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Realtors’ Group Responds to Watch Article


January 2014

Dear Watchers

Realtors’ Group Responds to Watch Article

Dear Ms. Robson:

I have been provided a copy of your recent article, "How Property Rights Become Property Wrongs," published in the October-November 2013 issue of Whatcom Watch. I was asked to explain your apparent effort to tie several violent racial events in the past to current efforts by Whatcom County property rights organizations, including the Whatcom County Association of REALTORS®, advocating for property rights protections in our county.

While the article does not directly accuse the REALTORS® of some of the more heinous acts you describe, you do state “Powerful political forces masked in seemingly constructive organizations like the … Washington Realtors [sic] Association (including each group’s local level organizations), fund and interact with property rights groups.” (Whatcom Watch, October-November 2013, pg. 8) You continue by alleging that these groups, including the REALTORS®, use these groups “to do much of their work for them.” Id. These statements are not accurate.

The local REALTORS® organization is comprised of over 400 members in Whatcom County and enjoys a membership that is as distinct and diverse as Whatcom County itself. For the past eight years, the REALTORS® have hired me to advocate for property owners in local, state and national matters including adoption of Shoreline Management Plans, Bellingham’s infill housing ordinances, Lake Whatcom water quality issues, federal flood insurance and rural financing. While the REALTORS® organization is not typically identified as an environmental advocacy organization by local environmental advocates, we frequently advocate for reasonable environmental protection and mitigation for development projects within Whatcom County. More importantly, however, REALTORS® advocate for effective and efficient land use policies for both urban and rural lands to stem the sprawl that is the hallmark of communities along the I-5 corridor and protect agricultural lands on which a large number of our neighbors depend for their livelihoods.

I would invite you to contact me at the below address or telephone number to find out more about the Whatcom County Association of REALTORS® advocacy efforts in Whatcom County. I believe that you may be encouraged by our efforts and readily discover that we are in no way associated with the types of behavior described in your article.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best Regards,

R. Perry Eskridge

Government Affairs Director

Whatcom County

Association of REALTORS®

Sandra Robson provided the following list of sources and pertinent quotes to back up the information she wrote in her article in Whatcom Watch, October/November 2013, "How Property Rights Become Property Wrongs."

1). Seattle Times article December 28, 1994 – Property-Rights Initiative Receives $200,000 Boost http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19941228&slug=1949579. “A last-minute shot of $200,000 from timber companies, real-estate agents and home builders has given a boost to a grass-roots property-rights initiative” … “The builders association was joined by Plum Creek Timber and other members of the Washington Forest Protection Association, the Washington Association of Realtors and Services Group of America, a Seattle conglomerate that has traditionally been a generous contributor to political campaigns. Within three days, the groups had raised $200,000, according to Elliot Swaney of the builders group” … ”Most of the money raised in the past month went to pay people to circulate the Initiative 164 petitions, said Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, one of the prime organizers and financiers of the initiative rescue effort.”

2). Publicgood.org – http://www.publicgood.org/reports/wuinps/append8.htm – In Appendix VIII, source number (167), The Seattle Times notes the financial contribution from the Washington Association of Realtors to Initiative 164, the property rights initiative. As noted in source number (170), The Seattle Times reports Secretary of State Ralph Munro requested for an investigation by the State Patrol and AG Christine Gregoire regarding thousands of fake Initiative 164 signatures. (167) 12/28/94 Seattle Times, C1. “$200,000 boost for property rights effort. A last minute shot of $200,000 from timber companies, real-estate agents and home builders have given a boost to a grass-roots property rights initiative. The petition to the Legislature is to be delivered Friday with what backers say are more than enough signatures to force action next year. ... Most of the money raised in the past month went to pay people to circulate the Initiative 164 petitions, said Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, one of the prime organizers and financiers of the initiative rescue effort. … The builders association was joined by Plum Creek Timber and other members of the Washington Forest Protection Association, the Washington Association of Realtors and Services Group of America, a Seattle conglomerate that has traditionally been a generous contributor to political campaigns. Within three days, the groups has raised $200,000, according to Elliot Swaney of the builders group.” (170) 1/17/95 Seattle Times A1. “Initiative signatures face state probe. Secretary of State Ralph Munro has asked for a state investigation after finding sheets of apparently counterfeit signatures of the property-rights initiative. Munro, who wants the State Patrol and Attorney General Christine Gregoire to investigate, said today he still expects Initiative 164 to have enough valid signatures to qualify for the Legislature. Backers submitted petitions with more than 230,000 signatures. Munro’s staff found 100 sheets, with as many as 20 signatures per sheet, bearing suspect signatures. Some appeared to be fictitious names, Munro said. Other sheets were alphabetical listings that likely came from phone books. Some sheets included 20 signatures, all in the same handwriting, in alternating blue and black ink. “We’ve never seen anything this blatant,” Munro said at a morning news conference. ... Dan Wood, state coordinator for the initiative campaign, went to see the suspect petitions and said that Munro was right to be suspicious. “I doubt that that many people in one community would have the same penmanship,” Wood said.”

3). Publicgood.org – http://www.publicgood.org/reports/wuinps/append2.htm – Wise Use in Northern Puget Sound Appendix II, paragraph 7, “The situation goes much deeper than this, since Arnold is working at the top level of Wise Use. Below him and the other national Wise Use organizations is a middle level of regional trade associations, business groups and industry lobbying organizations. These groups, such as the Master Builders Association, the various county chapters of the Affordable Housing Council, the local Chambers of Commerce, and realtor’s associations, provide the leadership and funding for creating front groups like the Property Rights Alliance, SNOCO PRA, Whatcom CLUE and other so-called grass-roots groups.”

4). http://z1.hcn.org/hcn/hcn/issues/36/1073 – High Country News magazine article from May 29, 1995. “Ironically, well-heeled building trade groups, Realtors, timber companies and the Farm Bureau revived the initiative. It failed to gain enough support to appear on the ballot last November, but these industry groups raised $250,000 and hired people to circulate petitions once again, to bring the measure before the Legislature, as allowed by state law.” “The initiative was started by Dan Wood of Aberdeen, Wash., a former miniature-golf manager, who now directs a network of property-rights advocates under the name of the Umbrella Group. The state’s Building Industry Association, two real estate PACs, Boise Cascade Corp., Plum Creek Timber Co., the Farm Bureau and others joined the group last December and provided the money that made the initiative possible.”


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