One of the rights of citizenship in the United States is the right to petition the government, the right to share our opinion and our perspective with our elected and non-elected representatives. We do that individually and collectively, by organization, cause, or political party. It is something that your elected REALTOR® leadership does on an ongoing basis.
Over the past month we have had two national political conventions: one in Tampa for the Republicans and one in Charlotte for the Democrats. We had members of our lobbying team and our leadership team at each convention. It is an important opportunity to be seen and heard.
The REALTORS®’ delegation to the Republican National Convention included President-Elect Gary Thomas, Treasurer Bill Armstrong and Vice President and Liaison to Committees Scott Louser, Senior Vice President Jerry Giovanello, Vice President Jamie Gregory and lobbyists Ken Wingert and Helen Devlin. In Tampa, we were able to persuade the party to reintroduce protection of the Mortgage Interest Deduction into the party platform.
Our official delegation at the Democratic National Convention included First Vice President Steve Brown, and First Vice President-nomine Chris Polychron. Jerry G. and Jamie G. also attended as well as lobbyist Kevin O; Donnell and me. What surprised me was the access to Senators and Congress people. We had direct conversation with many of our elected officials. It was ironic to be in Charlotte in the Shadow of Bank of America for the meeting. It was encouraging to hear both from former President Clinton, and President Obama, agree that the mortgage interest deduction needs to be protected.
The housing industry is recovering, albeit very slowly. But tight credit continues to be a challenge, particularly in markets that are appreciating. So, it was encouraging to hear members of the White House staff reach out to us for advice on what to do next to help housing and real estate.
While lobbying may be a ‘bad’ word in some circles, it plays an important function for our organization and is a vital aspect in the legislative process. Lobbying brings perspective and information to the conversation.
In November, our country will speak and make a decision. No matter what the outcome is, we will continue our efforts to advocate for private property rights, consumers, and our members. It is the right thing to do.
Ron Phipps, 2012 Immediate Past President
It was an honor to attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina last week, representing the National Association of REALTORS®, along with 2012 Immediate Past President Ron Phipps and 2012 First Vice President-Nominee Chris Polychron.
The convention was an excellent opportunity to spread our message about the importance of homeownership. Over the course of three days we had the privilege of meeting with Democratic leaders from both chambers, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, of Maryland.
We expressed our support for REALTOR® issues and our legislative agenda, including our views on mortgage cancellation, debt relief, the mortgage interest deduction and tax reform.
We also talked in-depth with New York Representative Carolyn Maloney, who serves on the House Financial Services Committee, about the conclusion of the 112th Congress and what to expect in the coming year. We met with New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, chair of the Housing Subcommittee of the Banking Committee, to emphasize the importance of his refinancing bill. That legislation would allow people who are current on their mortgage but cannot refinance the opportunity to take advantage of the low interest rates.
Do such things make a difference? Well, it was thrilling to be in the crowd to hear President Obama specifically mention protecting middle class families by preserving the Mortgage Interest Deduction in his keynote address. This was great news, especially coming on the heels of the Republican Convention, where the REALTOR® delegation there ( which included 2012 President-Elect Gary Thomas, 2012 Treasurer Bill Armstrong and 2012 Vice President and Liaison to Government Affairs Scott Louser) helped make sure their platform included language to protect the MID as well.
It’s important to see — and hear — that both parties recognize the value of homeownership to American families.
During the Democratic convention I also served on a public panel hosted by the Real Estate Roundtable, to discuss the importance of a healthy real estate market in turning around our economy.
Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), a member of the Ways and Means Committee, was also on the panel, as were Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), along with representatives from commercial, banking, multifamily, and title to make the case. I had the opportunity to speak for REALTORS® and deliver our message about the importance of maintaining federal incentives for homeownership; keeping down payments low to make homes more affordable; easing tight credit to encourage lending; and restructuring the secondary mortgage market to ensure market liquidity, yet protect taxpayers.
Finally, Ron, Chris and I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with a large group of North Carolina REALTORS®, together with REALTORS® from across the country, many of whom were serving as DNC delegates, at a breakfast organized by our state hosts, NCAR. REALTORS are making their voices heard!
Steve Brown, 2012 NAR First Vice President
After reading an article in the Wall Street Journal that inaccurately portrayed why the National Association of REALTORS defends the Mortgage Interest Deduction for all homebuyers, I couldn’t stand by and let this assumption go unchallenged. Take a moment to read my letter to the editor:
Moe Veissi, 2012 NAR President
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Republican National Convention along with 2012 NAR Treasurer Bill Armstrong and 2012 Vice President and Liaison to Government Affairs Scott Louser in Tampa, Florida. While everyone was nervous about Hurricane Isaac hitting during the convention, it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for our message that Homeownership Matters to America!
The convention was an outstanding opportunity for REALTORS® to meet and talk with GOP elected-officials and candidates about the important role that real estate plays in our economy.
We also saw how important it is for REALTORS® to get involved in the political process. The week before the convention when the platform was being drafted, the committee overlooked including language about protecting the mortgage interest deduction (MID). Shirley Wiseman and April Newland, both REALTORS® who were on the platform committee, won approval for language that explicitly puts Republicans on record pledging protection of the MID, although it first gives a nod to the party’s priority to seek comprehensive tax reform. If that doesn’t pass, protecting the MID is paramount. It is an excellent example of REALTORS® being at the right place at the right time.
The Real Estate Roundtable also hosted a panel discussion on the importance of a strong real estate market to creating a robust economic recovery. There were representatives from commercial, hospitality, multifamily, and architects to make the case. I had the opportunity to represent REALTORS®. Our good friend and former REALTOR®, Senator Johnny Isakson was also a member of the panel. We talked about the importance of maintaining federal incentives for homeownership and ensuring that market-stifling high down payments are not the result of a narrow definition of provisions in the Dodd-Frank law. We all advocated for a broad definition of these provision, just as Congress intended. Senator Isakson was outstanding on the issue since he was involved in writing the language. The Real Estate Round Table will sponsor the same panel at the DNC convention, and 2012 NAR First Vice President Steve Brown will be representing REALTORS®. If you have a chance, the panel will be live streamed for everyone to watch.
Overall it was a remarkable experience, and I was proud to see our REALTOR® involvement pay off at such a crucial moment.
Gary Thomas, 2012 NAR President-Elect
We REALTORS® work hard to help people realize their dreams of home ownership. However, that’s not all we necessarily do. Many of us go the extra mile by volunteering our time and skills to help improve our own communities or communities across the globe, making an extraordinary impact on people’s lives. I cherish the time I spend helping out in my community of Orange County and I’ve been active with the March of Dimes. I wouldn’t trade it for a second.
Knowing how important it is to be involved in our communities, REALTOR® Magazine’s Good Neighbor Awards recognize Realtors® who make a difference and earlier this week they named this year’s 10 finalists. The finalists serve the needs of those who are less fortunate in a variety of ways.
Plus, I’m happy to say that two of the finalists are from my home state of California. The work they are doing in their communities is just tremendous. Marta Karpiel, a REALTOR® from Carmel, Calif. raises money to help remove hundreds of landmines in Cambodia. Wayne J. Shaffer, a REALTOR® from Santa Cruz, cofounded a local soup kitchen, as well as a home that provides shelter and care to women experiencing a crisis pregnancy.
The other eight finalists are also outstanding. Their contributions run the gamut — from raising $1 million to fight multiple sclerosis, creating miles of bike and pedestrian trails, founding a youth outreach program to keep teens safe from drugs and alcohol, and donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to help hospitals and wounded veterans. They also touch people’s lives on a global stage by helping build homes and a school in Guatemala, and bringing clean water to families in Kenya. For more details on all the finalists go to REALTOR.org.
In October five winners will be selected and highlighted in the November/December issue of REALTOR® Magazine, and announced at our Annual Conference. I hope you’ll join me in Anaheim for the big announcement.
Despite a troubling economy and an uncertain housing market, these REALTORS® continue to volunteer their time and put others before themselves. This year’s finalists are incredible examples of how Realtors® value service and a commitment to bettering communities, whether it is in their own backyard or across the world.
I’m continually amazed and proud of our REALTOR® family.
Gary Thomas, 2011 NAR First Vice President
Recently, I was in Joplin, Mo. to take part in the rebuilding effort after the city was devastated by a massive tornado on May 22. It cut such a wide swath of destruction that it was so hard to believe that minutes before the tornado touched down Joplin was a vibrant and bustling Midwestern town. Through the REALTORS® Relief Foundation, I was fortunate to see the very best of REALTORS® stepping up to help our fellow citizens during their hour of great need.
While I was there, I was reminded of the fact that Mother Nature can strike at any time, and in any fashion. Like tornadoes, floods can come out of nowhere and cause enormous damage and destruction to communities. In fact, floods cause more losses than any other type of natural disaster. I saw this firsthand with the flooding of the Missouri River, which occurred right here in June. I was so moved I wrote about it for the leadership blog then, and I am writing about it once again because I am so passionate about ensuring that Americans have protection and peace of mind when purchasing their portion of the American Dream of Home Ownership.