A big-box index, and a public art hit list 

Keeping pace with the epidemic spread of behemoth 100,000-plus square-foot box stores is one of the fastest-growing cottage industries in cyberspace. Recent estimates put the number of box store bash sites, dedicated to exposing the corporate abuses (both real and imagined) of large corporate retailers, at more than 1,200, attacking more than 100 different American brand names for unfair labor practices, environmental irresponsibility, poor customer service and lost community jobs. Sites like homedepotsucks.com and walmartyr.com, may be finding sympathetic ears in cities like Missoula, where sprawl-inducing concrete farms are sprouting like mushrooms in the morning dew. Below are a few tidbits gleaned from the more legitimate protest sites:
• Number of Americans employed at Wal-Mart: 885,000
• Amount Wal-Mart paid Tommy Hilfiger in a 1998 settlement for selling counterfeit Hilfiger goods via its website: $6.4 million
• Number of Home Depot stores in 1999: 930
• Number of stores Home Depot expects to have by 2003: 1,900
• Gross profits of a typical “home center” store, per square foot: $50
• Gross profits per square foot of Home Depot stores: $130
• Estimated number of community jobs lost for every two jobs created by a box store: 3
• Number of customers “struck by falling merchandise” in Wal-Mart stores from 1991-95: 25,426.
• Number of years it would take a checker at Wal-Mart making $6.50 per hour to earn what company CEO Lee Scott earns in one year: 155
• Number of communities nationwide where box stores have been rejected: 110
• Estimated number of communities that have banned box stores: 12
••• Notice all the hide and seek (or just plain hide) going on downtown? First they paint over the brightly-colored mural on the south face of the Wilma with a coat of frowsy dun, and now a band of artists have cloaked the “Crossings” sculpture (better known as the four red Xs) Cristo-style in a mantle of all-purpose black plastic. What does this tell us about the state of public art in Missoula? More importantly, given your druthers, what would you like to see hidden away with a nice coating of black plastic, either so you’ll appreciate it more when it’s unwrapped or just so you won’t have to look at it for a while?

We want to know, so we’re administering the following survey. Using the space provided below, please rank the following items in the order you would like to see them wrapped up in black plastic and return your ballot to the Independent at 115 S. 4th St. W., Missoula, MT 59801:

Peace Sign
“L” or “M”
Millennium Building
Squashed Cat Sculpture on Main Street
Caras Park Pavilion
Northside Walking Bridge
Southgate Mall
County Courthouse
“Pink Floyd Mural in Alley” between Broadway and Pine
Bronze Trout by Caras Park

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