Yesterday I went to the Dome,
and no I wasn't there because I thought the Saints were playing or because I got confused about the LSU game.
We had our property tax appeal hearing. You see the tax assessor in our district appraised our house as if it was livable. It is gutted ready for construction to start, but worth about a third of what it will be when complete.
It is the first positive contact with any Government Agency I've had since the SBA came calling and persistently kept trying to lend up money.
My appointment was at 1:00PM so I left my office a little after 12.
I walked from my office on Poydras. As with any potential interaction with the wall of stupidity and indifference that characterizes any contact with our City Government, I was a little anxious. I wasn't sure what I would find and how I would treated.
Approaching the Dome I started to wonder if they had moved the hearings or something. There was no crowd of people nor was there any heavy security. I walked around the plaza to Gate E and only saw a few joggers out for their lunch run.
It took only about 2o minutes to walk down Poydras and find the appropriate Gate.
When I got to Gate E there was no line of people there was only a Dome Security guy and a metal detector. They didn't pat you down or make you empty your pockets. There was a uniformed security person She possibly was an NOPD officer but she smiled at everyone as we found our name on a list and signed in. I say everyone, when I walked up to her desk there was one man signing in ahead of me.
She gave instructions to go up the escalator and go to the left. At the top of the escalator was another Dome Security person, a woman seated behind an desk labeled Information she pointed around the corner.
Around the corner was another Desk where you signed in (again) for you hearing. Two very nice well trained ladies took my name checked my ID (not really I had known one of them for many years, but this is New Orleans). They gave me a card with my Hearing Officers Number (16) and told me to wait in the next room.
The Waiting Area had 50-75 chairs arranged in rows, much like the typical municipal office waiting area, except most of the chairs were empty there were only eight or ten people waiting. There was a bottled water cooler so I got a cup of water and sat down.
I was about 35 minutes early for my hearing.
Every couple of minutes someone would come out and ask whether there was anyone there for Hearing Officers "one to five" or "twenty to twenty five" and so on. My number(16) was soon called.
I was escorted into on of the Dome Club areas and there were people sitting at folding tables with boxes of file folders. My escort announced me to my Hearing Officer who greeted me by standing and shaking my hand. We confirmed what I was there for and she asked if I had anything to add to the letter I submitted. I told her my story, showed her the color photographs we had taken just for this appeal since we had submitted only black and white copies. I gave her a list of recent sales in the neighborhood for houses in the same condition as my house. We talked about the neighborhood and she asked a few questions.
Finally she told me the list of recent sales was very helpful because they weren't allowed to independent research. That was the first thing about the procedure which seemed odd. Why aren't they doing independent research. I though that's what they had been hired to do. All I had done was go to Realtor.com What is Your Home Worth and put in my address. If you have an appeal still pending I suggest you do that as well, they won't do it for you.
We discussed the process from here on and my second alarm bell went off. Apparently the City Council will vote on the appeals before the Property Owners have a chance to review or rebut the recommendations of the consultant. This to me seems like the Council is ducking their responsibility.
All in all the experience was not stressful. Everything was handled in a professional and pleasant manner. I finished my hearing fifteen minutes before it was scheduled to begin. I get the impression that most people aren't bothering to show up.
If City Government in generally treated citizens at this level I believe that confidence in government would be greatly increased. I give almost all of the credit to Mr. Rogers aka Arnie Fielkow.
(Beware the the link to Feilkow's old website in Adrastos' article is dead and references www.arniefielkow.com. That site is a place holder that lists links to Online Poker, Adult Dating Site, Payday Loan, Free Mobile Phone, Viagra, Hoodia, Debt Consolidator, Airline Tickets, Loan Till Payday, Cialis and BiSexual Dating. Looks like the Ten Best Reasons to Stay away from the Internet. The Scamers are everywhere.)