Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Proudly not being endorsed by the Atlanta Board of Realtors !!


A couple of weeks ago all of the Dunwoody City Council candidates received an e-mail from Mr. Robert Broome, Governmental Affairs Director of the Atlanta Board of Realtors (ABR) asking us to complete a background application and attend an interview in order to receive their endorsement. First and foremost, since I am not accepting political contributions of any kind, I could care less about the Political Action Committee money they were dangling in front of me but none the less I (and probably all the other candidates) jumped on the internet and found the ABR governmental affairs website which contained their position papers on local laws affecting real estate sales.

My opponent in this race is a real estate agent who is also a Member of the Atlanta Board of Realtors, therefore I knew going in that I didn’t have a good chance at getting this endorsement but I figured I would apply in order to play the game. And trust me when I say this, it is a game.

The Board of Realtors invites everyone in for a 20 minute interview and dangles them a possible “endorsement” and PAC money; all the candidates could use the money if for no other reason than to repay themselves for the money they already donated to their own campaign. The candidate looks up the Atlanta Board of Realtors and reads their positions and then possibly mimics those same positions back to the Board to get their coveted endorsement. For those candidates who don’t do that, you either show up blindly to get introduced to their issues during the interview or you actually read their issues in advance and it doesn’t affect your replies during the interview. No matter how the candidates handled the application process and interview, the Atlanta Board of Realtors was able to introduce their legislative agenda to all the candidates and then promote those who would serve in the best interests of its paying members.

Since I read their issues online prior to the application, have publicly discussed a few of them on my blog, and couldn’t care less if I received their endorsement or not; I decided that I would play their game and enjoy myself in the interview process. I figured that since I’m running for political office (and may never do this again?) that I shouldn’t miss out on an interesting experience that the other candidates were having.

I completed the application in a straightforward but humorous way, attended the 20 min interview answering the three questions they had with my honest opinions. The three topics they wanted my opinion on were, impact fees, DeKalb County’s toilet replacement law and the new laws that went into place in Chamblee & Doraville requiring large buildings to be LEED certified.

I said I was in favor of limited impact fees where the fees were able to be tied directly to adjacent infrastructure improvements needed for that specific development to be successful or they should be used for specific infrastructure improvements that would lessen the impact of the development on the citizens adjacent to the property. The Atlanta Board of Realtors is completely against impact fees, so I guess I answered that question incorrectly?

The DeKalb County toilet replacement laws were put in place as a political ploy by the Vernon Jones administration to show that they were doing something to conserve water. Since then the county has been offering rebates to encourage retrofitting to new toilets, unfortunately the rebates are much less then what a full toilet replacement costs therefore the rebates are only helping those who would have been replacing their toilets anyway because of remodeling. Though water conservation is a commendable quality, I believe the laws are flawed and the enforcement is almost impossible therefore I informed the ABR that the new city council would probably be very open to revisiting this DeKalb County regulation. Since I didn’t say that I was firmly against this regulation, the answer was probably considered middle of the road by the ABR and they were probably looking for better.

The Chamblee & Doraville City Councils made a significant cutting edge decision to require all private developments greater than 20,000 square feet in size as well as all future municipal buildings to be LEED Certified as being energy efficient. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and the standards allow a building to become certified as sustainable in terms of its resource use and interior health. It costs a little bit more (about 6% more on average) to build green, but these costs are made up quickly (estimated to be in about four years) in energy savings and worker productivity.

When the Board of Realtors asked the question about the decisions Chamblee & Doraville made regarding LEED certification, I think they were surprised that I was even aware of what they were talking about. I stated that without question future municipal buildings should be LEED Certified and that I agreed with the decision whole heartily. The city buildings are paid for by the taxpayers and will be in place for at least 50 years therefore it makes a whole lot of sense to pay a little bit extra on the front end in order to have huge utility cost savings for those same taxpayers over the life of the building. (I have raised this with our school system and they seem to disagree with me?) Large private buildings will also be standing for 40 or 50 years, therefore the rational should be the same unless you’re a developer who wants to build at the lowest cost and then sell a few years later to the highest bidder. Under those circumstances, why would anyone want to invest in quality construction practices which would cut into their profit?

Ensuring that developers make a quick profit is not in the best interest of the residents of Dunwoody but creating smart sustainable growth with quality buildings surrounded by necessary infrastructure is, therefore depending on the economic impact of Chamblee’s & Doraville’s decision, I would be in favor of these same requirements for Dunwoody’s large buildings.

Today I am happy to announce that I have not been endorsed by the Atlanta Board of Realtors.

15 comments:

Pattie said...

Bravo, John!

JustMom said...

You protest a little too loudly, John.

knitternall said...

Nope. He isn't protesting too loudly. John, I'm glad you're resisting lobbying efforts. Even at the "small town" level, lobbying can be insidious.

Rick said...

If it were not for John's "loud" protests many things would go undetected by Dunwoody folks. Since John has competition for the council he needs to distinguish himself from his opponent. It often seems being 'loud' is the only way to get DeKalb's attention.

Dunwoodyinfoguy said...

John,
I went through the same process with the board of realtors that you did (although I resisted the temptation to add humor to my responses.)

I let them know right at the start that I would not accept any money from their PAC and the subject never came up again. They have endorsed me, but I assure you it isn't because I've sold my soul to the devil.

Anyway, I've been endorsed by an environmental group and the Atlanta Board of Realtors. I'd like to believe that they liked my reasoned approach to their questions, not because I have become a tool of developers.

Paula said...

John, we need more "loud" people like yourself in government - no more of the same. This whole idea of endorsement by groups that may have an "agenda" with the new city of dunwoody is discomforting. This is how things are done in Dekalb County - whichis the reason that 80% of Dunwoody voted to have our own government - one free from special interest groups.

I'm also convinced that if John had not pushed and pushed both the county and the school system, the light in front of Peachtree Middle School would most likely not be functional today and the cross walks not reconfigured.

Thanks, John!!

Paula said...

Just a question, are the City of Dunwoody candidates required to list campaign contributions? If so, where do I find that listing?

Tom said...

Paula,

You can go here and check out candidate contribution and expenses by name:

http://www.ethics.ga.gov/Reports/Campaign/Campaign_ByName.aspx

Mine is probably the most boring with the exception of John Heneghan, who really can't spend much at all, and can't take contributions.

Tom Taylor
Candidate
District 3, in District seat

John Heneghan said...

Paula,

The personal finance disclosures and the campaign finance disclosures are on line or will be very soon.

Here is a link to I believe all of the City Council personal financial disclosures and Ken Wright's is also easy to find if you look for it by name.

The campaign disclosures are due 15 days prior to the election, which just past, and it appears that several of the candidates are holding off to the end of the 5 day grace period to file their information.

Here is the link to my campaign report which shows that I have spent a total of $1,233.34 of my own money to run for office and collected Zero political contributions.

In the next several days, after the deadline, I will post a blog entry on these items giving everyone easy access to all of the documents.

Paula said...

Thanks John and Tom for the links. It seems as if several candidates have not bothered to file their contribution disclosure information in a timely manner. I would ask these candidates, why not? If you cannot even get your own personal reports completed and submitted in a timely manner, how am I to assume you can govern Dunwoody properly?

Dunwoodyinfoguy said...

Paula (and others),
The candidate financial disclosure forms are due within 5 days of the close of the reporting period. The reporting period ended on Monday, September 1st, so the forms are not due and are not late until midnight on September 6th.

Check back on-line then and feel free to criticize any candidate who didn't file by the deadline.

Paula said...

I'm sorry, I thought they were due 15 days prior to the election. I did not realize there was a "grace" period.

http://www.ethics.ga.gov/EthicsWeb/filingschedule/ScheduleInformation.aspx?CommitteeType=CNC&ReportYear=2008&ReportType=Special%20Election&Report_Election=9/16/2008%2012:00:00%20AM

Dunwoodyinfoguy said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to be testy. I've gotten contributions from over 120 people, most in the last 2 weeks, and I was travelling for work earlier in the week. I didn't get back home until late last night, but this is on my list to complete.

Paula said...

Not a problem. I should have educated myself better on the process.

Thaddeus Osbourne Dabell (TOD) said...

A few random comments.

An excellent High Efficiency Toilet can be had at Home Depot for $100. The county rebate covers this and they paid promptly. Installation is extra, but not beyond the capabilities of someone who can read and wield an adjustable wrench. That it was a political ploy is probably true. That a local government (county, city, take your pick) might require property be brought up to code at time of sale is not unheard of. If it is unenforceable speaks poorly of those responsible for code enforcement.

LEED is some good, some bad and from an intentions standpoint, mostly good. It is consistent nationwide and there are some things that garner credit that might not make sense based on latitude. That is being worked on.

I don't know if there is a grace period for filing campaign disclosure. If there isn't those lovely folks at "Dunwoody Yes" were late. If the grace period is 7 days, well, they're still late. Add this to the fact that the other organization didn't release reports before the referendum and I'd say we're in for bumpy ride.

On that point, John Heneghan is the only participant in either of these two organizations that has a proven track record of open and informative operations. He should be mayor.