(Such lovely people – promoted by jsw)
I wrote this for today’s Beyond Chron.
To learn about Proposition 98’s agenda, look no further than Dan Faller, President and Founder of the American Owner’s Association (AOA) – the largest landlord group in California. In a nine-page essay published in the association’s magazine, Faller complains heatedly about rent control, calls pro-tenant elected officials “terrorists” and “suicide bombers,” compares the effort to pass Prop 98 with World War II, says that renters “choose not to provide for themselves,” and – with rhetoric that channels George Bush – tells landlords: “you are either for us or against us in this fight for your freedom and property rights.” We cannot dismiss Faller as just another right-wing kook, for his organization has already contributed $325,000 to the “Yes on 98” cause – and the AOA has plans to raise even more money in the coming weeks. And with voter turnout in June expected to be very low, Faller’s fringe beliefs might actually become public policy in California – if we don’t act now.
While proponents want voters to think it’s about eminent domain reform, Prop 98 is the most dangerous right-wing initiative to hit the California ballot in years. It would abolish rent control, gut the most basic tenant protections, repeal sensible environmental laws and endanger public water projects. Another measure, Proposition 99, would reform eminent domain – which Faller opposes because it would “only protect owner-occupied homes.” In other words, the Prop 98 forces don’t really care about the middle-class homeowner who fears eminent domain. They just want to repeal all regulations of private property.
In the post-9/11 world, calling someone a “terrorist” is a serious accusation – but Faller refers to pro-tenant elected officials who oppose Prop 98 as “terrorists” or “suicide bombers” at least seven times. “The bombs and explosives they are throwing at us,” he writes, “are rent control, eminent domain, inspection laws, building codes, requiring 60-day notices so tenants can steal more time from you, eviction laws that allow tenants to live rent-free for several months, relocation fees, inclusionary zoning that drives up the price of housing so they have another excuse to justify even more laws. These elected officials are dangerous.”
Urging his fellow landlords to fight this “war” on the “terrorists,” Faller says the solution is to hit them with the “big bomb”: Proposition 98, which would invalidate all these existing laws and then some. “Help to permanently take away their weapons that allow unfair eminent domain and rent control,” he writes before asking for campaign contributions. “This is certainly one war that we all believe in and can hold our heads high as we fight to win! You are either for us or against us in this fight for your freedom and property rights.”
According to a Field Poll conducted in December, George Bush has a 28% approval rating in California – with 64% who disapprove. Yet, one of the top supporters of Prop 98 is using exactly the same rhetoric as our Commander in Chief to deride his opponents. If voters in June are educated about who’s behind this initiative, they will defeat it.
But it’s not just the “terrorist” politicians that Faller has a bone to pick with. He demeans people who can’t afford to buy California real estate as lazy and ineffectual. As he urges landlords to “join this war” to pass Prop 98, Faller says “you’ve worked hard providing housing for others who chose not to provide for themselves … You gave up a lot of weekends to make it possible – something others were not willing to do.” Apparently, it’s okay to berate the state’s 14 million tenants because they “obviously” did not work hard enough to buy property themselves. Hyperbole is one thing; personal insults are quite another.
Does the fight over Prop 98 match the battle against Nazis and fascists in World War II? Dan Faller seems to think that it does. Recalling his childhood memories in Los Angeles when he feared that “the enemy was going to land their troops in Long Beach and along our coast,” the AOA President puts the fight to pass Prop 98 on a similar plane. “There were big signs and advertisements that read ‘Uncle Sam Needs You!’ during WWII,” he writes. “There’s a big AOA sign today that says ‘Freedom Loving Americans Need You!’ We need your support to win this War to protect your property rights!”
It would be easy to laugh at these outlandish statements if Dan Faller was just your crazy uncle who makes offensive jokes that amuse only himself. But he’s the President and Founder of the American Owners Association – a national trade association of landlords that boasts more members in California than any other group. Faller is on the Board of Biopharma, the owner of a commercial brokerage firm, and used to be a Wall Street broker. The AOA’s monthly newsletter – which printed his “Yes on 98” screed – is the most widely read landlord publication in the country.
Under Faller’s watch, the AOA has provided crucial seed money for Prop 98 to get on the ballot – and they’re now aggressively fundraising to get it passed. The group has already put $325,000 towards the effort – and Faller has urged members to give even more. “Donate at least $1,000 with an additional minimum of $50 for every unit if you own over twenty apartments,” he wrote. “If you own less than 20 units, please donate the $1,000 minimum. If you own more, step up and invest according to all the benefits you’ll enjoy as a result of winning this campaign.”
With such a fundraising appeal, the “Yes on 98” campaign should have plenty of funds to hoodwink voters into thinking that their extreme ballot measure is about eminent domain. Opponents of Prop 98 must be vigilant, fundraise and get out the message to expose it as the Hidden Agendas Scheme that it really is. Only by doing so can we truly save such essential programs in California that 14 million renters rely on to live here. And with the June ballot garnering such low attention, there’s a serious chance that we could lose.
Was Faller joking when he called pro-tenant elected officials “suicide bombers,” accused tenants of being lazy, and compared the fight to pass Prop 98 with fighting the Axis powers in World War II? Apparently not. “Please take every word of this article more seriously,” he wrote in the preface, “than any other article you have ever read in this publication.” That should give us all pause about how dangerous Prop 98 really is …