Trickle Down Housing
Dear Group, The Washington Realtors Political Action Committee (WA RPAC) under the chairmanship of Tom Hormel (Spokane Valley resident and member of the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Spokane Realtors Association [SAR]) made a huge financial bet in the City of Spokane municipal primaries in August this year. Mr. Hormel guided $175,000 (a quarter of all the direct candidate money spent in those primaries), in "independent expenditures" to support his slate of candidates: Nadine Woodward, Cindy Wendle, Andrew Rathbun, and Michael Cathcart. Hormel's explanation for directing this investment (two thirds of which was raised outside Spokane and Spokane Valley) toward propaganda (spent at a firm in Denver) to influence the Spokane elections? Here's the official version of Hormel's explanation found in the Spokesman [the bold is mine]: The impetus behind the spike in campaign activity is addressing “a crisis with housing availability and affordability,” according to Tom Hormel, chair of the WA Realtors PAC and a member of the Spokane Association of Realtors’ government affairs committee. “That’s why we’re playing big this year,” Hormel said. “We took an opportunity to change the face of the City Council to help get us out of this crisis.” What altruism, right? Wait a minute. The Realtors (and builders) of Washington State are stepping in for the good of us all--and they're going to make housing in Spokane more affordable??? Think about that. The WA Realtors PAC is a trade group dedicated to making the construction and sale of real estate maximally profitable for its members. If you have even a shred of doubt about the reasons for which WA RPAC exists and spends its money read the WA RPAC fundraising email I've copied to the bottom of this window. Note the title of the "successful...campaign." In that fundraising email touts: "Unlock the Door for Affordable Housing" I urge you to paste that title [with the quotation marks] into your web browser. The first eight hits in my Google browser connect to links with Seattle connections. There are several with links referencing the "housing crisis." The word "affordable" in Mr. Hormel's quote is typical of Republican word-smithing. (See Don't Think of an Elephant by George Layoff) The word "affordable" is meant to light up a frame in the mind of the listener that shines with the type of housing that might address the issue of homelessness, affordable apartments and small homes, a neat and tidy central city where everyone has a place to live. It is a lovely illusion. It's what we all want, a comfortable, non-threatening city in which we can afford to live and raise our children. But is that the comfortable, in-filled, happy city the one most profitable for wealthy developers to build? Is it the one they will build if given unfettered control of city government? WA RPAC's "Affordable Housing" campaign theme has been around for a while, an advertising campaign likely hatched by consultants to NAR, the National Association of Realtors, a wealthy lobbying union representing developers and builders. It cannot be an accident that Nadine Woodward's opening salvo in her campaign for mayor was to post the political video "Seattle is Dying" on her Facebook page, touting it to the local media with the paranoid fear that Spokane will come to look like the selected images in the video if she isn't elected mayor. Ms. Woodward (as well as Wendle, Rathbun, and Cathcart, the developers slate of candidates) got an additional boost from a slickly produced local video,"Curing Spokane," a video financed by local real estate developer, Larry Stone. Ms. Woodward immediately praised "Curing Spokane" and, no surprise, the video is featured on the Republicans of Spokane County website. Is this all a concerted effort to buy the Spokane election for the benefit of wealthy real estate interests? WA RPAC interests want a Spokane City government that least regulates the building of maximally profitable tract housing with as much city-provided, sprawling infrastructure as possible, buildings that will house those who can afford it. The only nod to affordability will be an overall increase in supply on a sprawling landscape fed by congested freeways. We're being asked to buy a concept that amounts to the housing version of trickle-down economics. (If you're tempted by trickle down housing as a concept, ask yourself when the last time was you noticed landlords lowering rents because there were too many rentals and too few renters. Never?) And the folks the videos depict as a blight on downtown? The solution these candidates offer is that we need to build a bigger jail somewhere else. Are you feeling used and manipulated yet? We have to give Tom Hormel and the Washington Realtors PAC some credit. The money he and his PAC are wielding in the Spokane elections cries out for explanation. Why are monied special interests clothing their effort in "affordability" while trying to purchase Spokane City government? Why would a trade group invest so much to supplant knowledgeable elected officials dutifully working on local issues, supplant it with a slate consisting of two telegenic political newcomers who downplay their Republican ideology (Wendle and Woodward), a wealthy landlord (Rathbun, who is substantially funding his own campaign), and a "Spokane Association of Realtors Community Partner of the Year, 2016" political operative (Cathcart). Were it not for Tom Hormel's WA RPAC propaganda buy, we might have missed seeing the overall strategy. Keep to the high ground, Jerry P.S. If you can get past the bias of the headline, "Plan to redirect city funds from ‘Curing Spokane’ producer’s development project is ‘dead,’ Stuckart says," by Adams Shanks in the September 17th Spokesman, I urge you to read it carefully. Larry Stone's "Curing Spokane" video can hardly be anything but a plug for Woodward and company. Does Mr. Stone think that anyone who is paying attention believes his production of "Curing Spokane" is anything but political propaganda meant to influence the election in favor of candidates that will financially benefit Mr. Stone? P.P.S: The following is copied and pasted from a September 14th Washington Realtors Political Action Committee fundraising email with the subject line "Did You Answer the Call?" asking for members to upgrade their PAC contribution to $50 from $35 [the bold is mine]: Did you see our successful “Unlock the Door for Affordable Housing” Campaign? This State wide Campaign led to Legislation that: · Decreased the Real Estate Excise Tax by 15% on all sales under $500,000- putting nearly $1,000 back in your seller's pocket. · Exempted REALTORS® such as yourself from a 20% increase in the B&O Tax – what comes off the top your commissions. Putting $250-$500 on average back into your pocket every year. · Protected your Independent Contractor Status · Beat back a bill that would have required an- in house transactions to involve attorneys for both the seller and the buyer at every step of the transaction · Reformed Condo Liability Laws so that more affordable condominiums can be built · Passed a bill that encourages cities to allow more density- things like accessory dwelling units, duplexes and triplexes in single family zones and more. Last year we fixed the Hirst Decision that affected rural water rights for many property owners in WA State – this was a huge win!