Proposition 3 Advocates Falsely Slam RECA

HomeCampaign FinanceProposition 3 Advocates Falsely Slam RECA

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.”

Nancy McDonald
Nancy McDonald

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.

Linda Curtis
Linda Curtis

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.)

Arthur DeWitty
Arthur DeWitty

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
Stacy Suits

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.

Related Bulldog coverage:

No Change Option Surfaces in Ballot Debate: Former Council Member Bob Binder opposes both options on the ballot for geographic representation, September 11, 2012

The Election Wars Have Begun: Interest in how council members elected running high, as face-off debates abound, September 9, 2012

Your Guide to Proposed City Charter Amendments: What’s on the ballot, what it will cost taxpayers, and details provided in the ordinances for each proposition, August 30, 2012

Loud Rally Follows Final Council Vote for 8-2-1: AGR’s Cries Foul Over Work Session Vote for Hybrid; Mayor Leffingwell Said Votes Driven by Ballot Deadline, August 7, 2012

Council Backers of 8-2-1 Plan Accused of Self-Interest: But Facts Don’t Seem to Substantiate Such a Claim, as Related Actions May Bar Most Incumbents From Reelection, August 6, 2012

8-2-1 Near Certain to Go on Ballot: City Council Votes on Second Reading to Put Competition Election Plan on Ballot, July 31, 2012

10-1 Plan Qualifies for November Ballot: Consultant Estimates That 22,435 Signatures Are Valid; Austinites for Geographic Representation Readies for Battle, July 26, 2012

Petition Completed for 10-1 Council Districts: Austinites for Geographic Representation Claims 33,000 Signatures, of Which About 22,800 Are Considered Valid, July 16, 2012

Council Puts 10-1 Election Plan on November Ballot: Votes 5-2 on Three Readings to Adopt Petition Language, Votes 4-2 on First Reading to Also Put 8-2-1 on Ballot, June 29, 2012

Citizens Group to Make Final Petition Push: Austinites for Geographic Representation Claims to Have 17,000 Signatures, and Shoots for 13,000 More, June 4, 2012

City Council Tackles Charter Amendments: Redistricting Expert, Charter Revision Committee Members, and Grass-roots Group Critical of Task Force Plan, April 26, 2012

Council District Backers Want Quick Ballot Decision: Big Press Conference, Big Pressure Promised, to Get Council Decision Before Council Elections, March 8, 2012

Hard Fought, Heartfelt Charter Decision: Charter Revision Committee Votes 8-7 to Back 10-1 Plan for Council Elections, February 3, 2012

New Restrictions Proposed for Lobbyist Fundraising: Lobbyists Can Only Give Candidates $25 But Can Collect Unlimited Contributions For Them, January 22, 2012

Committee Debates How to Elect Council: Charter Revision Committee Divided Over Pure Districts vs. Hybrid System, January 9, 2012

Thirteen Charter Changes and Counting: Charter Revision Committee’s Next Job: Tackle Plan for Geographic Representation, December 14, 2011

Council Confirms November 2012 Election Date for Charter Amendments: Resolution Ensures Citizens Initiative Won’t Force May 2012 Charter Election, November 3, 2011

Coalition Launching Petition Drive to Get on the Ballot for May 2012 Election, October 18, 2011

Broad Community Interest Focusing on How Mayor and Council Members Elected, October 4, 2011

Coalition Nearing Petition Launch for Grass-roots Council District Plan, August 24, 2011

Maps Prove Select Few Govern Austin: Forty Years of Election History Expose Extent of Disparity, August 4, 2011

City Council to Consider Proposal to Create Geographic Representation: Election Dates, Term Lengths, Redistricting and Other Charter Changes in Council Resolution, April 27, 2011

Petition Launch Imminent to Force Election for Geographic Representation in City Elections, March 7, 2011

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