Group alleges ‘rumor’ of $100,000 pledge by Real Estate Council to defeat Proposition 3, but RECA says not so
An e-mail received early this morning from Austinites for Geographic Representation (AGR), that was titled “A Very Stinky Rumor” turned out to be stinky indeed—as in false.
Or so says the Real Estate Council of Austin.
The AGR e-mail stated, “Rumors are flying that large real estate investors at the Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA) just pledged $100,000 to stop Prop 3—the people’s plan for geographic representation—by running a confusion game with Prop 4.”
The Austin Bulldog called Nancy McDonald, RECA’s director of regional outreach, and she denied there is any plan to put money into the campaign for Propositions 3 and 4.
“Our resolution (in support of the hybrid 8-2-1 Proposition 4 plan) was the beginning and end of our concern,” McDonald said.
Informed of RECA’s denial, AGR beat a hasty retreat.
AGR Campaign Coordinator Linda Curtis said in an e-mail, “We’re more than glad to hear that and we’ll believe it when we see it.”
In a brief phone interview before the e-mail, Curtis told The Austin Bulldog, “We heard they made this pledge,” but she declined to identify the source.
“We decided to put out this news and send a message to RECA that we will make their money toxic if they do this,” Curtis said.
Allegation to boost rally attendance
The AGR e-mail about the rumor was designed to heighten interest in its big rally planned for Saturday, September 29, 3-5pm at the Park Pavilion, 5908 Manor Road.
“That’s why we need a big turnout for the Trust Austin Rally to help pass Prop 3,” the e-mail stated. … “(What RECA will never have is a grassroots citizens movement for real representation.)
The “Trust Austin Rally” will honor Arthur DeWitty who, in running for City Council in 1951 and placing eighth in an election in which the top five vote getters would be seated on the council, triggered such concern that the at-large election system with places for council seats was instituted for the 1953 election. Although the council was expanded to seven seats in 1969, the at-large system still exists today.
It wasn’t until 1971 that the first minority member was elected to the council, when Berl Handcox, an African American, won the Place 6 seat.
AGR concerned over mixed signals
Initially adding weight to the rumor is the fact that on June 20, RECA endorsed Proposition 4, the hybrid plan for eight council members elected from districts, with the mayor and two council members elected at-large. Less than seven weeks later, on August 7, the City Council voted to put the 8-2-1 plan on the ballot. That was nearly two weeks after the City Clerk on July 26 validated AGR’s petition to require putting the 10-1 plan on the ballot.
Another factor playing into the possibility the rumor might be true is that some of the past six campaigns for geographic representation were defeated with last-minute infusions of big money from opponents.
Stacy Suits ran two unsuccessful campaigns for geographic representation in the 1980s. He said late money was a major factor in the 1985 defeat.
“The Homebuilders came in, in the last two to three weeks of the campaign, and made a pretty big media buy and a sign blitz and mailings too,” Suits told The Austin Bulldog.
Proposition 5 on the January 19, 1985, ballot offered an 8-1 plan, with eight geographic council districts and the mayor elected at-large. More than 79,000 votes were cast on Proposition 5 and it lost by a margin of 57-43 percent.
In the 17 years since the 1985 defeat, a new generation of leaders have transformed the Homebuilders Association of Greater Austin, so much so that the organization is one of 28 that have endorsed Proposition 3 in the November 6 election.
This report was made possible by contributions to The Austin Bulldog, which operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to provide investigative reporting in the public interest. You can help to sustain The Austin Bulldog’s reporting by making a tax-deductible contribution.
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New Restrictions Proposed for Lobbyist Fundraising: Lobbyists Can Only Give Candidates $25 But Can Collect Unlimited Contributions For Them, January 22, 2012
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