Political insiders and aspirants alike who attended the Houston Association of REALTORS®‘ (HAR) annual political advocacy briefing were enlightened on the important and effective role REALTORS® play when they are involved in their Association’s political process.
The afternoon program was held on February 1 at Smith & Wollensky, which accommodated the 75 members serving on the Governmental Affairs Advisory Group, Political Affairs Advisory Group, Bay Area, Fort Bend, and Montgomery County Political Affairs Advisory Leadership, as well as TREPAC Trustees and TREPAC Co-Chairs.
The briefing included eight speakers who focused on the national, state and local levels of government: Wayne Stroman, Delora Wilkinson, Vicki Fullerton, John Nichols, A. David Schwarz III, James G. McGrath , Mike Barnett, and Kathryn McNiel. Presentations by the National Association of EALTORS®‘ (NAR) Gerry Allen and Jamie Gregory were filmed in the NAR headquarters located in Washington, D. C.
Dana Kervin, HAR’s Chief Political Strategist, facilitated the program. Lilly Jefferson led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. HAR Executive Committee Members recognized at the briefing were HAR Board Chairman Wayne Stroman, Chairman-Elect Danny Frank, Second Vice-Chair Nancy Furst and Mario Arriaga, Secretary-Treasurer.
Chairman Stroman welcomed the participants and expressed his appreciation for their service. Stroman stated, “It is only through engagement that we as REALTORS® make an impact and help enact policies that will enhance the rights of property owners and ultimately protect our profession.”
Political veteran Delora Wilkinson spoke about the important role being politically active has played in her life. Delora reminisced about her 30-year history of political advocacy on behalf of the REALTOR® Association. During that time, she made several trips to Washington, D. C. to meet with then-Congressman Bill Archer, the late HUD Secretary Jack Kemp, and the late U. S. Senator John Tower who were all involved in writing the 1986 Tax Reform Act. Delora was one of the original Federal Political Coordinators (FPC), before the volunteer position was officially created. She served as the REALTOR® contact for Congressmen Archer and Jack Fields. She continues her service as the FPC for Congressman Ted Poe.
James G. McGrath, author of Going to Windward, the Robert A. Mosbacher Sr. family memoir, impressed upon the audience the connection between being in business and being in politics. McGrath committed five years of his life to work with Mosbacher to capture his personal and professional background and experience. Before his death in 2010 at 82, Mosbacher headed Mosbacher Energy and had served as U. S. Commerce Secretary during President George H. W. Bush’s Administration. He gained national prominence as a businessman and GOP fundraiser.
Vicki Fullerton, 2012 Governmental Affairs Advisory Group Chair, 2009 HAR Board Chair, and record-breaking TREPAC fundraiser, conducted a federal quiz in which she engaged the audience by asking nine questions that would help to identify each of the nine members of Congress representing the Greater Houston area. REALTORS® with the correct answers were rewarded with REALTOR® t-shirts in this contest and the others that followed. In addition to her other high-level volunteer responsibilities, Fullerton serves as the FPC for Congressman Kevin Brady.
Gerry Allen, Managing Director of Campaign Services for the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), in a 10-minute video, reviewed the scope of support offered to REALTORS® through NAR’s My Real Party initiatives.
Jamie Gregory, NAR’s Chief Deputy Lobbyist, in a 20-minute video, gave an overview of federal issues being tackled in Washington, D. C. In addition, he highlighted the contributions that each member of Congress from the Greater Houston Area has made to support REALTOR® issues. U. S. Representatives included in Gregory’s remarks were Kevin Brady, John Culberson, Al Green, Gene Green, Sheila Jackson Lee, Michael McCaul, Pete Olson, Ron Paul, and Ted Poe.
John Nichols, 1991 HAR Board Chair and 1997 TAR Board Chair, conducted a state issues quiz to engage the audience and draw their attention to several legislative successes won during the 82nd Legislative Session. A major victory was Senate Bill 1353, which exempts real estate professionals from most liability under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. In addition to his responsibilities serving as the FPC to Congressman John Culberson, Nichols also chairs HAR’s 2012 Political Affairs Advisory Group.
TAR’s Political Affairs Director Mike Barnett reviewed the 2011 legislative successes and stressed the importance of laying the ground work now for the 2013 83rd Legislative Session. He reminded the audience about the tough legislative environment in 2011, due in large part to a state budget deficit and redistricting. He also commented that REALTORS® had one of their best legislative sessions ever because of the grassroots relationships that have been developed with members, their state legislators, and their REALTOR® Assocation. Another tough budget year is anticipated in 2013. Barnett urged members to continue to invest in TREPAC and make sure to elect REALTOR® champions.
A. David Schwarz III, HAR Director and Governmental Affairs Advisory Group Local Issues Chair, conducted a quiz to educate the volunteers on the enormity of HAR’s membership service area which includes eight counties, 1,682 elected officials and more than 100 local, state and federal elections in which HAR engages its members and staff.
Political consultant and fundraiser, Kathryn McNiel, presented an overview of possible bond elections and voter initiatives that may work their way through the political process and appear on election ballots. One initiative that McNeil mentioned was an effort to overturn the City of Houston’s drainage fee enacted in 2011 as a result of the passage of Proposition 1 in 2010. Other items on the radar are possible METRO, HISD, and HCC bond elections. HAR staff and volunteers will continue to be on the alert for ballot items that would include property tax increases or intrude on private property rights.
Throughout the year, HAR’s Governmental Affairs Department will conduct programs and access HAR’s various communication resources to keep members informed on issues that may affect their livelihood, their ability to conduct business, and their service to their clients.
Remember, if real estate is your profession, politics is your business.