Going Negative: Galindo vs. the 'Green Home Tax'

In the latest Place 4 campaign exchange, Cid Galindo has embraced an inflammatory new slogan – "Stop the Green Home Tax" – disseminated across the city in mailers and automated phone calls in the past week. A mailer headlined "Pay a big tax just to sell your home?" attacked run-off opponent Laura Mor­ri­son as being "for it" and described Galindo as "against it." The only problem: Austin is not considering any such tax.

Each supporting assertion made on the Gal­indo campaign mailer is contradicted by data from the city and Energy Efficiency Retrofit Task Force materials. Galindo's statements echo the erroneous and misleading information disseminated by a current Austin Board of Realtors campaign. That effort (see www.keepaustinaffordable.org) is being funded by the board and the Texas Association of Realtors, according to spokeswoman Angela Brutsché. She said the board has endorsed Galindo, a small-scale developer whose family has significant development and real estate interests, "based on his commitment to housing affordability and property rights issues."

The Realtors' campaign warns citizens of a new energy-efficient-homes policy initiated by City Council, as part of the Austin Climate Protection Plan. The board fears that mandated energy-efficiency upgrades to existing homes, at time of sale, might delay closings – thus cutting into real estate agents' profits. How­ev­er, the extreme claims of the public campaign falsely fan Austinites' fears about home affordability, e.g., "This type of out-of-pocket expense will prevent many homeowners from having the option to sell their home."

Last December, City Council approved a resolution "establishing a task force to make recommendations for development of an ordinance relating to energy efficiency upgrades and retrofits." The resulting 28-member Ener­gy Efficiency Retrofit Task Force began meeting recently, with the council-directed goal of developing a plan to require energy-efficiency retrofits and upgrades to buildings at point of sale; its members represent diverse real estate, energy, and public-interest groups. Still in its early work, the task force has made no recommendations. The provisions of the proposed ordinance are still taking shape, according to Matt Watson, policy aide to Mayor Will Wynn. But he said the draft framework under consideration makes it clear that no one would be required to make upgrades before they could sell their homes. Neverthe­less, the Galindo mailer says the candidate is "categorically opposed" to the plan.

Laura Morrison responded to Galindo's weekend mailer and his auto-calls campaign with an e-mailer headlined "Cid Galindo Push Poll Scaring Seniors." "It appears to be a desperate attempt from a losing campaign," she told the Chronicle. "He's attempting to scare voters, especially seniors, hoping they'll change their vote by creating this confusion."

Asked to comment, Galindo responded, "I want everyone to understand the implications of the ideas being discussed, and I do not believe there are factual inaccuracies in the materials my campaign sent out."

For a detailed analysis of the Galindo ad claims, see the Chronicle Newsdesk blog online at austinchronicle.com/newsdesk.

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More by Katherine Gregor
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