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.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Big money and absurd claims in Clay County

Big money and absurd claims in Clay County

By Chris Fitzsimon, NC Policy Watch Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Voters in Clay County head to the polls Friday to decide if they want to raise the local real estate transfer tax by .4 percent to build a new elementary school.

Hayesville, the county seat, is 350 miles from Raleigh, but big Raleigh money, slick misleading mailers, and misrepresentations from the market fundamentalist think tanks may decide the election if previous local transfer tax votes are any indication.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that realtors and developers have spent more than $36,000 fighting the tax so far, most of it from the N.C. Association of Realtors in Raleigh. The realtors have bought victory in all 20 of local transfer tax votes since the General Assembly gave counties the authority to put the tax on the ballot last session.

The realtors are using all the misleading arguments in Clay County that they have perfected in the last few years, calling the proposed increase a home tax, an attack on the American dream, and feigning concern for low-income families. Those are families the realtors charge 6 percent to sell a house, 15 times more than the transfer tax now proposed to build a school.

The big Raleigh money pays for a constant barrage of slick mail pieces that all but claims the transfer tax increase will end civilization as we know it. And just like in previous elections the realtors and homebuilders have the support of Raleigh's most well-known market fundamentalist think tank, that issued a predictable report that the county doesn't need to raise any tax to build a new school.

The report demands that the county commissioners "practice more honesty in government," attacking public officials honesty and integrity as part of the propaganda campaign.

The report urges the county to put a bond issue on the ballot "if" a new school is needed, which only people from Raleigh could question. It also criticizes county officials for using a bond issue to pay for a new jail which opened in May, but it doesn't stop there.

One author of the report says that "flat-panel TVs for inmates and hidden taxes" appear to be the commissioners' priorities. He goes on to question the need for the jail, criticize its size, and wonders why it wasn't built in cooperation with neighboring counties.

Sheriff Joe Shook, who is elected by the people in the county, said at the opening of the new jail that inmates were sleeping on the floor in the old one. As for the flat-panel televisions, that's what stores sell now. That doesn't mean they are high definition or plasma TVs, they are just flatter than older models.

A simple check of the Best Buy website would have made that clear, and it turns out Graham County authorities are planning to send some of its inmates to the new Clay County facility that can hold up to 60 prisoners.

That was reported by the local newspaper in May, three months before the think tank report criticized local officials for not cooperating with other counties who might want to use the new jail. But the report isn't about the facts.

It is anti-government propaganda designed to mislead Clay County voters and supplement the absurd claims of big money real estate interests in Raleigh.

And it is likely to work. An industry that makes close to $2 billion a year in the state has a lot of money to throw around to control elections and mislead voters. Maybe the people in Clay County will be able to see through the propaganda and vote to ask the people who make money off the county's growth help pay for the costs associated with it.

But don't count on it. More likely is more chest-thumping by the realtors and homebuilders and anti-government zealots when the tax is defeated. But that won't prove much. It won't even mean that voters don't want the transfer tax.

It will just be another confirmation that big Raleigh money, slick ads, and faux research funded by the Right can buy elections in small counties. And we already know that. But what do we tell the kids about their overcrowded school?

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