RE “Walmart abandons plans for 2 stores: Somerville, Watertown locations out” (Page A1, June 16): It istempting to suggest, as Walmart spokesman Steve Restivo does, that all anti-Walmart campaigns are alike and equally likely to be overrun. The reality is that an informed and active citizenry can really make a difference.
Seven people developed Sustainable Watertown, a civic organization seeking an early voice in planning and development issues. Nearly 300 people turned out for its first public forum on Walmart. Seven hundred residents put bright red signs opposing Walmart and new big-box stores on lawns and balconies and businesses all over town. More than 1,000 signed petitions to town officials. Many more voted for sustainability in town elections. Members of our community researched, wrote letters, bought a billboard, and brainstormed together in neighborhoods, churches, townwide organizations, professional groups, and political groups.
Sustainable Watertown is now a sizable community group that encompasses every aspect of Watertown civic life. It is devoted to attracting innovative industries that will contribute to the complex fabric of our town, not damage the resources we value, such as the tree-lined streets that connect the areas that big-box retailers would hamper.
While Walmart officials prefer to see community opposition as uniform and predictable, residents of Watertown know that successful, ongoing, and participatory campaigns are driven by our positive desire to preserve all the things that make our community unique.