Affiliate Spotlight: Christine Young Gertz
Chris Gertz has served as the Government Affairs Director for the Pennsylvania Apartment Association for eight years. NAA recently asked Gertz about the political atmosphere in Pennsylvania, how it’s affecting the apartment industry and why she takes daily trips to her local airport.
NAA: What are your association’s state and local legislative/regulatory priorities this year?
CG: One of the largest, if not the largest burden on our members’ properties is their property tax obligation. And, to make matters worse, school districts in significant numbers are appealing the property tax assessments of larger properties in their districts, particularly apartment communities. The practice of singling out a specific property for an appeal of their property tax assessment is known as a spot appeal. Our members are getting hit hard with spot appeals. We’ll be focusing on legislation to eliminate the practice. Locally, budget challenges, education funding and infrastructure are the key issues in our surrounding counties, including Philadelphia.
NAA: What races are you watching this year?
CG: The governor’s race is getting most of the attention –Pennsylvania usually rotates between Democrat and Republican governors every eight years. Voters bestow two four-year terms on each governor before switching to the opposing party. But this year could be different. Our Republican governor is nearing the end of his first term with a very low approval rating. A few formidable Democratic challengers could have a real shot. They are spending money early and gaining impressive presence in the media. Democratic candidate Tom Wolfe currently has the highest poll numbers.
NAA: What are your typical day-to-day responsibilities as your association’s government affairs director?
CG: Well, I begin most days with a trip to the local airport, where the Goodyear blimp is anchored. I’m a registered lobbyist, and an attorney. That’s a lot of hot air to replenish each day. Then it’s off to the trendy downtown watering holes to hob-knob with local celebs and the 15 minute “famers.” We lobbyists get around. But seriously, most days I spend the bulk of my time following legislative activity in the state capital, Harrisburg, researching legislative topics, writing position papers and letters, advocating our position, contacting legislators and attending meetings.
NAA: How did you get involved in politics?
CG: My mother was involved in local politics, and served as a Republican committee person in our town for several years. I guess I caught the bug from her. When I was young I would help her drop off campaign literature door to door before every election. Our dinner table conversation always turned to the issues of the day. She encouraged me to think objectively about candidates and issues, to look at things closely, beyond the headlines, to all the facts and their relevance. “Keep your sense of fairness,” she’d say, “but don’t be afraid to take a stand.”
NAA: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
CG: It’s getting easier but I’d say our “heavy lift” centers on the ancient misperception of landlords as the bad guys. I love pointing out that in this modern world where our leases are contracts, no one is a “lord of land” as in feudal times. So we don’t even use the word “landlord,” Every town needs quality rental housing. And I have to say NAA’s trillion dollar industry economic study has helped dispel the old landlord myths – keep it coming!
NAA: What is your favorite political movie?
CG: Ok – laugh if you want – “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” It’s cynical but with a happy ending – D.C. should be so lucky.
NAA: Who do you follow on Twitter?
CG: Confession – I don’t follow any celebrity or notorious musings on a regular basis. Most end up looking like twits, not tweets (myself included). I mostly follow family and friends.
NAA: If you weren’t in politics, what would you be doing?
CG: I‘d be a famous film director. Or maybe a television talk show host. Oh -- did you mean seriously? I’d write full time. Or teach American history. I was born and raised in Morristown, N.J., a historic area. It was strategically important to Washington’s army during the Revolution. And now I’m in Philadelphia. I guess history is in my blood.