Early voting brisk with Wal-Mart on city ballot

On March 9, Kingman voters will play out another chapter in a national conflict between communities and Wal-Mart.

As elsewhere, the vote has overtones of labor controversy, not just about organizing Wal-Mart's workforce but union jobs at grocery stores that would compete against a new super center.

If early ballot requests and early voting are indications, the turnout for the March 9 city election could set a record, staff at the Kingman City Clerk's Office said.

The ballot includes primaries for mayor and races for three City Council seats.

The Wal-Mart referendum will determine whether the city can rezone 12 acres of a 25-acre parcel for a super center just north of the company's current store on Beverly Avenue.

The other 13 acres already have been zoned commercial.

The entire site was designated in the Kingman general plan as suitable for a regional shopping center.

A "yes" vote on the ballot means Wal-Mart can build the super center between Stockton Hill Road and the Mohave Wash.

A "no" vote voids the ordinance passed by the City Council and the property reverts to the previous open-space zoning.

The site was purchased from Mohave County at auction by Wal-Mart.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Arizona Local 99 sponsored a political action group to gather signatures to put the Wal-Mart zoning decision on the Kingman city ballot.

Local 99 represents union members in grocery stores throughout Arizona, including Kingman.

Heidi Cochran of Kingman is chairman and Mike Vespoli, director of community affairs for the union in Arizona, is listed as treasurer of the People Speak, the political action committee.

The committee also paid for the three statements opposing the site that were printed in the voter pamphlet.

A second political action committee, Citizens for a Better Kingman, filed papers last week to support the ordinance to allow the Wal-Mart rezoning.

Wal-Mart Stores is listed as sponsoring organization with Kingman real estate agents Debra Sixta as chairman and David Hollingsworth as treasurer.

UFCWU Local 99 is actively promoting requests for mail ballotsl.

Activities planned by the pro Wal-Mart group have not been made public.

The council approved its own rezoning proposal for the store site 5-1 on Oct.

6.

The original rezoning application submitted by Wal-Mart was defeated even though the vote was 5-2 in favor.

A protest filed Smith's Food and Drug based over a common property line had triggered a super-majority requirement of six votes.

Councilmen Frank McVey and Ray Lyons voted no.

The second rezoning proposal eliminated the common boundary with Smith's Food and Drug.

Jeff Goldberg, a Kingman attorney representing Smith's, filed a lawsuit over the second rezoning application.

That suit is still pending.

Wal-Mart proposes to build a 200,000 square-foot super center in Kingman that includes a grocery section.

Safeway, Kroger's, other grocery chains and the UFCW union have fought similar expansions by Wal-Mart elsewhere.

Unions, meanwhile, are still on strike in Southern California against Safeway and two other chains after several months.

The union wants more contributions to the health care programs and better wages.

The grocers say they cannot compete in the marketplace and pay higher wages and increased health benefits.

Local 99 is negotiating with Arizona stores and has delayed a strike vote while negotiations continue in California.

Registered voters who live within the city limits of Kingman can call the city clerk's office at 753-8114 and have a ballot mailed.

Voting booths are open from 8 a.m.

to 5 p.m.

each weekday at the clerk's office in City Hall at 310 N.

Fourth St

Early ballots can be cast until March 8, the day before the primary election.