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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Follow the Money: A Snapshot of the California Association of Realtors

Outside Lobbying Group Unconstrained by Money 

Follow the Money; fifth in a series
The Tattler introduces a new feature for the 2014 election season: Follow the Money. 
This election cycle is shaping up to be very expensive and very far-flung with lots of money from out-of-town interests pouring into the city.  We plan on digging out and exposing this money from people and organizations we don’t know that are trying to change our town to their liking.  These unfamiliar individuals and interest groups may effect our November elections with all their spending in Emeryville but the Tattler is going to make sure that while they assert their influence, we’re going to expose who they are. 
Click on the 'Follow the Money' label at the bottom of this story or use the search bar to review the entire Follow the Money series.

News Analysis
One of the largest lobbying groups in California has vowed to stop Emeryville residents from voting for their own autonomy in a local control measure and a real estate transfer fee measure (Measures U&V) on the November 4th ballot and these Sacramento lobbyists are putting their money where their mouth is.   The Sacramento based California Association of Realtors as well as the National Association of Realtors (CAR & NAR) has targeted the State with a $3.4 million war chest for this election and they've taken a keen interest in Emeryville's November elections resulting in a barrage of campaign flyers, now beginning to drop on Emeryville.

CAR- They want to
extract maximum 

profits from Emeryville.
They're going to stop
residents from deciding for
themselves about
local control.
The California Association of Realtors has determined our little town of Emeryville will be a pivotal player in their ongoing fight to stop any more citizens in California from being able to enact local control governance (by becoming a charter city) and collect revenue via real estate transfer fees.  This lobbying group sees local control as potentially cutting into their substantial profits and having 'lost' many towns in the state to local control over the years, they're now drawing a line in the sand here in Emeryville.

Meet CAR
The California Association of Realtors has money to burn.  Here's a quick synopsis of their spending:
  • They've spent almost $30 million statewide on 593 election flyers over 17 years
  • They're half done spending the $3.4 million they targeted in the State for this election cycle and still have almost $2 million in cash on hand as of Oct 19th
  • In 2010 during the height of the Great Recession, they spent $33 million in California of which $23 million was spent trying to influence voters
  • In 2012 that number rose to $41 million spent on lobbying alone
  • They've set aside $85,000 for this year's Emeryville campaign

Emeryville is especially worrisome for CAR & NAR this election year because of the streamlined ballot initiative language the City Council authored for Emeryville voters to consider as they go to the polls.  City Council members recognized the importance of keeping the ballot language simple for voters and they had to battle City Attorney Mike Biddle to craft it so.
Large, verbose ballot initiatives filled with unintelligible legalize is what voters have faced in other California charter city municipal elections, scaring voters off.  This year, Emeryville managed to make the Measures U&V ballot language on the charter city local control and real estate transfer fee clear, concise and short, and that's a big problem for these Sacramento lobbying groups.  In addition, the Measure U & V language assures voters Emeryville governance will stay just as it is, no change at all.

Emeryville Chamber of Commerce Discredited
Real Estate Salesman
Jason Crouch

Used to work for
the Emeryville Chamber
of Commerce.  Now he
works for CAR.
The Emeryville Chamber of Commerce likes Measures U&V because they recognize Emeryville is in a bad position after Sacramento dissolved the town's Redevelopment Agency; the mechanism Emeryville used to build virtually all the infrastructure in town.  Once flush with cash, Emeryville is now on a glide-path to insolvency and new sources of revenue must be found to even maintain the city's infrastructure let alone build more.  The Chamber's Board of Directors recognized this and voted to endorse Measures U&V last summer.  But the sole real estate agent among the Chamber's Board members, Vice President and Vallejo resident Jason Crouch, has turned on his colleagues at the Chamber and gone rogue.  Mr Crouch broke with the Chamber of Commerce, discrediting them and crossed over to the California Association and National Association of Realtors in a Faustian bargain.  The Realtors sought a point man for their Emeryville campaign and Mr Crouch offers entree and local credibility with his Chamber of Commerce Board membership connection.

Emeryville residents will only get campaign flyers (and phone banking) against Measures U&V  because State law forbids the City of Emeryville, the author of both Measures from such campaigning.  State law does permit the City certain "educational" materials to be distributed but they are highly regulated in how much they can spend and they are not allowed to use the hyperbolic coercive language let alone deception the California Association of Realtor is allowed to use in its flyers.    


  1. Wrong again! The Borders of little Emeryville are not growing. And, it is almost completely built out. Only a few significant parcels are left. We already have parks and bike paths. This is about money to waste. Redevelopment money has gone down the tubes; ie, Art Center (off the Tax Rolls and vacant for nearly a Decade);
    High School demolished for a pioneering project that is doomed to fail; and a Bridge
    across the RR Tracks that never happened. And, we taxpayers are supposed to trust these geniuses to invest our resources for the future. I repeat, down with the
    current Propositions, and keep our City just like it is. Future generation(s) will thank us. Please, Brian, wake up !

    1. You've made some good points here. Emeryville is almost completely built out. We do have parks and bike paths but we still need more: Emeryville has the fewest acres of park/open space per resident of all East Bay cities. Why shouldn't we at least have the same as the average city? Also, our town's transportation grid is highly disjointed making for a disconnected place...not my opinion, this is straight from our $2 million General Plan authored by city planning professionals. This speaks to the need for the 'South Bayfront Ped/Bike Bridge' across the rail road tracks at Bay Street you mentioned. At $13 million, there's no way we can afford it unless we pass Measures U&V. Then it's just a matter of waiting a couple of years to raise the revenue to build the much needed bridge.

      So we need more amenities. But still, you make a point: we have a lot right now. The Redevelopment Agency has gone down the tubes as you say. It once comprised more than 90% of our town and now it's gone. And so is all the cash it generated for our General Fund. So now we have a lot of amenities (infrastructure) and no way to pay to maintain it. On top of that we need more amenities if we are to be as nice as other towns. Obviously, we need new revenue. And that's what Measures U&V are for. They'll raise revenue from real estate transfers, not as much as any of our neighboring` cities, but still will provide this much needed revenue to maintain what the Redevelopment Agency built and to then move on and build an even nicer place to live...just like it's supposed to work.

      Thanks for bringing up some good points.