Category: Politics

Dino Rossi: Profiting from the foreclosure crisis?

Dino Rossi, who twice ran for Governor of our state and lost and is now in a senate race with Senator Patty Murray, spoke at several Homeowners Conferences this year that focused on how investors can make a profit buying foreclosed properties. The invitation and advertisements said investors can learn how to make a 50% return on investment each year from foreclosed properties. From the website: “With the current financial and real estate meltdown an opportunity has been created like never before in history.”

If you are running for public office and you want to make yourself seem more credible and caring in the eyes of your average voter, don’t peddle tips on how to profit off of human misery and suffering. Even though the owners have moved out, it is still a sad, sad story.

(Note: Dino Rossi’s smiling face has since been removed from the website, however you can see the original “ticket” for the event here:)

If one is running for public office, wouldn’t it make more sense to spend time helping and assisting those in foreclosure, rather than speaking at seminars that promote the purchase of foreclosures and profiting from human misery?

Those who use these techniques taught at the foreclosure seminars don’t care about the people who have been displaced. They only want to buy the home for a fraction of its value so they can flip it and make a quick profit.

Even if Dino Rossi is not speaking specifically about how to buy these homes for fifty-cents-on-the-dollar, his attendance there seems to condone this kind of behavior.

(Note: Rossi is not a REALTOR, though he does have a real estate license and is involved in commercial real estate sales. He gives thoughtful and ethical people in the real estate business a bad name.)

From Latte Republic:

Current law prevents distressed homeowners from purchasing their home at the Sheriff’s Trustee Auction, even though some of the distressed homeowners could afford the home if they could acquire it at the trustee sale price. (Some homeowners have become re-employed after long periods of unemployment, but the loan servicer refused to allow the distressed homeowner access to the federal Home Affordable program). For more information about how homeowners are being wrongfully foreclosed on during the modification review, see “On the Hill” blog post, Homeowners Working With Servicers Often Blindsided by Foreclosures.

In states with non-judicial foreclosure (WA is one of them). Distressed homeowners are not allowed to re-purchase their home before or after the Sheriff Trustee sale.

If Rossi truly wants to connect with the voters, he would ask the state legislature to provide distressed homeowners the option of redemption. After all, the people who are being foreclosed on in 2010 are not “sub prime borrowers.” They are individuals and families who have lost jobs or businesses due to the recession.

In most cases, the foreclosure redemption process provides distressed homeowners a lengthy period in which to save the home. ( Please note that some states have redemption periods of only a few days). Certain foreclosure laws place the redemption period before the sheriff sale, while most others place it after the sale but before the eviction.

Of course, promoting consumer protection legislation wouldn’t help Rossi raise campaign funds from Real Estate investors who are making a killing at the expense of Washington families who have lost everything they have worked for their entire lives, thanks to the Financial Crisis and wrongful foreclosures.

The big banks got a bailout – despite the contributions they made to the financial crisis. The American people who have been adversely affected by the recession are losing their homes to greedy real estate investors who don’t give a damn what happens to displaced American families.

It may be legal to strip homeowners of their primary residence – but it sure as hell isn’t moral or ethical.

Rossi getting most anonymous outside dollars campaign donations (Seattle PI)

Political Smell Test: Dino Rossi’s Foreclosure Profits (News Tribune)

Rossi Still Helping The Rich Profit Off Distressed Properties During Senate Campaign (TPMDC)

Rossi: Good time to buy a million dollar house?
(Seattle Times)

Realtors vote to prohibit members from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

This year at the National Association of Realtors Conference in New Orleans, there will be a historic vote to add language about sexual orientation to Article 10 of the Realtor Code of Ethics. For the change to take effect, the vote must be approved by NAR’s Delegate Body, which meets Nov. 8 at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in New Orleans.

If the Delegate Body passes the change, Article 10 will read:

REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional service to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation.

REALTORS® shall not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation.

REALTORS® in their real estate employment practices shall not discriminate against any person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation.

The board of directors’ vote puts NAR one step ahead of Congress, which is considering a change to the Fair Housing Act. The Fair and Inclusive Housing Rights Act of 2010 would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It would be the first change to the law since 1988, when handicap and familial status were added as protected classes.

Told you so

Several months ago, I wrote about Michael Hellickson and his radio ad featuring the populist superstar of Fox News, Glenn Beck. The ad, which you can hear on the Hellickson website, enumerates the many ways Michael Hellickson was not like other agents. I had written about all of the fines leveled by the NWMLS, fines totaling over $30,000.00, month after month, and the point of my story was that Yes, indeed, he was NOT like other agents, as most agents go through their entire career without being fined.

Several days after posting, I was contacted by a representative from the NWMLS asking me to remove the specific information about the Hellickson’s fines. I was asked to remove this information as this was “private” information and the fines were “internal”. The odd thing is, many of the fines were for amounts such as “$5000, $2500 stayed if no further infractions occurred”, yet month after month, I saw more infractions and more stays. I thought at the time that he and his brokerage were somehow getting a free pass.

After the phone call from a NWMLS representative, I didn’t want to lose my membership, so I complied and took off the actual listings of infractions and the actual amounts of the fines leveled towards Hellickson, while keeping the rest of the post intact.

Fast forward 6 months later, and news breaks of his rule-breaking and shenanigans and after a 17-month investigation by the Washington Department of Licensing, he’s lost his license.

I first found out he lost his license when I received an irate phone call from a guy who identified himself as an ex-employee of Hellickson. He said he’d just lost his job, he’d read the complaints, they were all bogus, and Hellickson’s name would be cleared and he just wanted me to know that “Hellickson Company is a family company”. I expressed my disgust with Hellickson’s business practices and his deceptive Glenn Beck radio ad and he said that Beck did the ad for Hellickson because they’re both Mormon. The guy raved for about 15 minutes and seemed to be in complete denial about his ex-boss’s alleged criminal conduct. But one point he did make, which I think is important, is that the Hellickson firm worked primarily with sellers in distress. Many of these people were desperate and in real trouble and were losing their home. They were looking for a scapegoat and blaming their real estate broker might have been very easy for them to do. So not to defend this company at all, I’m just thinking that there’s a grain of truth in there somewhere, that some of Hellickson’s actions could have been misconstrued by angry and desperate underwater homesellers.

But that aside, his website and radio ads were very deceptive and dishonest. He claimed to be the #1 agent in Washington, Oregon and Hawaii, which I knew was not true. Turns out he wasn’t even licensed in Oregon or Hawaii. And he’s certainly not the #1 agent in Washington State.

If you listened to the radio ad, he also has Glenn Beck claim on his behalf that he spent more than $500,000.00 in advertising and marketing (“More than 99% of what other real estate agents earn!”) and that his website attracted over 600 buyers per week.

Baloney, of course, all of it. Lies and more lies, from the mouth of Glenn Beck.

It’s interesting to note that one of the charges against Hellickson is that he intentionally underpriced homes, listed them and lowered the prices of homes for significantly less than what a bank would accept in a short sale situation. Why did he do this? I am guessing he did this in order to advertise these screaming deals and attract buyers to call his brokerage. 600 calls a week as he claims in his radio ad? Hardly. But if he got 60, that’s still a lot.

At the high point, he had as many as 400 listings at a time, way too many listings to service personally and ultimately as we know, real estate sales is a personal service business. Buyers and sellers fell through the cracks, phone calls went unanswered, offers went unpresented and sellers went unrepresented. Lives were ultimately ruined on both sides.


Though Glenn Beck lost about 80 advertisers since he called President Obama a “racist” who has a “deep-seated hatred of white people” he still has a few advertisers left. Do I smell a boycott?

Photos of Glenn Beck’s house for sale.

Related: Rush Limbaugh’s NY Penthouse for Sale

As recommended by Glenn Beck?


Transcribed from the radio and the Hellickson website:

“Hi, it’s Glenn Beck. You probably know how I feel about real estate. I have too many family and friends who have lost their savings, college fund, retirement money, even their own home. But here’s the thing. It doesn’t have to end that way, because not all Realtors are created equal. There are some who put a sign in some yard, put your home on some endless list and then cross their fingers.

But then there are others that go another way. I’m talking about real estate agents like Michael Hellickson.”

You can hear the entire transcript of the Glenn Beck ad on the Hellickson website.

What kind of a company is Hellickson?

I would love to tell you, but I’ve been censored by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. I noted the rule-breaking and fines that this company has received over the last few years and received a request that I remove this information from my website.

The Obama Inauguration and The Moment

• Our friend David Gedye, who is always leading projects he cooks up with mind blowing results, just sent us an email for his newest project, a collaboration with CNN and Photosynth for an ambitious presidential inauguration project. He writes:

You’ll be interested to know that I’m on my way to Washington DC to help CNN with an ambitious presidential inauguration project that we cooked up a month ago.

The idea is to use Photosynth (the 3D photo technology I’ve been working on for the last few years) to capture the exact moment when the President-Elect becomes the President. We are using about 10 CNN photographers and thousands of people in the crowd, who are being asked to send us their photo of “the moment”.

If all goes well there will be a “synth” on the CNN website a few hours after the inauguration, and if it’s great, they will show it on their big Magic Wall on their TV broadcast sometime during the afternoon or evening of inauguration day. CNN is promoting the project on air already, so if you tune in today you’ll see graphics for “The Moment”, and Photosynth being demonstrated by Tom Foreman.

Exciting stuff! You can see how CNN is promoting it at

• You may remember the post that my husband wrote for with the video embedded of the Synth that David Gedye did of our living room for the Photosynth release Demo/How-To video last August. Here is a link to the article with the video.

I am hoping that Photosynth will be adopted and used more in the real estate industry, as it’s a natural fit for our business.

Let the Realtor procott begin

Equal Rights Washington, a statewide political advocacy organization works to end discrimination against LGBT people throughout Washington State.

They recently sent out a letter urging people to “procott” companies who support LGBT rights. Not boycott those who don’t, but “procott” and support those who do.

From a recent email from Josh Friedes, Advocacy Director of Equal Rights Washington:

And after the Realtors PAC spent so much money trying to elect anti-equality candidate Dino Rossi, doesn’t it make sense to make sure you’re picking a real estate agent that supports LGBT civil rights?

Unfortunately, they are correct. Our local Seattle King County Association of Realtors DID support Republican and anti-equality candidate Dino Rossi, though I suspect it was more for his close ties to the building and commercial real estate industry than for anything else. He did actually hold a real estate license for a number of years, and I found this on Wikipedia:

In 1983, Rossi joined Capretto & Clark, a Seattle real estate firm, as a salesman. The firm filed for bankruptcy the following year and, in 1985, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published a story on the federal corruption investigation into Capretto & Clark’s general manager, Melvin Heide. While many in the sales force left the firm, Rossi stayed behind and eventually followed Heide to Metropolitan Real Estate and, a month later, to Imperial Real Estate in downtown Seattle. Rossi said he had been unaware of the circumstances behind the collapse of Capretto & Clark, saying that he “didn’t take the paper.” He resigned from Imperial Real Estate in 1992.

Luckily he lost, and incumbant Christine Gregoire has another 4 years in office.

Though I am not a member of GSBA, I am a contributor to Equal Rights Washington. I was inspired and galvanized by the recent elections, but very disappointed about the outcome of Proposition 8 in California, so I attended a rally and march here in Seattle at Volunteer Park. I put together some photos and film clips with my trusty Flip and made this video:

Mayor Greg Nickles was there and made a proclamation, but King County Executive Ron Sims stole the show. Passionate and inspired, he galvanized the crowd with his rousing rhetoric, and he actually gets that LGBT rights are CIVIL rights. I’m working on his next campaign,what ever that will be.

From cars, to gas, and from banking to grocery stores this guide has it all:
Buying for Equality Buying Guide

For Seattle goods and services:
GSBA Buying Guide

FDIC hires CBRE, Realogy to advise on bank assets: Conflict of interest?

CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. just landed one of the fattest real estate clients in recent history.

The Los Angeles-based global real estate services firm was just selected as a primary adviser for residential and commercial real estate assets the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. will acquire as it takes over failed banks.

The company said it will be responsible for managing and marketing residential and commercial properties held by the FDIC in its role as receiver for failed financial institutions.

As a result of the financial crisis, federal regulators have taken over 22 banks so far this year, the most since 1993

CBRE has subcontracted with a number of other partners on the FDIC account. The subcontractors include Realogy Corp. — parent company of Sotheby’s International Realty, Coldwell Banker, Century 21 and ERA — to service the residential real estate portion of the FDIC account.

Interestingly, Richard C. Blum, Chairman of CBRE is the husband of United States Senator from California Dianne Feinstein. Could this contract with the FDIC been arranged through her efforts and office? Just wondering.

Blum’s Plums

The Scab

Every year on November 22nd, I like to pause and reflect about the body of work from writer and rabble-rouser Jack London. Jack London, who died today in 1916, was most famous for writing “The Call of the Wild”, but he was also a brilliant union organizer and author of “The Scab”.

What is a scab? Simply, a person who purports to do the same amount of work as another person, but for less money. According to Jack London, anyone who undercuts another person, as far as wages or compensation for labor, may be considered a “scab”.

In the real world, a scab would be someone who either crosses a picket line to work or someone who agrees to do the same work for less money. “Scab” is also used to refer to workers who cave too easily to concessions or someone who offers their services for less money specifically to undercut a competitor. (In labor terms, what is a scab?)

It’s a good old-fashioned term with a rich history and those who choose to go through life participating in scabby behavoir should embrace the term and own it.

Writes London:

In a competitive society, where men struggle with one another for food and shelter, what is more natural than that generosity, when it diminishes the food and shelter of men other than he who is generous, should be held an accursed thing? Wise old saws to the contrary, he who takes from a man’s purse takes from his existence. To strike at a man’s food and shelter is to strike at his life; and in a society organized on a tooth-and-nail basis, such an act, performed though it may be under the guise of generosity, is none the less menacing and terrible.

It is for this reason that a laborer is so fiercely hostile to another laborer who offers to work for less pay or longer hours. To hold his place, (which is to live), he must offset this offer by another equally liberal, which is equivalent to giving away somewhat from the food and shelter he enjoys. To sell his day’s work for $2, instead of $2.50, means that he, his wife, and his children will not have so good a roof over their heads, so warm clothes on their backs, so substantial food in their stomachs. Meat will be bought less frequently and it will be tougher and less nutritious, stout new shoes will go less often on the children’s feet, and disease and death will be more imminent in a cheaper house and neighborhood.

Thus the generous laborer, giving more of a day’s work for less return (measured in terms of food and shelter), threatens the life of his less generous brother laborer, and at the best, if he does not destroy that life, he diminishes it. Whereupon the less generous laborer looks upon him as an enemy, and, as men are inclined to do in a tooth-and-nail society, he tries to kill the man who is trying to kill him.

Before someone writes in complaining that this definition of a “Scab” is defamatory, consider the following:

After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with which he made a scab. A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue.

This passage figured in a 1974 Supreme Court case, in which justice Thurgood Marshall quoted the passage in full and referred to it as “a well-known piece of trade union literature, generally attributed to author Jack London.” A union newsletter had published a “list of scabs,” which was granted to be factual and therefore not libellous, but then went on to quote the passage as the “definition of a scab.” The case turned on the question of whether the “definition” was defamatory. The court ruled that “Jack London’s… ‘definition of a scab’ is merely rhetorical hyperbole, a lusty and imaginative expression of the contempt felt by union members towards those who refuse to join,” and as such was not libellous and was protected under the First Amendment.

Jack London wrote The Scab in 1903 and died in 1916 at the age of 40…..

How Labor Scabs Work

Labor Unions in the U.S.

Sweet Victory

This is a great day for America, on so many levels and in so many ways.

My husband and I are Obama supporters and we created the “OBAMA” Room at Cafe Racer. That is the acronym for the Official Bad Art Museum of Art. So of course we chose to spend election night there, in the OBAMA room, with our friends and other supporters.

Kurt, the owner and chef, read that an analysis was done to see how much each vote costs and with over one billion dollars spent during the campaign season, the cost for each vote totaled eight dollars. So, in honor of this, Cafe Racer had an election party and for the Obama supporters served Obama’s most favorite food, chili, using his own recipe, for $8 and for the McPalin supporters, they served prune juice and caribou jerky.

After McCain conceded and Obama made his acceptance speech, there was a spontaneous dancing in the streets. My husband posted the video on Seattle Twist.

I am so proud of America right now.

Googie versus Goliath

Amber Trillo photo
Set your Tivo’s to see my interview with Jenny Cunningham, a reporter with KCTS-TV (9) in Seattle at 7:30 this evening on Channel 9. She has been working on a segment called, “Googie versus Goliath,” and it’s a look at the landmarking process in Seattle and the controversy surrounding the Ballard Manning’s/Denny’s battle. She invited me to add my two cents to the proceedings, as I’ve been documenting Googie architecture in the Seattle area for several years on The show will be repeated again Sunday morning 2/10 at 10:30 am.

Mannings 1964

Many folks have asked me what prompted my interest in Google and I have to think it was looking at the Space Needle most every day outside my window. We’re living here with the largest known monument to Googe Architecture right in our backyard. What’s not to love?

Space Needle

Googie Architecture is most closely associated with the popular architecture and culture of 1950’s and 60’s Southern California, but the Seattle area had it share as well. Though quicky disappearing, there are still some remnants of this modern and space-age look around Seattle, and this Ballard Mannings building is one of them, and that’s why it’s so important to try to preserve this building.

Googie Architecture features bold angles, sweeping cantilevered roofs and pop-culture design. It was a way to grab and hold the attention of a budding car-culture, as we sped by on the freeways. It was a glimpse of the future, Today.

Knute Berger has a great series of articles about the controversy at Crosscut, our local online magazine of news from the Great Nearby.

Denny’s fans hunger for a historic grand slam in Seattle (Los Angeles Times)

Degrees of separation

I love juxtapositions and reciprocity and capillaries of connections. I like to look for patterns and order and the weave, web and wiring between people and events. Relationships, correlations and networking connect the people, places and things in our lives.

Walt Crowley 2007

If you’re a Seattleite, you may know Walt Crowley, founder of, a journalist, a social services director, a policy planner for the City of Seattle and the Municipal League of King County, a television news commentator, a freelance writer, communications consultant and networker extraordinaire.

In a sad twist of fate, this former radio and television commentator, lobbyist and public speaker was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer on July 15, 2005. He began treatment at Group Health Cooperative in August, but chemo and radiation therapy ultimately failed to kill the disease, necessitating removal of his larynx on February 9, 2007. Luckily, word is he did well and is now in recovery. He’s not seeing guests quite yet (not even recent visitor Mayor Greg Nickels), but he’s making good progress. Slowly, he will learn to use one of those hand-held voiceboxes and will communicate with his multi-layered network of friends, political cronies, writers, artists and other assorted ne’er’-do-well’s in that way.

In the weeks before he went in for the surgery, he recorded his words so his wife, friends, family and, more importantly, he himself, would not forget how his own voice sounded.

In a degree of bravery I have rarely witnessed, the evening before his surgery he invited some of the friends, cohorts, sidekicks, well-wishers, patrons, advocates, supporters, politicians, ex-hippies and rabble-rousers he’s known, to come by one last time to hear him speak and for a going-away party for his voicebox.

Norm Rice, Walt Crowley, Jean Godden

There were several past mayors in attendance, including former Seattle Mayors Wes Uhlman and Norm Rice. Here is a photo of Walt, ex-Mayor Norm Rice and current City Councilmember Jean Godden.

Walt Crowley and Nick Licata

There were also many City Council members there, including President Nick Licata, Peter Steinbrueck and ex-Port of Seattle Commissioner Henry Aronson.

Danny O\'Keefe, Walt and Milo Johnstone

The place was packed. Writers such as Paul Dorpat. Artists such as David Kane (having his own battle with Hugo). Other writers like Milo Johnstone (The Magic Decade) and singer/songwriter Danny O’Keefe.

Walt and Marlow

Walt is also the author of several historical tomes about Seattle University, my alma mater. He wrote “William J. Sullivan, S.J” , a celebration of Seattle University’s renaissance during 20 years under its 20th president and “Seattle University, A Century of Jesuit Education”.

Hubert Locke and Walt Crowley

Also in attendance was Ken Bunting, associate publisher of the PI, Tracy Rowland, Maura Donahue, Kurt Geissell, owner of our favorite brunch spot, Cafe Racer, and Quintard Taylor, Dr. Hubert Locke, Professor of Public Affairs, Dean Emeritus, and Marguerite Corbally Professor of Public Service and author of Learning from History: A Black Christian’s Perspective on the Holocaust and Searching for God in Godforsaken Times and Places: Reflections on the Holocaust, Racism, and Death

John Carlson and Walt Crowley

Walt used to have a show on KIRO-TV called “Point/CounterPoint” with John Carlson, who is still a talk show host on conservative talk-radio, KVI. The show consisted of exchanges between the conservative organizer John and left-wing writer Walt. The mini-debates aired two or three times a week and covered a wide range of political and social topics.

Walt Crowley and John Carlson

John stopped by for one last verbal spar with Walt, the night before the surgery.

One of Walt’s great successes was the founding of History Link, a fabulous State of Washington history website, with over 100,000 visitors a day.

So what does any of this have to do with real estate

The seed money for came from a $100,000.00 grant from Paul Allen, owner of Vulcan Real Estate, the builder of 1000’s of condo’s in the Seattle area and also owner of Vulcan Capital, the main funder of Redfin.

Also, the Seattle-King County Association of Realtors created the First Citizen’s Award in 1939 to honor outstanding community and civic leaders who’ve made a contribution to improve the region where we live. (The Gates Family were recipients in 1995, Jeff Brotman, founder of Costco in 2005, the McCaw’s in 2004. Dale Chihuly was a recipient in 2006. (Read “Glass Artist = Realtor?”).

The Association of Realtors created a relationship with Walt’s organization,, to memorialize the 1st Citizen Award event and most importantly, the contributions of the past recipients. Walt helped write the biographies to provide a new, authoritative, and easily accessible historical reference. created 1,500 word biographies for each past recipient.

This past week, Crowley took his voice on a farewell tour, appearing on public radio and local TV news stations:

Cancer claims radio host’s voice on NPR

Historian’s voice still fighting to be heard

NPR (KUOW) radio interview with Walt Crowley

Seattle historian loses voice (KOMO-TV)

A voice of Seattle faces a challenge (Seattle Times)

To send get-well wishes and to check up on Walt’s progress, you can visit Driving Mr. Walt.

War of the Classes

Jack London

Looks like someone’s got their panties in a bunch over Jack London’s “War of the Classes” The Scab, from a speech first given before the Oakland Socialist Party Local, April 5, 1903. Those who enjoy that might also like The Question of the Maximum
a speech first given before the Oakland Section of the Socialist Labor Party on Sunday, November 26, 1899 at the Grand Army of the Republic.

Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.

Thomas Sowell (1930 – ), Is Reality Optional?, 1993