In the county that is home to Portland, Oregon, where the taxation rate is second-highest in the nation, many residents and businesses are so tax-fatigued that the prospect of a mass flight to less expensive regions is very real. So, when Democratic Socialists of America gathered enough signatures to place a variable 0.75% Capital Gains Tax on the ballot, it could have been the last straw. The Portland Metropolitan Association of REALTORS® (PMAR), in partnership with the neighboring East Metro Association of REALTORS®, led a broad coalition in vigorous opposition to the tax. Their “Building Our Future Together” campaign encouraged voters to reject it – which they did, in overwhelming numbers.
Michele Gila, PMAR’s Director of REALTOR® Advocacy, explains that the stated intention of the proposed tax was to fund universal eviction representation, which is already covered by a program established just two years ago. “Not only was the measure redundant and unnecessary, it was drafted so carelessly that there were several vulnerable spots for us to attack. It would have made the funds accessible not just to low-income households, but to all. The proposed tax had no cap, so could have risen indefinitely. It exempted corporations and failed to exempt homeowners and small businesses. If you don’t respect that base, the REALTORS® are coming after you. A Capital Gains Tax is a tax on homeownership,” she states.
PMAR committed significant funds of its own toward the effort, creating a campaign team and convening focus groups to begin to develop messaging. Highly effective polling provided by the REALTOR® Party built on that process. “It involved a lot of work at the front end to fine-tune the exact wording of questions that would reveal the responses we needed,” says Gila, noting, “We had budgeted for a follow-up poll, but the intense initial effort saved us that effort and expense.”
An Issues Mobilization Grant from the REALTOR® Party funded digital ads, television ads, and four direct mail pieces. The campaign also attracted substantial earned media, and the support of every single local elected official in the county.
To equip PMAR’s 9,000 members with the information they needed to pursue grassroots advocacy, Gila and the campaign’s communications strategist delivered brief presentations to more than a dozen brokerages; they also provided brandable postcards featuring the campaign talking points.
PMAR has been working hard in the past few years to build a coalition beyond the expected like-minded business groups, and this cause helped bring together a remarkable range of partners. “Some of the most prominent activity came from partners like Hacienda CDC, a Latino-led community development corporation,” notes Gila. “We brought the money, so they didn’t have to, and they brought the voices and showed up on-camera for the press; it was a real eye-opener to the community and showed that the campaign was not just the work of ‘money-grubbing developers.’” On the strength of the campaign experience, Hacienda CDC has become a member of PMAR, and a staff member now serves on the REALTOR® Advocacy Committee. PMAR is also pleased to have strengthened its bonds with the local chapters of the Asian Real Estate Association of America, the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, and the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, who showed up and spoke out about why measures like the proposed tax hurt their communities in their efforts to achieve homeownership. “The campaign built a lot of trust among groups we’re glad to be associated with, and the value of that outcome can’t be quantified,” says Gila. “The campaign was a big financial investment, but the benefits going forward will have a long reach as a springboard for future efforts.”
The whole coalition, she adds, was beyond grateful for the support from the REALTOR® Party.
On Election Day, the vote against the Capital Gains Tax was overwhelming and unprecedented: every single precinct in the largely pro-tax county voted against it. Gila points out that an important takeaway is that the Portland Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America is more interested in ‘taxing the rich’ than crafting good policy: “They were sloppy and blew it at every angle. But we know they’ll be back, and they will have learned from this experience. We’ll be ready with a pro-active defense, and with the strong partnerships forged in this campaign.”
To learn more about how the Portland Metropolitan Association of REALTORS® is building important relationships across the community and working for fair and reasonable tax policy, contact Michele Gila, Director Realtor Advocacy, firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-459-2163.