Land use decisions – how we allow our land to be developed – are the most consequential decisions made by local elected officials. Local elected officials often determine what kinds of developments get approved and what ones don’t. They can control to a large degree what our cities end up looking like – whether we have enough parks, whether there are places to for employers and small businesses to thrive, and whether there are diverse housing options for people of different life circumstances.
I’ve been asked why I talk so much about real estate developer contributions to local elections, and why I think it is so important for politicians to refuse to accept them.
It is a fact of life in our country that profit-driven corporations put a great deal of money and effort into lobbying the elected officials who have the most control over their specific industry. Real estate developers, construction companies and real estate interests are greatly affected by the decisions of local governments, so they get very involved with local elections. In fact, these interests are usually the biggest players when it comes to trying to influence the outcome of local elections.
The Patterson Ranch Development
My rude awakening to this reality was when I was advocating to protect Coyote Hills from a huge housing development called Patterson Ranch. The proponents of the development donated tens of thousands of dollars to Fremont City Council members. Not surprisingly, the Council improved the upzoning of the land, allowing the property owners to pockets hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.
In my opinion, it’s not right for any elected official to take campaign contributions from business interests that can benefit economically from the decisions that those elected officials make. I’m proud to be the first candidate in Fremont to highlight this issue and to fully reject these contributions.