Public records reveal shocking pattern of environmental recklessness by homebuilder Conner HomesDecember 21, 2018
In October, we announced that we would be doing a sweeping public records request regarding Charlie Conner, one of the leaders of the anti-worker Freedom Foundation (Opt Out Today). In addition to guiding the Freedom Foundation’s failed assault on working people in Washington, Charlie also owns Conner Homes, a residential development company based in Bellevue.
We’ve scoured thousands of emails and permits between Conner Homes and the staff of local communities where Conner has been building across Western Washington, and what we’ve discovered in Conner’s track record is disturbing, and even dangerous. Building homes over industrially poisoned land, slashing acres of beloved neighborhood trees and allowing spills into protected wetland habitat are just a few of the shocking events we’ve uncovered.
We have also generated a list of all active and future Conner Homes projects, based on our public records requests and state registrations. Following, is the letter of warning that we will be sending to all residents near current and future Conner Homes projects as well as officials involved in the building process.
We can all agree that our neighborhoods are precious, and we are writing to you about protecting yours. This letter is a warning that a home builder with a track record of environmental recklessness will be coming to your neighborhood soon, if they are not there already. That developer’s name is Conner Homes.
When developers come to your neighborhood, you can expect traffic jams, road closures, truck exhaust, construction noise and dusty air. When Conner Homes comes to build in your neighborhood, you may be in for much more.
Our organization just completed a search of all city and county building records by Conner Homes in the last five years, and we felt it imperative to prepare people like you, who may be impacted soon. Here’s what you need to know about Conner Homes’ history of environmental negligence in neighborhoods just like yours:
- Willingness to build on poisoned ground: We all want to live in a home where we know that our children and pets are safe from industrial poisons, yet Conner Homes knowingly built a Renton subdivision on land that was poisoned from years of arsenic use. At the time of building, Charlie Conner (owner of Conner Homes) admitted that arsenic levels were still at 300 parts per billion, which scientists have determined can result in a range of ailments, including skin discoloration, stomach ache and diarrhea. Additionally, Conner’s property was near a Superfund site, whose land was soaked with years of creosote, a noxious lumber sealant.
- Clear-cutting neighborhood trees: The trees on our streets provide shade, character and habitat, but Conner Homes has shocked neighbors with massive losses of tree cover at his developments. In the town of Sammamish, citizens were outraged when Conner cleared 45 acres of beloved neighborhood woods, leading to neighbor protests at the work site. The woods were a protective buffer to adjacent Lake Sammamish and its rare run of spawning kokanee salmon. The city had passed a new more restrictive tree ordinance before the Conner Homes clear-cut, but Conner Homes decided to disregard the ordinance because the ordinance passed after their initial permit to build was filed. Clearly choosing the company’s convenience over neighborhood welfare.
- Spilling worksite debris into neighborhood wetlands and streams: Our wetlands are an essential habitat for wildlife, and a crucial filtration system for a healthy Puget Sound, yet Conner Homes has shown disregard for their protection while building. In the town of Edgewood, a washout from Conner’s construction site carried fill material into an adjacent sensitive natural area. Conner Homes’ overflow of imported fill material altered the channel of a stream, as well as inundating a wetland and its protective buffer. It took Conner Homes more than a year to attempt a mitigation of this event.
If, like us, you cherish the sanctity and benefits of the natural beauty of your neighborhood, it is not too late to act and protect yourselves from Conner Homes’ destructive behavior. We urge you to talk with your neighbors and contact your city council members, to demand caution and careful government oversight in all phases of Conner Homes’ projects in your neighborhood.
Your friends at the Northwest Accountability Project
Bob Wickers’ Far-Right RolodexOctober 30, 2018
Do you have what it takes to work at the Freedom Foundation? With his history of working for clients who fight against workers’ rights, Bob Wickers does. A long-time political consultant to the Far-Right, he’s also the new “Vice President of Operations” at the Freedom Foundation.
We’ve written about the exodus of women from Freedom Foundation leadership, and now here’s a closer look into this newest staffer’s history – filled with controversial, dubious, and downright awful clients. Evidently, just the kind of operative the Freedom Foundation was looking for.
The Freedom Foundation and Hate Groups: Fellows in FundraisingOctober 17, 2018
The Freedom Foundation’s Dinesh D’Souza ProblemSeptember 7, 2018
The anti-worker Freedom Foundation/Opt Out Today has sunk to a new low by choosing bigoted pundit, Dinesh D’Souza, as the keynote speaker at their annual gala at the Hilton Bellevue in Washington on September 28. The Hilton should show better judgment in who they allow to speak at their facilities. We call on the Hilton to cancel D’Souza’s appearance.
D’Souza has made millions from his racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and anti-working class writings and movies. He has heaped praise on growing income inequality and the strife that working people endure. He opposes the Civil Rights Act, called President Obama a “boy” from “the ghetto”, said that American slaves were treated “pretty well” and African Americans behave differently from other races through negative behavior and dependency. In college, as the editor of the student newspaper, he publicly outed LGBTQ students without their permission.
He is so extreme that even other conservatives dislike him. He was once banned from CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference), the annual gathering of Republican ideologues, because he mocked teenage survivors of school shootings. Many conservative thought leaders have accused him of being at the center of the intellectual rot occurring on the right.
When the Freedom Foundation announced D’Souza as the keynote for their fundraiser, Freedom Foundation CEO, Tom McCabe said of D’Souza, he’s “…a perfect fit for the Freedom Foundation.” For once, we agree with McCabe’s assessment.
D’Souza follows 2017 keynote speaker, Andy Puzder. Puzder, as you may recall, is an alleged domestic abuser and accused wage thief who actively opposed minimum increases as CEO of Hardees/Carl Jrs. He was Trump’s first failed nominee for Secretary of Labor.
The anti-worker Freedom Foundation/Opt Out Today has two diametrically opposed messages: what they tell public workers and what they tell their funders.
The Freedom Foundation tries to convince public sector workers that they are better off without their union in the hopes that if enough people drop, the union will cease to exist. They fund this mission by raising money from a who’s who of out-of-state extremist billionaires who would like to see an end to labor unions — including the Koch Brothers, the Walton Family, and the Wisconsin-based Bradley Foundation. This poses a problem for the Freedom Foundation: On the one hand, they need to convince union members that they care about their well-being and on the other hand they need to convince their out-of-state funders that they are actively working to destroy unions, lower wages, and gut pensions.
Nowhere is this conflict more pronounced than their annual fundraising event. It’s why you won’t see any footage of the event or what is likely to be an outrageous and bigoted speech by D’souza and why they pay a private security detail to monitor the event. If the happenings of their gala were to ever reach actual working people, the Freedom Foundation’s lies would be exposed.
Meet Tom McCabe: The reckless, unethical, and failing leader of the Freedom FoundationAugust 21, 2018
When conservative ideologue Tom McCabe took the reins at the Freedom Foundation as CEO in 2013, he made his goal crystal clear: to utterly dismantle the power of working people in Washington and Oregon.
McCabe and the Freedom Foundation believe that if they take organized labor out of the picture, they can work with their right-wing allies to elect regressive, Republican candidates and push an extreme conservative agenda in the Pacific Northwest. McCabe’s vision has been made clear in a number of YouTube videos, fundraising documents, and on the Freedom Foundation’s own website.
Over the last four years, McCabe has spent countless resources — including staff hours and donors’ money — in a blatant effort to harass workers and coerce them to opt out of their union. He’s directed Freedom Foundation staff to aggressively obtain the names, home addresses, and other personal information of working people in order to contact them via mailings, social media, phone calls, and through door-to-door canvasses. Union members all across Oregon and Washington have reported incidences of Freedom Foundation staff visiting their workplaces unannounced, and even coming right to the doorsteps of their homes to harass and intimidate them. We even received reports that the Freedom Foundation lies about who they are (claiming they are union organizers) and that they’ve claimed that the union provided them with members’ contact information. These are all lies.
Despite McCabe’s rhetoric and outright disregard for the law and the privacy of workers, his efforts have been a complete failure. Union members have embraced their unions. And they’ve come together in an effort to protect themselves and their coworkers from the Freedom Foundation’s lies and efforts to badger them at work and at their homes.
A long line of failures
The failure of the Freedom Foundation’s “opt-out” campaign is yet another in a long line of their failures. To this date, they have not passed any significant legislation in either Oregon or Washington. Their local attempts at passing “right to work” laws have all failed, and Oregon, Washington, and California are all dominated by Democrats passing some of the most progressive pro-worker policies in the country. This includes historic minimum wage increases and paid sick leave… issues the Freedom Foundation vehemently opposes.
McCabe’s bigoted and dangerous staff
McCabe has stopped at nothing to try and salvage his right-wing, regressive vision for the Freedom Foundation. This includes putting worker’s safety at risk by sending poorly vetted staff members to interact with union members and their families. The Freedom Foundations’ Washington Field Director Matthew Hayward — who oversees union member outreach — has a violent criminal record. Hayward has even joked about bringing a gun with him to the homes of workers.
McCabe has also surrounded himself with staff who have made disturbing and derogatory statements about women, communities of color, and the LGBTQ community. One former staff member wrote on a personal blog, “We all know there were good slave owners and bad slave owners just like there are good dog owners and bad dog owners.” One staff member even called for the deportation of all Muslims.
A waste of donor dollars
But even after all of these efforts and all their money spent, McCabe’s campaigns have been futile. In fact, union membership is at record levels along the West Coast in recent years. This is particularly true of AFSCME, SEIU, and the educators unions, the unions the Freedom Foundation has tried to attack. Additionally, a recent Gallup poll showed that support for unions is at a 14-year high.
In addition to wasting donor money on harassment campaigns, McCabe admitted that the Freedom Foundation has spent millions of their donors’ money on legal defense because of their scurrilous activities. This is no surprise, considering McCabe’s history of racking up legal bills and wasting donor funds. When he was head of the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), McCabe got into hot water with members — predominantly builders and contractors — by spending millions on failed conservative candidates and causes, moving the organization to the extreme right and violating state campaign finance laws.
McCabe will fail again
Unfortunately, this time, McCabe’s unethical and nefarious tactics have jeopardized the privacy of workers and have subjected them to harassment. We have every confidence that McCabe will continue to fail and put the Freedom Foundation out of business.
Until then, we will continue to protect workers and will always be their advocate. And we will continue to shine a light on extremism by the Freedom Foundation and their right-wing ilk. No one deserves this kind of treatment from a bully like Tom McCabe.