Commercial real estate's grassroots advocates have led the charge in positioning the industry as a political force in state capitols and city halls across the country. Washington, D.C.-based BOMA Intl. recognizes the outstanding work of BOMA local associations' leaders in advocacy and grassroots education through its annual Government Affairs Awards of Recognition Program. Awards are bestowed in three categories: Outstanding Government Affairs Committee, Single Government Affairs Issue, and Single Government Affairs Program/Seminar. This year's entries were among the most unique and exciting initiatives seen. The high caliber of entries produced an extremely close competition. In 2009, BOMA Intl.'s State Government Affairs Committee chose to recognize BOMA San Francisco, BOMA California, and BOMA Columbus.
BOMA San Francisco was recognized in the Outstanding Government Affairs Committee category for the ongoing success and effectiveness of its political action committee, BOMA-SF-PAC. BOMA-SF-PAC serves as the lynchpin of the association's overall advocacy agenda - a central focus of its mission. Its goals are to support measures that help the commercial real estate industry, support business-friendly candidates for local office, and build coalitions with similar interests. BOMA San Francisco's government affairs committee works in conjunction with other local associations and business groups, and participates in professional polling to guide its investments in local issues and candidates.
An example of BOMA-SF-PAC's speedy response to emerging issues occurred in 2002. In 6 weeks, it raised and spent $750,000 to defeat a measure placed on the ballot at the last minute that would have doubled the city's property transfer tax. BOMA members won that battle at the ballot box. BOMA-SF-PAC also:
- Defeated a proposed 40-percent parking tax increase.
- Saved local investors 50 percent on property transfer taxes since 2002.
- Saved local property owners $1 per square foot annually in transit tax fees since 1994.
- Prevented statewide rent control.
In 2007, a lawsuit filed by the committee overturned free-speech restrictions on donations to Independent Expenditure PACs, ensuring that its voice continues to be heard on issues impacting the commercial real estate industry.
In the Single Government Affairs Issue category, BOMA California was recognized for its legislative response to burdensome and expensive building-code mandates sponsored by environmental advocacy groups. In 2007, several bills were introduced in the state legislature that would have imposed mandates into the state building code without going through the traditional standards development process. With one of the nation's most environmentally progressive building codes already on the books, BOMA California's members felt that these bills failed to understand the importance of a rigorous codes process to health and safety issues.
Ultimately, three of the bills were vetoed, two were stalled in the legislative process, and one was significantly amended to address real estate's concerns. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger directed state agencies in his veto messages to write a new chapter into the state's building code that addresses green-building codes. Through early and comprehensive engagement in the legislative process, BOMA California effectively accomplished its goal to have these building codes addressed through a consensus process of experts. Together with other real estate and business groups, BOMA California produced a comprehensive set of comments addressing the first set of draft codes, and the coalition is currently focused on the regulatory process.
BOMA Intl. recognized BOMA Columbus in the Single Government Affairs Program/Seminar category for its rapidly expanding grassroots advocacy program, spearheaded by the association's legislative committee. The program's goals are to increase the association's visibility among lawmakers at both the state and local levels, and to build a solid foundation in grassroots programming for its leaders. After 2 years, the committee has grown from virtually nonexistent to a seven-member body that branches out into three separate subcommittees. The committee formed a coalition with the Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP) to strengthen the interests of the state's commercial real estate owners, managers, and developers. Furthermore, it has developed extensive relationships with many state representatives, who asked BOMA Columbus to testify before the House Alternative Energy Committee on energy efficiency and conservation incentives. Finally, it sponsored a real estate event for the mayor and his staff to discuss the benefits of bringing streetcars to the city's business district.
For more information on this and other issues, call BOMA Intl. at (202) 408-2662 or visit www.boma.org.