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Marin Association of Realtors – Top 5 2014 Accomplishments and Farewell

Good day MAR members!

Wow, that was fun!

Happy Holidays to all of you! And a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy 4th day of Kwanzaa and Merry Festivus. Everyone got along at our house, I survived and I’m hopeful that all of you did as well. What a beautiful past week we’ve just enjoyed! For me, the happiest thing is that the days are once again getting longer. At our house in Cascade Canyon, this time of year the sun maxes out (minuses out?) at going down around 3:00 behind the ridge. That was a little over a week ago, and we’ve already got about 10 minutes more afternoon sun due to sun angles, slope angles, and other physics phenomena that I don’t totally understand.

As you may have gathered these past 12 months, sun indeed makes me happy! I even learned in college in Utah that on cold winter days you can still sit and be warm in the sun if there is no wind. It’s not particularly productive to try to race home by 2:00 so you can have an hour in the sun, but whatever it takes, right?

And it’s my last Monday memo of the year, and a bit of reflection is in order. Thank you in advance for your indulgence.

My little MAR odyssey started in 2010 when Dick D’Augustino, a Frank Howard Allen colleague, called me to tell me he was retiring and sought me out to replace him on the MAR Local Candidate Recommendation Committee. After thinking about it for a moment or two, I enthusiastically agreed and so it began.

In the summer of 2011, Dave Smadbeck called me and suggested that I consider being on the MAR Board of Directors. After initially opting to pass on the opportunity, I decided it would be an honor to serve.

In the spring of 2013, David saw me at an open house and invited me to attend CAR Legislative Day in Sacramento to witness the work of our statewide association first-hand. I really loved that perspective, and I had the opportunity to get to know some of our other CAR leaders in Kay Moore, Kathy Schlegel and Katie Beacock.

Later in the summer of 2012, Dave again called me, and asked me to consider becoming the President-elect in 2013, which would lead to the Presidency in 2014. That was nearly 2 1/2 years ago, and it’s been a marathon ever since. After wavering initially, I ultimately decided that the extra work would pay off for my career in the long run.

What a run it’s been!

Now it’s my turn to hand the gavel over to MAR’s 2015 President Matt Hughes. Matt and I joined the board at the same time in 2012. Matt is incredibly dedicated, and I know he’s going to have a terrific year as President. Congratulations Matt Hughes!

As the clock has wound down on 2014, reflecting on my year as President has occupied my thoughts through this holiday season.


So what did we get done? Well, lots of items were on our radar, but I’ll net it out with the following list:

1. Hiring Andy Fegley as CEO of MAR. We started this process in September of 2013, when our previous CEO Edward Segal moved to Los Angeles to take over the much-larger Beverly Hills/Greater Los Angeles Association of REALTORS®. After a long process, we met Andy and offered him the job in late January of this year. His first day at MAR was March 1. Andy has upended the operations of MAR, in a very good way, and his impact on the organization is still unfolding. All processes have been streamlined, and as a result we passed a budget last month that reflects a 6% reduction in operating costs while at the same time having more money allocated to member services next year. We also reformed MAR’s health care benefit plan, with substantial savings. In recognition of the MAR staff’s impact on the organization, Andy and his team were awarded with the MAR Making a Difference award earlier this month. MAR is being run as a business that takes itself seriously.

2. MAR focused on support of local control with planning decisions. This has been the dominant story in the county the last two years, and I saw the light early in 2013 during the Plan Bay Area wars. Before the IJ came out against it, and really before it became fashionable, I introduced a motion early in the summer of 2013 that MAR be opposed to Plan Bay Area because it circumvents local control over planning decisions. The MAR Board of Directors agreed, and it passed unanimously. Thus we began MAR’s policy leadership on this subject, going to numerous community meetings and ultimately testifying before multiple California Assembly and Senate committees in MAR’s successful support of Assemblyman Marc Levine’s AB1537, which passed this summer and lowered the minimum density in Marin from 30 units per acre to 20 units per acre for affordable housing projects. MAR also authored a housing policy for the association in 2014.

3. MAR successfully worked with the City of San Rafael to reform its Residential Resale Inspection process. This problem was at a fevered pitch during the first third of this year. Personnel changes in the San Rafael building department resulted in an organization that was completely out of synch with what was reasonable and what they were chartered to do. Again, I give Andy a lot of credit here, as his behind-the-scenes lobbying of the senior officials at San Rafael opened a new way of doing business at MAR. After lots of meetings, and much collective heartache for our entire membership, San Rafael passed a new policy this past summer which has improved the process substantially. I was getting 5+ calls a week on San Rafael in the spring last year, and I’ve not had 5 calls in the last quarter. I’ll call that progress.

4. Re-engaged a dialogue between MAR and BAREIS. No, we’re not holding hands and singing holiday songs together, but it’s difficult to describe or overstate the change in the tone of the conversation between these two organizations. To put it mildly, last year at this time, the organizations were barely speaking. Our prior CEO had been “dis-invited” from attending BAREIS board meetings. MAR’s members’ feedback and occasional cries for help were met with little reciprocation. We started 2014 with our third BAREIS Class B Director in three years, with great concern from previous Directors that our feedback went nowhere.

At the beginning of 2014, I was getting about 5-10 calls a week with feedback on our MLS partner. And none of the feedback was to tell me how great they were doing. Much has changed this year. MAR CEO Andy Fegley has met with and created a two-way dialogue with his staff counterparts at BAREIS. Andy and I attended the BAREIS Strategic Planning session last spring, and we shared a lot of frank feedback with BAREIS. Dave Egan has done a great job as MAR’s new Class B Director on the BAREIS Board, and much of BAREIS’ fine structure has been revamped in our members’ favor. It’s not perfect, as members are still frustrated about getting credit for off-market sales and the ongoing issues regarding the BAREIS exclusion form. But it’s a new era, and the dialogue is much more bi-lateral. My phone has quieted down considerably on MLS matters.

MAR has no direct authority over BAREIS, but I’ve worked to raise the profile of the importance of the upcoming BAREIS Class A Director election. For the first time in a while, we have a contested Marin election, with incumbents Frank Soda and John Hassler up for re-election for their two seats against candidates and MAR Members Brent Thompson and Larry Paul. Ballots for this election will be mailed out early next month, and I strongly encourage MAR Members to pay attention and vote for the two best candidates.

With MAR’s successful effort to get the Palsson injunction repealed last year, for the first time in a generation, Marin brokers control their own destiny as it relates their MLS partnership. This control is slowing reaping improved relations with BAREIS. There is lots of work still to be done, but open and partially responsive communications is a big start.

5. Member communications. We can always do better, but both I and MAR staff have worked hard to keep the membership informed of what we’re working on and what to be thinking about. I’ve tried to respond to every email and phone call…sorry if any fell through the cracks!


I’ll let 2015 MAR President Matt Hughes set his agenda and priorities for next year. I’ll still be on the board for one more year, but Matt is your top MAR Warrior starting on Thursday. There is still much work to be done on the various sewer lateral ordinances. Matt is very focused on Member Services, and you’ll see the first fruit of that focus in the soon-to-be launched new MAR website. Matt’s fingerprints are all over that initiative, and many others. You’re in good hands.

So I’ll leave it at that.

It’s been a huge, gigantic, monumental, thrilling honor to serve as your President of MAR this year. I’d like to thank Matt and the rest of the 2014 Executive Committee, Treasurer Arun Burrell, Secretary Yoko Kasai, and Past President Jack Wilkinson (a true MAR warrior, someone who has given so much to the organization for much of the last 30 years). And to the rest of the 2014 MAR Board of Directors, thank you, thank you for your support through this rewarding year.

To the MAR Membership, thank you for giving me this opportunity, and thank you for staying in touch. Your feedback has changed my perspective on various issues, and that feedback is so very important. When something was up, I generally got a finger on the pulse of the Association’s collective thinking very quickly. The membership was curiously consistent in its feedback, whether in support or concern for a subject.

Keep those cards and letters coming to Matt Hughes in 2015. Matt is going to do a great job, and I leave you with a very competent successor. As for me…woo hoo…back to civilian status!!

I wish you a safe and prosperous week, and a super-successful 2015!

Blaine Morris
2015 President