Tag Archives: Vermont Realtors

Bring me the head of Anthony Pollina

We received a pair of campaign mailers the other day. (One for each Household Voter.)

Which isn’t at all unusual; it’s rush season for political postage, which gives the USPS a nice little bump in bulk mail. But there was an unusual twist to this one. See if you can spot it:


If you didn’t know the players, you’d think this was a standard piece of party-line bumpf. But it’s not.

This mailer, for the three-seat Washington County State Senate district, endorses two Republicans and one Democrat. Ann Cummings is a Democratic incumbent; Bill Doyle, Our Eternal Senator, is a Republican incumbent; Pat McDonald is a Republican challenger.

Who’s missing? Why, none other than Prog/Dem incumbent Anthony Pollina.

The mailer wasn’t sent by any political party, but by four separate business groups working together: the Campaign Research Center (a.k.a. VT Chamber PAC), the Vermont Ski Areas Association, the Association of General Contractors PAC, and Vermont Realtors PAC. Four groups not known for prioritizing Environmental Protection.

You’d expect these guys to promote Republicans, wouldn’t you? Why no love for Republican Dexter Lefavour? Aside from, y’know, the fact that he’s nothing more than slot-filler.

And why Ann Cummings?

A couple ideas present themselves.

— Tony Pollina is the most liberal of the incumbents, and the most vulnerable — having finished in third place in each of the last two elections. Mind you, there was plenty of room between Pollina and the next Republican finisher each time. But McDonald has a high profile and plenty of connections, and the VTGOP has high hopes for her.

I think they’re wrong, but that’s how they see it.

— Ann Cummings is a liberal Democrat, but (a) she’s a longtime incumbent and a strong vote-getter, and (b) well, she’s a Realtor.

I don’t think her profession was the deciding factor in this cunning plan. More likely, it’s a tactical maneuver to try to isolate Pollina as the weakest link. And by listing a popular, established Democratic incumbent plus the immovable Bill Doyle, they might just trick a few liberals into thinking that McDonald is on their “team.”

It’s clever. Kinda squicky, but clever.

One more thing. Do you suppose the Realtors checked with Realtor Cummings before sending this mailer? If not, it seems discourteous to me. If so, and Cummings approved it, then she ought to explain herself to her fellow Dems.


Shocker: Realtor-commissioned survey finds property taxes too high

In the category of Not At All Motivated By Self-Interest, No Sirree, comes an opinion poll from Vermont Realtors on the subject of property taxes.

Surprise: they’re too high.

According to the survey, 76 percent of respondents say that property taxes are too high. The poll also demonstrates that this is a non-partisan issue, with two-thirds of Democrats, 78 percent of independents and 85 percent of Republicans sharing the belief that property taxes are too high.

The first thought with stuff like this is: Well, of course. It fits the Realtors’ preconceived political narrative. But the methodology — fully explained in the news release, thank you — is reasonably solid. And there’s no doubt that a lot of Vermonters think the property tax system is out of whack.

But let’s look a bit deeper. The key question in the survey was “Do you believe property taxes are too high, too low, or about right for the services you receive?”

When you start out asking taxpayers if their taxes are too high, you’ve invited a positive response. How many people are going to volunteer that their taxes are too low?

And the consensus rapidly dissolves when people were asked what to do about it.

 According to the poll, 49 percent of respondents say there is a great need [to reform the way public schools are funded], while 26 percent believe that there is “some” need. Just nine percent say there is little need and only eight percent see no need.

To which VR President Donna Cusson noted, “The intensity on the need for change is striking.”

Actually, I kinda thought the opposite. 76% say their property taxes are too high, but only 49% say there is a “great need” for change. That’s a lot of people complaining about property taxes but lukewarm on change. Probably because, as everybody knows, the devil is in the details. And, as everybody knows, it we lessen the property tax burden, we either have to cut spending on our high-performing and well-loved public schools OR we have to raise taxes somewhere else.

Here's another reason to reform the system. From the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Here’s another reason to reform the system. From the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

In its press release, VR described the results of two questions. There were other questions, and VR is not releasing those numbers. It says it “has shared the results of the survey directly with candidates for office in an effort to initiate a dialogue about the need for property tax reform…”

So… it wants to tell candidates what the voters think, but it doesn’t want to let the voters know? That’s a bit curious.

I suspect that some of the other survey results were perhaps less forceful. If, say, respondents were asked how best to fix the system, I’m guessing there wouldn’t be any real consensus. Because all the alternatives are unpalatable. And that’s why it’s been so difficult for the Legislature to tackle the issue.

One other oddity: The VR release is dated September 29. At the time, apparently, it got zero attention in the media. This morning, VTDigger posted the release in its ever-popular “Press Releases” section, which is where I noticed it.