In The News › Opinion: The heart of the matter

Jan 4, 2010

Source: CityBusiness

Filed under: Governance, Orleans Parish, Taxation & Assessments

Opinion: The heart of the matter

Monday, January 4, 2010
By CityBusiness Commentary

The New Orleans mayor’s race will hold the main spotlight in the upcoming elections, and rightfully so as the voters’ choice could largely determine the outside world’s perception of the city for decades to come.

Not as glamorous but no less important to the city’s future is the first election of a single assessor for Orleans Parish. Perhaps no other position holds as much influence on the fiscal welfare of the city. If the mayor is considered the face or figurehead of New Orleans with the City Council as its arms and legs, it could be argued that the assessor is the heart pumping monetary resources to the extremities.

Given that the existing seven-assessor system has choked off that vital blood supply to some parts of the city while hemorrhaging in others, it is critical that the new assessor work under a closely monitored set of guidelines to ensure New Orleans moves away from its regressive system of property valuations and tax management.

The nonpartisan Bureau of Governmental Research has created a model assessment system in its report, “In All Fairness.” It urges voters to ask the following questions of the candidates seeking the assessor’s post:

• How will the assessor structure the staff?
• What steps will the assessor take to staff the office with quality personnel?
• What will the assessor do to obtain and maintain accurate property data?
• What will the assessor do to produce accurate valuations?
• What will the assessor do to give the appeals process integrity?
• What steps will the assessor take to fairly apply and rigorously monitor exemptions?
• What will the assessor do to improve transparency and communication with the public?

The broad scope of the mayor’s race unfortunately lends itself to hyperbole on the campaign trail, in that candidates can often charm the public with platforms that lack actual substance.

But these questions demand specific answers from assessor candidates, and voters should eliminate from consideration any candidate who glosses over them with rhetoric.

The candidate either has a plan to restructure the staff, obtain accurate property data and bring transparency to the office or doesn’t. There’s no double-talking your way around it.

BGR provides general suggestions for each of its questions in its report, available at www.bgr.org. Voters should familiarize themselves with these basic guidelines, then demand specific action plans from the assessor candidates. It’s one thing to back the BGR guidelines in principle, but quite another to have a detailed working plan to put them in place.

New Orleans deserves no less than a heart that beats strong and true.•

Jan 4, 2010

Source: CityBusiness

Filed under: Governance, Orleans Parish, Taxation & Assessments

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