The National Association of Realtors and its state and local affiliates are masters of the rile-up-the-troops-and-get-out-the-vote routine. Two years ago I trekked up to Sacramento for the California Association of Realtor’s annual Legislative Day and had my eyes opened to the world of lobbying, politics, and how legislative decisions are made. 2000 Realtors from around the state descended on the capital and met with their local state representatives, “educating” them about upcoming real-estate related legislative issues and “how they should vote.” Our local NAR affiliate, the Silicon Valley Assocation of Realtors, is equally effective on local issues — with a day’s notice, it can mobilize several dozen, perhaps even a few hundred, local Realtors to show up at a city council meeting to voice their opposition to some new measure.
Don’t get me wrong — every trade association in the country lobbies, and the Realtor lobby just happens to be better funded, organized, and influential than most. NAR’s express purpose is, and should be, to protect the interests of its members as it perceives them.
I’m often troubled, however, by issues on which the interests of “citizen Kevin Boer” and “Realtor Kevin Boer” might conflict. If there’s a ballot initiative in which I as a Realtor benefit, but I as a citizen don’t, which way do I vote? Personally, the answer is clear: when it comes to elections, I’m a citizen first, and a Realtor second.
Measure A is an upcoming county-level Land Use ballot initiative (see Smartvoter for more information). SILVAR wants us to vote “No” on this issue (see here and here). I don’t know enough about this particular measure yet to figure out which way I’m going to vote, but I’m willing to bet that most Realtors who do go to the polls on November 7 will toe the party line.
Not all of them, though. Ray Schuster, a fellow Alain Pinel-er, sent out a refreshing, independent-minded email this morning. Ray takes issue with SILVAR’s recommendation on Measure A, and does so in a very level-headed way. Hats to Ray for taking a stand and letting us know that not all Realtors necessarily vote per the dictates from above!
As a member of SILVAR, I rely on the association for information and recommendations related to political and legislative issues. So it is appropriate that SILVAR provide voting advice on Santa Clara County Measure A.
However, It is not appropriate that this advice be based on incomplete and misleading information. I disagree with SILVAR’s “no on A” recommendation. I will vote “Yes,” and urge other SILVAR Realtors to consider doing the same—or at least looking beyond the SILVAR arguments to make an informed decision.
SILVAR recommends a visit to the No on Measure A website. Fair enough. For balance, you should also check out www.openspace2006.org., the pro-Measure A website. Here are just a few facts that you’ll find there:
Measure A was not written “behind closed doors,” without public input, as the SILVAR email alleges. Measure A was written carefully with input from community leaders and organizations throughout Santa Clara County, including farmers and ranchers. Endorsers include 41 organizations, 44 community leaders, and 106 state, federal and local elected or formerly elected officials. See for yourself at http://www.openspace2006.org/endorsements.htm.
The Santa Clara County Land Conservation Initiative (Measure A) will preserve our region as a desirable place to live and work. It amends the County General Plan to help protect hillsides, ranchlands, watersheds and agricultural lands by reducing the number of developable parcels permitted in rural areas. Nothing more.
The Measure will not harm family farms. All existing legal parcels and uses remain valid. The Initiative WOULD reduce the number of new developable parcels by limiting them to 160-acre minimums, actually encouraging farming development. Importantly, the Initiative leaves many thousands of acres under County authority available for housing in and nearer to existing built-up areas and public services.
In summary, and without making a book out of this, Measure A will protect Santa Clara County’s remaining valuable natural resources from being paved over and lost forever.
I think these goals coincide with the goals of Realtors in Santa Clara County.
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