PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Mayor Ted Wheeler is firing back at Texas Gov. Greg Abbott who recently blamed the upcoming closures of Portland’s last two Walmart locations on the city’s apparent lack of law and order.
Walmart recently announced the stores at Hayden Meadows and East Port Plaza in Portland would permanently close on March 24. According to a spokesperson, the decision was made based upon “several factors,” including profitability concerns.
Although the big box store is closing multiple locations across the country, Abbott took to Twitter and weighed in on the closures in the Rose City.
“This is what happens when cities refuse to enforce the rule of law,” the Texas governor tweeted on Sunday. “It allows the mob to take over. Businesses can’t operate in that environment, and people can’t live in it.”
The following day Wheeler pushed back with his own Twitter post, saying “Governor Abbott, are the dozens of Walmart stores that have closed in Texas in recent years all communities that ‘refuse to enforce the rule of law?’ The retail industry is changing and retail theft is a national issue.”
Wheeler added that the City of Portland is making “historic investments” toward community safety resources.
In an effort to curtail retail theft, the Portland Police Bureau has recently executed coordinated shoplifting stings, specifically in the Mall 205 and Gateway Shopping Center areas, with the help of Multnomah County deputies and TriMet police. A bust this past Sunday netted 34 arrests and the recovery of more than $3000 in stolen items, PPB told KOIN 6.
In December, Walmart’s CEO warned that the uptick in retail thefts could lead to store closures and increasing prices.
“This decision was not made lightly and was reached only after a thorough review process,” a Walmart spokesperson said. “We have nearly 5,000 stores across the U.S. and unfortunately some do not meet our financial expectations. While our underlying business is strong, these specific stores haven’t performed as well as we hoped.”
‘It’s a loss for the community’
Political bickering aside, the neighborhoods in East Portland have historically felt left behind. People who live there believe taking away an affordable retailer isn’t going to help.
“People need lower cost options. I mean, we want the whole spectrum. We don’t just want low cost groceries, but people need an option where they can go and shop efficiently,” said Ann McMullen with the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association. “And I think with Walmart disappearing, without a replacement, you know, something coming in there, I think it’s a loss for the community.”
McMullen hopes the retail theft stings in recent months will have an impact in keeping other retailers — Kohl’s, Target, other grocery stores — in business in the neighborhood.