A former city official in a Kansas City suburb said he didn't mean to offend anyone when he said having a Wal-Mart move into another nearby suburb would attract "a different class" of people who would not be concerned about maintaining their homes and would drive down property values.
Former Fairway City Councilman John Ridenour apologized after several citizens criticized him at a ward council meeting Tuesday for comments he made in a letter to his neighbors about the new Wal-Mart store, which is scheduled to move into Mission, Kan., about 2 miles from Fairway. Wal-Mart plans to close its current store in Roeland Park when the new store opens. All three small suburbs are just across the state line from Kansas City, Mo.
"When that happens all of their customers of the old store will shop at the new one," Ridenour wrote in the letter distributed over the weekend. "Our neighborhood will get noticed and some will want to move into it. BE HONEST with yourself. Most of them are of a different class in that they do not feel the desire of a beautiful neighborhood and maintaining property values. When they move in we will start to see junk cars in disrepair in front yards along with other trash, and down will go the property values. BIG TIME!!!"
Fairway Mayor Jerry Wiley said at the meeting that he wanted to be sure people knew that Ridenour, who was on the Fairway council for 17 years, did not speak for the city.
"This does not emanate from the city of Fairway," Wiley said. "We would never march down that road at all. That's not who we are or what we stand for."
Wal-Mart did not immediately return messages left Wednesday by The Associated Press.
Monica Rios, whose family has lived in Fairway for 22 years, said she felt Ridenour singled out Mexican-Americans who shop at the Roeland Park Wal-Mart.
"A lot of my family shop there. He has no idea what struggles people have," Rios said.
Ridenour denied his remarks were aimed at any racial or ethnic group.
"I thoroughly apologize to anybody who took exception to any of the verbiage in that letter," he told Rios and the rest of the audience. "I never ever intended to insult anybody."