Sunday, April 16, 2006


"The status quo in New Orleans IS about power"


In a story in today's Daily Monopoly, Assessor Errol Williams makes a good, fiscally-conservative, case to merge the seven Orleans Parish Assessors into one. However, I'm not sure that is what Williams intended.

More is better?

Assessor Williams says:

Williams, whose district includes nearly half the property in New Orleans, agreed that all of the work in the city could be handled by one assessor. Look at Houston, he said, a city that has 2 million pieces of real estate and one assessor. By comparison, New Orleans has less than 200,000 pieces of property.

The difference, he said, is that Houston spends more than $20 million a year on property assessment, while New Orleans spends just $3.3 million. Apparently, Williams is making a case that spending $20 Million per year on assessment is better than spending only $3.3 Million.

If that is his point, then he only makes another case for merger or at least reducing the costs of assessing property in New Orleans by the 7 assessors.In Houston, properties are assessed for an average of $10 per property per year as opposed $16.50 per property per year in New Orleans.

Therefore, if New Orleans only had one assessor and employed the same methods as the single assessor in Houston, the cost in Orleans Parish would be reduced to $2 Million per year.

That would be a savings to the taxpayers of New Orleans of $5.2 Million during each 4-year assessment period. Williams statement beg the question of why it cost more to assess a piece of property in New Orleans than it does in a dynamic growing city like Houston.

Political power?

Williams other reason to oppose one assessor is:

"You don't want one assessor with all of that power, because as time goes on, that person will anoint or appoint your next mayor and your councilmen and your state representatives and things like that,"....

That begs the question of whether the Assessor in Houston anoints or appoints the mayor, councilmen and state representatives of Houston. How about the mayor, councilmen and state representatives of Baton Rouge, Shreveport or Lafayette?

The statement also begs the question of what "power" does an Assessor possess when the sole job is to appraise property. If political power comes with the ability appraise property then the appraisers used by all lending institutions in LA, must be the most politically-powerful people in the state. Perhaps they are the ones who anoints or appoint the governor of Louisiana.

Then perhaps Williams means something else. The sad truth is that the fight for maintaining the status quo in New Orleans IS about power; the power of the Assessor to reward their friends and punish their enemies.

If it is good for Orleans

Finally, if the current practice of having 7 assessors in New Orleans is found to be to the likening of those senators from East Baton Rouge (Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge) , Livingston (Heulette "Clo" Fontenot, R-Livingston) and Jefferson (Sen. Derrick Shepherd, D-Marrero) Parishes who opposed the Orleans merger at Thursday's senate committee hearing, this is an opportune time to amend the proposed Constitutional Amendment to provide 7 assessors in each of their parishes.

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