This site is about the overreaching political power of the NC Association of Realtors flush with money from cashing in your equity 6% at a time, leaving you to pay for growth with property taxes, year after year, with or without cash flow. In the last few years NCAR has pumped millions of dollars into NC political campaigns at the state and local level. They have spent millions more to defeat Local Options for Local Governments with misleading ads.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Orange Goes For Gold

Orange County Commissioners have voted to put a Land Transfer Tax on the May ballot.

From the UNC Daily Tarheel: County to vote on transfer tax

Board members spoke of the everyday burden a sales tax would place on residents and the benefit of being able to defer payment with a land-transfer tax until their property is sold.
Those who preferred the land-transfer tax in the survey either cited that taxes are already too high or were concerned with the regressive burden a sales tax would have on lower-income families.
From the News & Observer: Orange commissioners put transfer tax on ballot
Orange County voters will decide on the May primary ballot whether to initiate a land transfer tax. The Orange County Board of Commissioners decided unanimously Tuesday to put up for a vote a 0.4 percent land transfer tax, imposed on the seller of property at the time of sale.
"I support the one-time tax on a house," said Margaret Misch, who spoke in favor of the transfer tax option.
"I think that asking people to pay every day from current income ... it's asking a bit much," said Commissioner Moses Carey Jr., explaining why he favored the land transfer tax over the sales tax. Commissioner Valerie Foushee said that she also supported a land transfer tax and that county residents would have another chance to make their feelings known at the polls.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Talking About Renew Raleigh

Republican consulant Carter Wrenn at Talking About Politics shares some observations about the political activity of Renew Raleigh (which filed papers as a nonprofit corporation).

Raleigh’s realtors and homebuilders, unless they wake up politically, are about to get another does of castor oil from the City Council.
It seems the group has targeted architect and City Councilor Thomas Crowder for wanting to address infill as a planning issue. Wrenn writes:
I recently got an e-mail from a new group that’s trying to stop him – Renew Raleigh – which sent an ‘Important, Urgent’ update to five hundred supporters to oppose Crowder. It’s fine as far as it goes but these folks are talking to each other and in-speak doesn’t go but so far. Five hundred people sounds like a lot – but in an election it’s a drop in the bucket.
Sounds like they won't be filing for a 501(c)(3) any time soon. Maybe a 527.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fallony Research

Fallon Research & Communications, the Republican polling firm close to the housing industry and specializing in "selective service" shows up again in NC Realtor finance reports. This time the IRS 2007 end of year report for the North Carolina Homeowners Alliance, a 527 committee run by the NC Association of Realtors, shows an amount of $29,160 paid 9/25/2007 to Fallon Research & Communications for polling.

And, have I mentioned the $154,418.38 the NC Realtors PAC contributed to NC political candidates and committees in the last six months of 2007?

Renew Raleigh Really Real Estate

What’s wrong with this picture? The “Renew Raleigh” sign is located illegally in a City of Raleigh right of way. I passed by 9 of these just yesterday evening. So much for “improving property and enhancing neighborhoods throughout Raleigh”. Maybe someone was just taking their trash to the curb.

According to the City of Raleigh, inspectors have been instructed to remove signs like these that are in the public right of way. When located on private property they are legal but, in the City right of way they are subject to removal and possible $100 fines. So be a dear and help keep the City clean. If you see one of these signs, or any sign like, say, a realtor sign, in the City of Raleigh right of way, contact: Faye Allen at 919-516-2546 or

There’s another signing issue that’s not quite right with the Really Realtors Renew Raleigh site. Stung by criticism of secrecy, creators of the site have released a list of “Supporters” online. Maybe they should have kept it secret. In a preliminary review more than half of the people listed are readily identifiable as members of the real estate and home building lobby. The list includes 32 brokers from York Simpson Underwood and 12 brokers from Hodge & Kittrell, two real estate companies specializing in Raleigh homes, many other realtors and, many members of the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County.

Also included as supporters are people who are not supporters. Say what? Yes, it seems the list includes everyone who has signed up for email information, not support. Some whose names appear inappropriately have tried to get removed but have found that: “the only email address listed on the web site bounces -- neat trick!”. Gives a whole new meaning to website stickiness.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Astroturf Update: Renew Raleigh

Raleigh residents have been bemused and confused by the proliferation of enigmatic signs for a new group called complete with a depiction of plastic grass.

The story was picked up by New Raleigh: ReNew Raleigh: Manufactured Consent, Over The Top/ Inside The Beltline: Raleigh Needs Renewing?, the Raleigh News & Observer: Renew Raleigh and, Progressive Pulse: Renew This.

In recent weeks the signs have proliferated on rental properties around Raleigh. The only names associated with the group are two Raleigh attorneys, one who speaks for the group and one who filed incorporation papers. and the realtor’s have essentially the same internet identity. They share an IP address, nameservers and mail servers and data collection for both is managed by Joel Sutherland of NewMedia Campaigns which owns the IP block.

The true purpose is to undermine the Raleigh city council majority in favor of unfettered development. The valid points that might be made about infill development don’t require secrecy. The astroturf and subterfuge is carefully calculated to confuse, providing cover for realtors, builders and developers.

A few months back I overheard an organizing discussion about the group at a Raleigh restaurant and how they could enlist the help of one of the realtors' political consultants. Looks like they went straight to the source.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Orange Crush or Orange Zinger?

Orange County residents have been on the receiving end of dubious push poll telephone calls recently, described by one recipient as:

...what may very well be the most egregious violation of research ethics I have every experienced. The questions were all about transfer tax in Orange County and it was sleazy. The company was named TDM Research in Birmingham
TDM Research, associated with Democratic political consulting firm The Tyson Organization, whose clients include Bob Etheridge, has been responsible for other dubious push polls in Florida and Virginia in the past.

Why all the fuss? Tuesday evening, February 5th, at 7.30pm, the Orange County Board of Commissioners, at its regular meeting, will a public hearing regarding a Local Revenue Options Referendum. The purpose of the hearing is "to solicit opinion from voters regarding which, or both, of two local revenue options should be placed on a May 2008 referendum for voter consideration." In other words, they are trying to decide between a 1/4% sales tax or a 0.4% transfer tax increase to pay for growth.

The Commissioners have established a Local Revenue Options Education Advisory Committee to help develop and disseminate factual information about the need for new local revenue options but since the first appointment in November have only named 11 members of the 20 member committee. According to today's News & Observer:
Board members are leaning toward presenting only the transfer tax option, but [Commission Chair Barry Jacobs] said they still need to talk it over. He recognizes that a transfer tax referendum would face stiff opposition and might have few advocates.

"The home builders and the Realtors have made it clear that they will pour money into campaigns to defeat transfer taxes," Jacobs said. "And since the government's role is to educate, not advocate, it raises the question of where's the counterbalancing force."
Neighboring Chatham County has been a battleground for Local Revenue Options and somewhat of a political laboratory for developers and realtors in recent years. Despite the enthusiasm of county commissioners the transfer tax was defeated in part because commissioners underestimated not just the tsunami of real estate money but the need for public education and active local support. A newsletter circulated in the past few days from Pittsboro Together claims that the Chatham Coalition, which shares many members, chose not to actively support the transfer tax referendum because they had initially been "specifically asked not to be visibly involved". In the interim members focused their energy on the Pittsboro municipal elections and when subsequently asked to support the transfer tax declined to participate in the transfer tax issue for fear of conflating the tax with municipal issues. In the end their fears were realized anyway as the transfer tax drew opponents out of the woodwork.

Home builders and realtors have indeed poured money into this issue and had been amassing a war chest for just this purpose. The Charlotte Observer reports that the real estate industry anticipated and planned the defeat of the transfer tax for years and bragged about it at an event in Raleigh organized by NC FREE:
The real estate industry spent hundreds of thousands of dollars last year to oppose a proposed tax on the sale of property, what it called the "home tax." As it turns out, the industry had been saving up money for the expected battle for at least a decade.
Todd McGee, a spokesman for the commissioners' association, said in an interview Friday that the real estate industry benefited last year from more experience and resources.
"It's easy to win the battle for public opinion when you're the only one out there spouting an opinion," McGee said.
NC FREE is an allegedly "non-profit, non-partisan political research business association" that counts Art Pope and NC Realtors' executive director Tim Kent and NC Homebuilders' executive vice president Michael Carpenter as board members. NC FREE has had a semi-dormant PAC since the late 80's but has recently made a new push for contributions calling itself FREEPAC but known officially and enigmatically as NC FORUM FOR RES & ECON ED PAC and has yet to file a 2007 year-end return. In an endorsement of the Money Talks school of public policy:
John Davis, president of N.C. FREE, praised the real estate industry's efforts as a model for other businesses involved in public policy debates.
"They hired the best people they could hire," Davis said, "and that made a difference in winning and losing, in a big way."
The coming months will tell whether Orange County can navigate the treacherous path of Local Revenue Options and avoid being crushed by real estate interests to finally deliver a zinger that provides for sustainable growth.