From the campaign of Laura Wood Habr, Democratic candidate for Virginia Beach Treasurer
Most of us know the saying “All politics is local”. Well, that has never been truer than here in Virginia in this intense 2021 election season.
Yet all too often voters ignore local races, with the (wrongly) assumption that the outcome won’t matter much, either overall or in their day-to-day lives.
I would like to disillusion readers of this notion, especially in relation to a key race in Virginia Beach.
I am the Democratic candidate for city treasurer, against incumbent President Leigh Henderson.
In fact, the way the treasurer’s office is run can have a significant – and sometimes overwhelming – effect on an entire community. And when you look at the contrast between these two candidates, you can see this “roughly”.
The basics of the treasurer’s job are to charge and collect taxes, keep accurate accounts of money, and invest it wisely. Quite simple. But within this framework, there is a lot of margin for error, inefficiency and even inhumanity.
What do I mean?
Well too often under the current treasurer mismanagement has led to serious mistakes like loss of important income which makes matters worse we cannot tell you exactly how the money was not accounted for, because the treasurer’s office will not disclose it! They are also opaque about the city’s investment strategy, including the financial institutions they use!
But the most damaging practices are those that directly affect people’s lives – losing their homes to avoidable tax privileges.
The auctioning of real estate on unpaid taxes is often unnecessary and further exacerbates racial and income inequalities – which are a huge scourge both nationally and regionally.
Yet, whether out of laziness, greed, or a lack of compassion, Henderson has imposed hundreds of tax liens on properties in recent years – often those on fixed incomes blinded by emergency spending, or victims of unethical lending programs like subprime mortgages. Some are simply hard working people struggling through an unprecedented economic and public health crisis.
It’s heartless enough.
And that’s not even a good deal – at least for anyone, except auction houses, lawyers, and predatory lenders.
Sales of these properties generate modest returns for local governments, but windfall profits for tax-privileged investors and their lawyers. New laws in effect are making this easier than ever, and many local governments will be eager to offset their budgets depleted by the coronavirus pandemic with this type of hack. Worse yet, many of these foreclosure sales are moving online to accelerate abuse, as financial institutions and hedge funds corner homes at huge gains.
Yeah; the foreclosure game is big business.
Is it any wonder that the largest contribution to Henderson’s campaign – to the tune of $ 5,000 – came from an auction house?
Over the past two years, these aggressive tax lien practices have cost Virginia Beach more in the long run, without considering the untold human toll of housing insecurity, homelessness and desperation.
And it’s not just statistics, it’s faces. Families. Neighbors. Friends.
It’s an ugly practice that can be avoided with just a little creativity – compassion – and cooperation.
Pressed at a recent Civic League town hall, Henderson asserted that not only is her auction company’s donations NOT a conflict of interest, but that for me, DO NOT exclude whenever possible. was negligence and a violation of the law.
I believe the job doesn’t require an accountant, but a CEO-level decision maker and community advocate, roles that color my decades-long resume on civic and business successes and achievements.
These decisions can – and should – be made in smart, creative and compassionate ways, on a case-by-case basis – to do what is right for our citizens and the community as a whole. Yet a legacy of cronyism and a GOP dynasty have kept Virginia Beach locked in an ancient system that widens the painful and unjust economic and racial divide that has so fractured our country.
So if you think an office like the city treasurer can’t make a huge, positive difference, think again.
Vote for me, Laura Wood Habr, for the treasurer of Virginia Beach, and you will see the difference.