Among the most interesting political races in New Orleans, at least to us New Orleanians, are the efforts by several newcomers to unseat the seven incumbent property assessors. Those of you who live elsewhere might at this point be scratching your heads. Why would we need seven different people to assess property values in a city the size of New Orleans?
Why would we need seven people to do a job that could be done more efficiently (and, of course, at a much lower administrative cost) by one Assessor. Or at least one Assessor’s office. The answer is complicated, or at least the answer given by the current assessors (and their political supporters) is complicated. And, you know what that means, right?
Having seven assessors never made much sense, even before Katrina. Now it would only make sense if they were also co-starring in a production of Snow White. We can’t afford to waste money in New Orleans right now. A lot of small businesses are struggling, and so are some not-so-small businesses. Everybody has to think about how to trim fat. Sadly, even politicians.
The Louisiana Legislature considered a bill to consolidate the seven assessors into one but that hit some snags that I won’t belabor here. But when the legislature failed to do the job a group of passionate citizens got together and formed the I.Q. Ticket, which was a brilliant idea. The group is sponsoring seven candidates who, if elected, promise to quit their jobs (hence, the "I.Q.", which stands for "I quit"). The candidates tried to qualify to have the ‘I.Q.’ appear on the ballot but that effort failed to withstand a legal challenge.
What’s really interesting about this whole assessor thing is that pretty much everyone I talk to is against the seven assessors. The seven assessors have all taken pains to advertise that they have ‘open door policies’ (hint, hint: "we’ll work with you to make your assessment lower if you come see us and give us political support"). Amazingly, the people who seemingly would pay more taxes if assessments were done fairly and efficiently are most in favor of ditching the current assessor system. Even more amazing is that none of the local newspapers have endorsed the "I.Q. Ticket". They take the position that it’s an interesting idea, but it’s flawed legally or politically. They say, "well, the legislature is really the body that should address this."
Exactly. But they haven’t.
I think it’s great that the citizens group has come up with a novel, albeit perhaps legally and politically flawed, idea. How many times has our own legislature come up with legally and politically flawed legislation? Remember when we passed a law mandating the teaching of creationism in our schools? We had to defend that obviously unconstitutional law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
And so ask yourself: what if the incumbent assessors (several of whom have inherited the post from their parents like it was some sort of regal right of primogeniture) fail to get re-elected and the I.Q. folks are elected instead. Might that have some effect on the legislature? Maybe they’d say, "well, gee, that’s illegal and not political but it seems to be what the voters want. So maybe we should pass a law that authorizes it and makes it legal…."