For over a year now, the largest bank in the United States, Chase, and the globalized pharmacy, CVS, have been trying to move into downtown Sebastopol. Fierce resistance has met Chase/CVS' efforts to develop a drive-through mall at the busiest intersection in town, but like the Biblical David in his fight against the giant Goliath, Sebastopudlians are armed with little more than slingshots.
What if a bank had been convicted numerous times of predatory banking practices and a pharmacy had been convicted of failing to clean up its toxic wastes? Would you let that bank and pharmacy move downtown? Or would you consider the potential harm to the community and reject the proposal on ethical and moral grounds?
Chase and CVS have each paid billions of dollars in fines for illegal activities. The Justice Department recently launched a criminal investigation into JPMorgan/Chase's trading loss of over $3 billion in derivatives. JPMorgan/Chase has about $2.5 trillion in total assets—roughly 20 percent of the U.S. economy. "Huge banks have been using their enormous wealth for years to buy off politicians and regulators," reports journalist Bill Moyers. "Chase just had to pay almost three quarters of a billion dollars in settlements and surrendered fees to settle one case. It's also paid billions to settle other cases of perjury, forgery, fraud and sale of unregistered securities."
Some might say "private property rights" are more important than the greater good of the community. But in addition to being private property, downtowns are part of the commons, constructed by taxpayers, with plazas and other places to gather, celebrate, have fun, shop and pass through without having their pockets picked by corporations.
Chase's partner CVS is another megacorporation with a history of abuses. It recently paid $13.75 million in penalties in a settlement reached by 44 California district attorneys and city attorneys. CVS violated California laws for safe storage, handling and disposal of sharps waste, pharmaceutical and pharmacy waste, photo waste containing silver and hazardous waste generated from spills and customer return of hazardous products.
We would be better off without them at the center of town.
Shepherd Bliss lives in Sebastopol, farms, teaches college and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.