TAA: Turning Pandemic Pain into Profits and Power

2020 evictions are expected to surpass the spike in 2009

1.Pain

The COVID-19 pandemic has landed like a ton of bricks on Raleigh’s working poor who have lost their jobs and are having to choose between feeding their families and scraping together the back rents that will come due when the eviction moratorium ends on August 1st.

Through no fault of their own, families are facing eviction and homelessness at a rate greater than in the Great Recession, when evictions spiked at over 9%. Sadly, there are powerful development industry groups in the Triangle seeking to turn the pain of vulnerable families into profits and political influence.

2.Profit

Anticipating a ‘tsunami’ of evictions, the Triangle Apartment Association (TAA) is working hard

Eviction Service Highlights Mental Health?

to protect profits: on one hand, by lobbying Congress for rental payments and on the other hand, by ramping up their eviction game plan with the help of Loebsack & Brownlee, their ‘full service’ eviction service and prominent sponsor of TAA’s newsletter.

Loebsack promotes a cheery attitude toward a dirty business by highlighting the need for more Mental Health Assessments in this time of spiking evictions. Their social media post helpfully points out the populations most likely to be stressed – gay, trans and people of color. In case you aren’t sure about their motives in highlighting these risky renters to their TAA clients, one need only read a recent Loebsack memo uncovered by National Public Radio affiliate WFAE in Charlotte:

Loebsack advises it clients, including TAA: “You may want to consider now to be an ideal time to do some ‘housekeeping’ with your tenant list by filing cases for all the non-rent lease violations you’ve always just put up with, and thereby cleaning out some of the bottom-of-the-barrel tenants you don’t really want on your rent rolls when the Moratorium ends, anyway!”

TAA Website Headline

Triangle Apartment Association is working hard to profit from the pain of pandemic evictions with the help of Loebsack which underwrites TAA’s online communications. In return, TAA is calling for an end to the eviction moratorium, thereby boosting Loebsack’s “housekeeping” business.

3.Power

We understand the connection between the Pain of pandemic evictions and the Profits to be made by TAA and Loebsack, but what is the connection with the other ‘P‘ in the blog title: Power? Let’s Follow the Money:

The TAA was a BIG PLAYER in Raleigh’s 2019 municipal election.  TAA made direct contributions to the campaigns of many candidates.  And their associated PAC, the Triangle Government Alliance, made large independent expenditures for direct mail, social media advertising and polling data on behalf of that same slate of candidates.

TAA and their PAC supported a preferred candidate in every race.  The candidates receiving direct campaign contributions from TAA are:

Mary-Ann Baldwin  –  $2,000

Nicole Stewart        –  $2,000

Jonathan Melton     –  $2,000

Patrick Buffkin        –  $1,500

Brian Fitzsimmons  –  $3,000

Corey Branch         –  $1,000

Saige Martin           –  $1,500

David Knight           –  $3,000

TOTAL                      $16,000

In addition, the TAA PAC spent over $105,000 in independent expenditures to benefit these same candidates. In total, over $121,000 was spent to elect a mayor and councilors who would deliver, like Loebsack, valuable favors in return for the TAA cash.

Make no mistake. With the help of Loebsack, TAA is targeting vulnerable populations in order to profit by “cleaning out some of the bottom-of-the-barrel tenants you don’t really want on your rent rolls” and they are counting on the councilors they bankrolled to keep eviction diversion funding to a token level, so the rental economy can come back strong with better tenants once the eviction moratorium is over.

The TAA campaign donations are dirty money. We call on the mayor and councilors who took TAA money to donate it, along with council contingency funds, to Eviction Diversion Legal Aid now.

To collect (yard waste), or not to collect. That is the question.

On Wednesday  yesterday — the city cycled back, forth and back again on the question of yard waste collection. First, it was off, suspended indefinitely. Then, it was back on, per a mid-morning announcement. Finally, in mid-afternoon, it was off again, except for a one-time sweep, beginning today, to collect limbs and branches from the recent storm.

The confusion is understandable. Having two guys (it’s always guys) riding on the back of a truck, and jumping off to hoist barrels and bags into the chopper was always a dubious approach — very labor intensive, heavy barrels leading to injuries, even heavier barrels if it rained. Our yard waste collection system was expensive for the taxpayers and dangerous for our sanitation workers, not to mention the obvious air pollution generated by all those trucks.

But now, in our post-Covid 19 world, social distancing does not permit two men riding side by side on the truck, just one. We’d need twice as many trucks to do the job, at higher cost and with more pollution.

In short, it’s time to re-think how we go about disposing of yard waste in Raleigh. Because the old system wasn’t very good, and for the foreseeable future, it’s become an impossibility given the dangers of the coronavirus. 

How should we proceed? Here’s a few thoughts to get us started:

  • Lots of yard waste can be composted on-site. It doesn’t need to be collected and trucked away.
  • Tree limbs and branches are the exception to the first point.
  • To make the collection job safer, why not require that yard waste be bagged in clear plastic bags small enough that they’re easily lifted. Tree limbs would still be tied in bundles.
  • To offset the cost of collection, the city could sell the bags. This, in effect, would be a “pay as you throw” system. The more bags you need, the more it will cost you to have them collected. If you compost most or all of your stuff, you’ll pay little or nothing for the service. (Obviously, only the city’s authorized bags would be collected.)
  • This would save the taxpayers a lot of money and be safer for our sanitation workers. And, with residents incentivized to compost instead of throw, many fewer truck miles would be logged and a lot less carbon emitted.
  • Which brings us to the annual fiasco known as leaf collection. In the past, the city collected leaves from the curb 3x a year, which worked passably well; with 3 passes, they were swept up in a reasonable time after they’d fallen. But then we cut back to 2x a year, which means some neighborhoods are collected too soon (because few leaves have fallen) and then these same neighborhoods are collected last on the second pass, which means the leaves remain in a pile from October-November to February-March. This system does not work very well, or at all.
  • And by the way, nobody puts the leaves on the curb, because any grass growing under them will be dead by the time the leaves are collected. So the piles get pushed into the street, and they wash with the rain into city storm drains, causing a big soggy and expensive mess.
  • What to do? Do away with the leaf collections. They don’t work for anybody, and they’re very expensive. Instead, sell more of those plastic bags. Accept the leaves in bags as part of the regular yard waste collection.
  • Circling back, most of those leaves can be composted with little trouble. And if you don’t need the compost yourself, your neighbors certainly do, and are even now BUYING big truckloads of mulch and having it delivered — yes — into the street!
  • Let’s get a little closer to nature, shall we? Compost the leaves. Mulch the grass. Save money. Save the planet.

 

 

 

 

Delay April & May Council meetings

 

Dear Mayor Baldwin and City Council Members,

We are not living in “business as usual” times.

On the City website, a notice has been posted to hold a “virtual” City Council meeting on April 7th where there will be “public comment” allowed so we can continue to move forward with development projects currently under consideration. On behalf of Livable Raleigh, let me be the first to go on record and say that this is a preposterous idea on so many levels!

  1. The residents of Raleigh are focused on SURVIVAL, not on development projects. ALL of the development projects and other projects need to be re-evaluated after the Covid-19 crisis has passed because economic conditions will have changed. For this reason alone, you should cancel all city council meetings at least through the end of May.
  2. A “virtual” meeting sounds like it is inclusive, but in fact, it is not. It is exclusive to those who can get access and who will have the courage to go before a camera to speak. Neither of these barriers will be easily crossed – and certainly not before April 7th.

The City Council traditionally does not schedule meetings in July or August. Doesn’t it make sense to instead refrain from holding meetings in April and May and plan to use July and August to catch up, hopefully after the worst of the crisis is behind us? Let your constituents focus now on more urgent priorities related to health and economic survival.

If you really insist on conducting city business in the midst of this crisis, may I suggest you concentrate your time and effort on figuring out a creative way to help the people of Raleigh who are suffering because they have lost their jobs or are about to lose their small businesses and who are most vulnerable? Doing good for these people will actually be an accomplishment for you and the Council to be proud of.

Sincerely,
Susan Maruyama
Chair, Livable Raleigh

 

 

 

 

Current news and action items — March 27, 2020

Please stay safe and follow official government guidelines during this public health crisis.

As the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Wake County, so are concerns that the virus could overwhelm our local healthcare system. To help prevent that from happening, Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Greg Ford has signed a proclamation that puts a stay-at-home order in effect on Friday, March 27, at 5pm:

http://www.wakegov.com/news/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=1200

The goal of the proclamation is for Wake County residents to stay home and away from others who are not immediate members of their family or household. By restricting contact, the county hopes to reduce the rate at which COVID-19 is infecting residents.

All Raleigh Council committee, boards and commissions, Council district meetings, and other public meetings are canceled through April 30.

Raleigh City Council is discussing logistics for April Council meetings.

Your best sources of reliable information during the COVID-19 public health crisis are official government websites.

COVID-19 information from Wake County: http://www.wakegov.com/covid19/Pages/default.aspx

COVID-19 information from the City of Raleigh: https://raleighnc.gov/news/covid-19-information

Resources for people experiencing homelessness or a housing crisis: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/NCRALEIGH/bulletins/2821263

Link to City Manager’s Weekly Report: https://raleighnc.gov/services/government/city-managers-weekly-report

 

 

Letter to Raleigh’s City Manager

Dear City Manager Hall:

I am writing on behalf of many Raleigh residents.  First of all we want to thank you for your leadership during this time of unprecedented crisis.  We appreciate the very big challenges you and other City staff are facing as you endeavor to run our local government safely, effectively and fairly during these uncertain times.

We are wondering how the City will handle the many development projects currently “in the pipeline” and we want to share some of our concerns as you deliberate on how to conduct these processes going forward.

One topic of particular interest is how the City will handle future public hearings, in light of federal and state guidelines recommending social distancing in order to slow the spread of the virus.

Raleigh has a good track record in providing public notice and affording residents participation in City decisions, such as those concerning the approval of new development.  The City provides the opportunity for input from many advisory boards and from the public during various public meetings, and that input, in our opinion, has always improved the projects.

We recognize that maintaining open government during this unusual time of public health crisis is of utmost importance and that the City must be fair to applicants.  However, it would be inappropriate and contrary to the public’s expectations for projects to proceed through the pipeline without providing citizens an equal opportunity to be heard and have their viewpoints received and understood.

Several of the rezoning projects currently under consideration would result in huge impacts if approved in their current form. The public therefore must have full access to their elected officials and to the decision-making process at public meetings to ensure careful, informed decisions on these and other projects. Hitting the pause button on these processes now seems prudent given that most economic activity has been similarly paused.

Therefore, we respectfully recommend that the City not alter any public notice requirements nor curtail customary public input and that the City pause the review process for projects in the pipeline until the public can again participate.  Providing online content and inviting questions is helpful but not adequate to meet notice requirements.

 I have included a link to an article from the IOG’s Coates Cannons blog, which I am sure you are familiar with.

Rather than alter our processes to assist potential development projects, we suggest that the City’s current focus should be on our most vulnerable residents – the homeless, the “housing insecure,” the increasing number of workers who are being laid off, and on our local small business owners.

We urge you to make these folks your top priority and to ensure that we devote adequate resources now to assist them in the short term, as well as proposing plans for how we can help them moving forward.

The impact of this crisis on City revenues should make us think carefully about our spending priorities. Clearly, the spending priorities that existed even as recently as last month, need to be reconsidered and may need to change to aid our City’s recovery and to ensure that all of Raleigh’s residents receive the support they deserve. Obviously we will need to coordinate closely with our county, state, and federal governments to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Sincerely,

Susan Maruyama,

Chair, Livable Raleigh

www.livableraleigh.com