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Blast Highlights Aging Infrastructure

road closed signAn Associated Press story about this week's Manhattan explosion highlights the dangers of aging infrastructure. Just this Wednesday a large sinkhole caused by a 12-inch water main break in a Greensboro street swallowed a car and caused traffic headaches. Last week a sinkhole opened up in the middle of a Charlotte road. This follows another road closure in Charlotte the previous week due to a sinkhole caused by a water main break. While in June a parked SUV fell into a sinkhole in Shelby caused by a water main break.

It's a critical issue for North Carolina explored here: Report Paints Dark Picture of State's Infrastructure and here: Reality Check Read more

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UnReal Estate

 
E430 Mercedes
Money Buys Power

The NC Association of Realtors reported new spending of $128,771.20 for lobbying expenses in the month of May, bringing lobbying spending for 2007 to $494,886.36 not including other spending through the NC Realtors PAC or the antonymously named NC Homeowners Alliance 527 committee funded entirely by the NC Realtors which will be submitting semi-annual reports for 2007 in July.

Companion Bill?

Reports also list a $5,000 per month retainer to Public Solutions, Inc., the firm of Chris Sinclair who also runs the Triangle Community Coalition, an organization of builders, developers and realtors (formerly known as the Wake County Real Estate and Building Coalition) which is also actively opposed to local government funding option bills that include a land transfer tax for schools and infrastructure.

Fact Check

In a recent response to Chris Fitzsimon, the NC Association of Realtors' Tim Kent claimed that Realtor commissions averaged 5.1%.  Actually that is a national average compiled by "REAL Trends" an industry group that collects voluntary self-reported information from real estate companies. In North Carolina that average is approximately 5.6%.  Only a few metro areas actually report but the average in the Triangle is 5.4%, with Charlotte at 5.8%.  Various factors supress the reporting of the typical 6% commission including new home sales, back-to-back sales and negotiated fees where a Realtor is buying and selling for the same client. Even at the claimed 5.1% Realtors' take from a typical home sale has been increasing faster that the rate of inflation as home values have risen.  Home owners are giving more money to Realtors in adjusted dollars even as the electronic age has Realtors doing less of the leg work.

Let Them Eat No Cake

And the claim of low average take home pay individual for Realtors? Studies that show that hot real estate markets attract more people to the business, making individual slices of the cake smaller.  The homeowner is still paying for the whole growing cake which the NC Association of Realtors wants to have and eat.  NC schools and local governments dealing with the effects of growth?  Let them eat no cake.

Assets – Liabilities = Equity

The NC Realtors make a big deal about equity but never tell the whole story.  In business, assets minus liabilities equals equity.  Home equity is misleadingly described as home value minus mortgage debt and never includes all liabilities.  The true cost of home ownership is greater than the numbers on a closing statement and include liability for public services like schools, sewer, water and emergency services.  The NC Realtors are desperate to keep liabilities off the closing statement to promote a false sense of affordability, much like the sub-prime lending market has massaged loan documents to hide the true costs of home ownership.

What Would Angie Drive?

The NC Realtors campaign against local funding options features an alleged average homeowner "Angie" driving a red pick up truck. In real life "Angie" has been spotted in west Raleigh tooling around in a shiny black Mercedes-Benz E430 with cream leather interior, a 2002 model that retailed around $50,000. Not exactly average.

Can you tell all this bothers me?  That's why I created a new blog to keep track of the legislative antics and pollution of our politics.

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Transfer Tax for Good Growth

When my wife wants to fall asleep she asks me to explain how a telephone works. Explaining growth and infrastructure has the same effect. Mention taxes and the average person will wake up but upon hearing the trigger phrase "tax base", eyes will glaze over and deep sleep sets in. Call me a somnambulist chaser if you will but I'm trying to raise awareness of the need for local government funding options.

That's why I've created this video:

Support Transfer Tax or watch and read below the fold:

Read more

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Siege Mentality

If you ever want to understand the significance and insidiousness of James Arthur Pope and John Hood in framing political debates in North Carolina there are some articles that reveal motivation and methods in undermining progressive policies.

In an article in Philanthropy Magazine, Transforming Public Policy, The Evolving Relationship Between Donors and Think Tanks, by John J. Miller, September 25, 2006, Pope describes starting the John Locke Foundation, modeled after the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute.

Soundbites:

“A lot of good ideas come from national publications, but they need to be applied to the specifics of North Carolina so that we can win policy debates here,” he says. “We also need to develop a relationship with the public, opinion leaders, and the news media on the state level.” Read more