Monday, January 14, 2008

One week til Legislative Session, time to get to work!

“…Because if people don’t turn up the heat, if legislators aren’t hearing from constituents, then it is a problem. We assume if we don’t hear it is a problem then it must be generally OK. So legislators have to be contacted that there is a problem. And it can’t be just one person or two people it’s got to be regular or constant. “

Hola Friends and Neighbors,

It is time. Time to go to work. The legislative session begins in a week. In conversation with trusted legislators sympathetic to the cause for significant property tax reform I suggest we begin a campaign of emails and letters to our legislators and even our detached - seemingly out of touch Governor.

Maybe you are tired of listening to me. So listen to one of our most effective legislators as he describes an effective strategy for all of us to lobby for property tax reform:

“If D-Bell sent a blanket email to 75 House members. That is not as meaningful as if a constituent in each of the Representatives’ District sends them the same email. You send an email to your local Representatives and Senators. Someone sends me an email. It says the same thing, but it’s from somebody I know. And what makes it even more effective is if it is from somebody you know that is sending it to you. So it is just not something out of the blue, a constituent, it’s a constituent you know that is maybe been involved in the political process. For example, one of your precinct chairs or one of your delegates sent you the message then that becomes even more powerful. Because these are people you know and work with on a very regular basis, rather than maybe you see them once a year or have never seen them or met them in you life.”

D-Bell: “So up close and personal is better.”

Yes, up close and personal is better because these are people that are voting for you. It’s not just some crank in the State. It is THIS is somebody who actually votes for me. So that is why I tell folks when I go talk to them, when you send an email; The Subject line needs to be specific. “Property Tax Reform issue”, “Request for Property Taxation Relief”, versus “Taxes”, or “Complaint”. The body of the email should be concise and to the point. One paragraph if possible and a recommendations are always appreciated. The tone should be respectfully authoritative. And the signature line should include your name and address as well as your phone number and email contact information.

That way (we) can see exactly where you live. Because when I get 500 emails in a day during the session, I’m not going to worry about answering emails from who knows where in the State. But if I’ve got one from a constituent, I’m going to try and answer it. And I am going to try and pay particular attention to what their concern is because it is a concern coming from my District.

And the level of threat thing depends. A couple of years ago we had the bank - credit union thing. And when people would do the threat thing, “You’ll never get elected again.” Some Representatives cower from that fear. But others become obstinate and if they threaten me that way, I am going to vote the other way just to show’em.

So when it comes to “heat” on the legislature everyone is a little bit different. But turning up the “heat” is important. Because if people don’t turn up the heat, if legislators aren’t hearing from constituents, then it is a problem. We assume if we don’t hear it is a problem then it must be generally OK. So legislators have to be contacted that there is a problem. And it can’t be just one person or two people it’s got to be regular or constant. There has got to be where somehow we get the media talking about. But even if the media doesn’t talk about it if each Representative heard from a thousand constituents during the session…problems about property taxes. They would take notice.

If they only get one letter (or email) from D-Bell and never heard from anyone else…some are going to be sensitive and say we got a problem but others will say all I got was one email. It must not be a problem.

D-Bell: “That’s where I run into problems locally. The people in this Valley… everyone wants someone else to do their work for them. Every one wants to feel like if I tell this one person something and he is raising Hell about it. Then I have fulfilled my civic obligation. And I have had them apologize and say we have become complacent or apathetic because you’re doing such an excellent job for us and so on. But the down side is I am the only one doing it, like you say. I went to the Weber County Budget hearing in December and out of 227,000 people in Weber County I was the only one there.”

And what did the Commissioners say? Only one guy has a problem with the budget.

D-Bell: “Well I graciously thanked the Commissioners for having budgeted a whole $86,000 for direct expenditures on two-thirds the County land mass. I was being facetious and cynical of course…”

This is one of my concerns. Back in September when we had the hearing on Property Taxes. We had what 125 people show up. It is 125 people out of 2.5 Million. OK, 125 and then an extra 100 letters or so, and in best case 200 people got engaged on it. I mean that is not even 1%.

D-Bell: "I gave you two petitions signed by more than a thousand people. But you are right, had we known more we could have stuffed the corridors with people. We actually were trying to just fill the small room."

So that’s why I have some colleagues that say, “Yeah, there are a few people that got affected but it’ll work itself out. We don’t have a problem.” And currently I am hearing too many Representatives saying “Well, we don’t have a problem.”

D-Bell: “That's denial. Maybe I am reading the tea leaves wrong…I need to give them some credit. But from my world people are seething or simmering. There is a simmering discontent. We still have not heard, for example, from our appeals of our property. We don’t know what our property taxes really are. We do not, I don’t know. And many who have been notified either can not pay or have filed an appeal to the first appeal.”

I didn't know that. Interesting.
And what you have is... I think guys like ________ are very frustrated with the Davis County; they went 10 yrs. without reappraising. Totally contrary to what the law is and trying to figure out.

D-Bell: “That also is not totally true. The Assessor did reappraise, but said, “Well I’m not going to tell people their taxes are going up this much. I’m going to cut the appraisals by the ten percent. Because, the State Tax Commission allows them (the assessors) to assess within 10% of current market value. Otherwise they (State Tax Commission) would step in issuing corrective orders and such. So the guy was actually doing something. He was just “low balling” I guess you could say.”

Legislators are agitated about that issue. We had a similar situation in my District a few years back. It was hit very hard and there was outrage but only from that one area. No one else was complaining –they were the only ones in the media.

And this is my concern when they say well let’s do a “carve out” for retired citizens. OK what you did was; the people that were most agitated you all of a sudden took them out. You gave them a break, you placated them. And guess what? That working class guy, he is still working in the warehouse, he doesn’t have time to go to the hearing. But the retired citizen who has time and who doesn’t care says “Hey, I don’t have high taxes anymore (or they are greatly reduced) so it is a non issue for me.”

D-Bell: “Yes, and they (the retired community) just shoved it off onto the working guy and his family, who is already over burdened.”

Yeah, and neutered the ones who are going to be the most outspoken. And that’s why I think we all ought to be in one boat rather than just doing little “carve outs”.

D-Bell: “Yes, that is what I was trying to say back on 19 September. I understand all of that stuff.”

If you will shoot me an email about the blogs out there, so I can read what is going on.
We have a common cause and hope we can continue work together.

Help with instructions about exactly who to contact and how next post.


D-Bell, aka minor machman

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