box debate," Spielman writes.

Not to worry though, Wal-Mart. If the ordinance passes, just consider the higher wages you will be forced to pay a corruption tax. You can probably make up for it with sweetheart contract for a kiosk at O'Hare.

Crafty Comparison
While the Chicago City Council debates the Big Box ordinance, area suburbs have put out the welcome mat for Wal-Mart, the Tribune notes. The paper fails to report, however, what wages suburban Wal-Marts are offering, or what the difference in living costs are for workers in, say, Round Lake Beach, which is about to get its second Wal-Mart, versus Chicago.

Pundit Patrol
* Carol Marin favors the Big Box ordinance - and a raise for aldermen. With a caveat.
* Eric Zorn and Cindy Richards think Wal-Mart is bluffing.
* Mary Mitchell thinks the ordinance makes poor blacks sacrificial lambs in a union fight.

Burning Burns
The Sun-Times sticks it to Channel 2's Diann Burns on its front page today for asking a Cook County judge to seal from the public large portions of her lawsuit alleging that contractors did a lousy job building her $3 million Lincoln Park home because she is black.

But the paper makes a huge goof of its own in its accompanying story.

"As a journalist, WBBM-Channel 2 anchor Diann Burns regularly delves into the private lives of others, but she wants her own private life off limits," the paper says.

Since when is Diann Burns a journalist?

Princess Di
At $2 million a year, Burns is the city's highest-paid teleprompter reader.

Political Whines
Rick Kaempfer's got nine of 'em.

Gekko Goof
"Geico Dumps Gecko For Minor Celebs."

I'm not happy about this.

Extra Sausage
The Milwaukee Brewers are adding a chorizo to their sausage races.

It might look like this.

Greatest Sausage Race Ever.

Housing Hitches
* Is it necessarily bad news when home prices fall? Or does it mean that more homes are becoming affordable to more people?

* The CHA plans to raze the Lathrop Homes. Will a mixed-income community really replace it?

A Beachwood reader suggests that a story this week in which a modeling agency executive and a plastic surgeon reviewed photos of Chicago CEOs to evaluate "the look of power" demonstrates "the depths that Crain's has sunken to."

Traitor Joe's
I spread my grocery shopping around. I get my Diet Mountain Dew and Hostess products at the corner Walgreens. I get my coffee, apple fritter, and occasional tuna sandwich and pre-packaged sushi (much to the horror of friends and acquaintances) at the 7-11. And I split the big stuff between Whole Foods and Jewel.

I've been a Whole Foods shopper for years, in fact.

But I've also heard a lot in the last year about Trader Joe's as an alternative to Whole Foods.

I finally shopped at a Trader Joe's recently, and my skepticism was confirmed.

First, nothing was where it was supposed to be!

So I admit I am a creature of habit.

Beyond that, though, I didn't find the prices much different from those at Whole Foods, I was put off by the whole Hawaiian shirt thing, and the selection seemed awfully narrow. Where was the rest of the store, I wondered?

The rivalry between the stores is real, though, particularly as Trader Joe's gains momentum.

The New York Times recently surveyed food prices at a Whole Foods, Food Emporium, Trader Joe's and Walgreens near Union Square in Manhattan.

"In several cases," the paper reports, "Whole Foods' prices were, in fact, the lowest. An 8-ounce package of Philadelphia Cream Cheese was $1.99 at Whole Foods, compared with $2.19 at Walgreens and $2.99 at the Food Emporium. A 15-ounce box of Kashi Crunch cereal was $2.49 at Whole Foods, compared with $2.69 at Trader Joe's and $3.49 at Food Emporium.

"Despite its reputation as a higher-priced alternative, Whole Foods frequently matched the prices at Trader Joe's, which, since it arrived in Union Square in March, has often attracted a line of customers outside its store waiting, up to 20 minutes, to join the line inside."

I found another comparison here.

Whole Foods is also battling critics over just what constitutes organic food. You can find an exchange between Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey and University of California-Berkeley journalism professor and author Michael Pollan here.

Finally, don't be fooled. Trader Joe's is Aldi.

The Beachwood Tip Line: A different kind of Big Box.


Posted on July 26, 2006

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