Thursday, January 3, 2008

Series: Post #1, Meet the Realtor Association Lobbyists

(Caveat, we all know honorable and decent real estate agents. They are our neighbors and friends. This series is not about them personally. It is about their Association’s leadership and how it has infiltrated, manipulated and interfered with legislation to further their own “business interests” and protect the Association’s lucrative Holy Grail…6% commissions.

By way of explanation: Any property tax system, such as a “fair or current market value” based system, which increases property values increases Realtor’s commission dollars. Any tax scheme which caps or limits property value escalation also limits market value and tends to slow property turnover rates and decreases their commissions AND commission opportunities.)

Meet Michael J. Ostermiller, Utah Realtor Association Lobbyist.
"Education: Michael obtained a Political Science Degree from the University of Utah and was awarded a scholarship to attend law school at Brigham Young University. Experience Mike is both a partner in KKO Lawyers, but the CEO and Chief Lobbyist for the Greater Ogden Area Association of Realtors. Before coming to KKO Lawyers, he was an attorney with the St. George law firm of Barney & McKenna. As an attorney, Mike successfully resolved numerous cases for both real estate agents and others in the real estate profession. As a Lobbyist working daily in the real estate industry, Mike is extremely involved in local and state legislation advocating for better real estate law and speaking across Utah State trying to increase Realtors awareness of critical real estate issues."

From a published Letter to the Editor, Mr. Ostermiller wrote:

"Realtors oppose increased property tax
Saturday, September 22, 2007

I'm writing in response to the Aug. 28 guest commentary, "Politicians -- do something!" by Richard Evans. Mr. Evans stated "Talking with our state legislator Sen. Allen Christensen was very enlightening. He told me the real estate lobbyists have so much money and power that if he does anything to reduce our property taxes he could lose his job."

This statement is completely inaccurate. First, I personally spoke to Sen. Christensen and he informed me that Mr. Evans' comments didn't accurately reflect what he said.

Second, and even more importantly, such a statement shows that the author is totally uninformed as to the actual position of Realtors regarding property taxes. Realtors oppose any irresponsible or unfairly assessed property tax. For decades, individual Realtors have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to fight for lower property taxes. We have also battled to maintain the current 45 percent residential property tax exemption.

Realtors helped champion the creation of Truth in Taxation and have continually and dogmatically opposed laws that would result in an increased property tax. Moreover, Realtors regularly testify in front of county commissions and city councils to argue against inappropriate increases to any tax or fee that affects homeowners.

It is the mission of Realtors to defend private property rights and to help assure the availability of affordable housing by preventing increased property taxes wherever possible.

Michael J. Ostermiller

Odd that Mr. Ostermiller did not divulge he is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Realtor Association lobbyist for the Greater Ogden Area Association of Realtors. This does not seem to fit into ethical norms since it is generally accepted practice to identify what office one holds when they write a letter to the editor. Why did Mr. Ostermiller not follow normally accepted ethical behavior?

Secondly, if all these Realtors oppose any irresponsible or unfairly assessed property tax and dogmatically oppose laws …that would result in increased property taxes, testify in front of county commissions and city councils arguing against increases or tax or fee that effects homeowners, defending property rights and assuring availability of affordable housing by preventing increased property taxes. Just where in the blue-eyed Suzy have they been since August? Where have all these Realtors been at the meetings I have attended – some fifteen or so at every level, Town, City, Commission, Assessor, Auditor, and Legislature meetings plus several other political meetings such as Center Right Coalition, Democrat Focus Group Meeting, Davis County Commission and Legislators meeting, etc.. True, several real estate agents participated in the Huntsville Town Hall appeals work session organized by Richard Sorenson as a private – not Town sponsored event. But Mr. Ostermiller’s claims and “spin” seem disingenuous. If they were true surely at some point I would have seen and heard them. Only once did a single lobbyist appear and he read virtually the same words as stated above before the Legislature’s Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee. You will meet this gentleman next in series number two.

If you attended and think back to the infamous Snow Crest Junior High Meeting on 15 August 2007, you will also recognize virtually the same sentences also repeated, as if memorized, from our own Representative.

This is the first of a series of reports which I feel allows us to get to know this group, so you may come to understand where we have gone legislatively and why we have been taken unfair advantage of legislatively at least in my own opinion. So stay tuned in folks, decide for yourselves and help spread the word. That is if you agree that the actions of a group of business interests have been a significant reason for the lack of significant property tax reform legislation measures over the past seven or eight years.

I will report using mostly their own words and characterize them for context as do several local and nationally known reporters and columnists.
Minor Machman

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