No Thanks, McDonald's

This summer, my family finally gave up on McDonald’s. It shouldn’t have taken this long—we saw Supersize Me when it first came out (seven years ago). We read Fast Food Nation and discussed its horrors with our friends. We’ve known all along that when it came to nutrition, McDonald’s was at the bottom of the barrel. But we thought an occasional foray to the Golden Arches was forgivable. Everything in moderation, right? And we never went without a good excuse. “I was dying for ice cream, but I only had a dollar in my purse.” Or, “A promise of fries on the way home was the only way I could get the kids to go to the store without a tantrum.” It was just a drive-thru. A blip in our day. We threw the bag away and forgot we’d ever been.

Then, the Detroit Theater closed. Suddenly we were looking at the possibility of a McDonald’s, not buried on a back street or beside a freeway exit, but right in the heart of the place we call home (we live on Woodward Avenue, only a half-mile from the Detroit Theater) and we were appalled. Clearly it was time for us to do some thinking.

What was it that bothered us so much about this potential McDonald’s? Was it nostalgia for the old Detroit Theater? Was it our distaste for the McDonald’s menu—a perfect storm of high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, sodium, nitrates, preservatives, GMOs, and hormone-riddled meat? Was it the fact that McDonald’s was angling to move in right down the street from an elementary school and a middle school, placing itself in the path of so many children? The answer to each of these questions is yes. But we were left with a lingering unease, a feeling there was something else we were missing.

Mayor Summers said, “The studies are so thorough that a new McDonald’s in the area is a signal…that this is a viable area to do business...” But, we already know Detroit is a thriving business district. Go into any slum and you’ll find a McDonald’s. What you won’t find is a 56 West, a Root Cafe, or a Deagan’s. Certainly, times are tough. The city of Lakewood, like its schools, library, and social services, needs every tax dollar it can get. Many of us are fearful about the future. But we’re still here. We’re here because we love Lakewood. We do not have to let fear cloud our judgment about what’s really important to our community.

In the iconic run-on-the-bank scene from It’s A Wonderful Life, George Bailey begs his fellow citizens not to align themselves with Potter and his “easy” solution to their money woes, saying, “Don’t you see what’s happening? Potter isn’t selling. Potter is buying! And why? Because we’re panicky and he’s not.” Call me melodramatic (and I know there are those who will), but McDonald’s is not just selling us cheeseburgers and fries. They’re buying a prime position in our community. A place we are trying to encourage people to STAY, not just drive through. And therein lies the rub—this McDonald’s, by its representatives’ own admission, will do at least 80% of its business at the drive-thru. This is inviting a dramatic increase in traffic ills—congestion, speeding down side streets, illegal turns, impatient drivers cutting each other off—all the discourtesies that go hand-in-hand with drive-thru culture.

Does McDonald’s have a right to exist? Sure. It’s a good fit for a travel plaza—a place that isn’t really a place, but more of a stop on the way between other places. Do we want to treat Lakewood like a travel plaza? Surely not.

The Sloane McDonald’s has been losing money for some time now, for the simple reason that it’s out of the way. That fact speaks to all of us. What if we decided to let Lakewood’s McDonald’s die a natural death? What if we decided to spend our money at the Souper Market and T.J.’s Butcher Block and India Garden instead? Yes, it takes a little longer. Yes, it costs a little more. Yes, it’s worth it.

So what can you do if you don’t want to see a McDonald’s (or one of its many cousins) on Detroit? E-mail (mayor@lakewoodoh.net) or call (216-529-6600) Mayor Summers. Let the mayor and city council know you’d like to see an ordinance passed prohibiting new drive-thru restaurants on Detroit. Sign the online petition requesting that the city complete a traffic study for the proposed McDonald’s development:

http://www.petitiononline.com/Lak44107/petition.html

And last, but not least, put your money where your mouth is—boycott McDonald's. We’re glad we finally did.

Arlie Dorsch Matera

I already have an account through LPL, but I wanted to create a personal account so I can submit personal (non-library related!) material. I'm currently working on a piece about the McDonald's development on Detroit.

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Volume 7, Issue 20, Posted 7:30 AM, 10.05.2011