ERROL LABORDE: Imagine that – politics and assessors
Well I am shocked. Last week two state legislators, one the son, the other the brother of incumbent Orleans parish assessors accused the governor of playing politics. The charge came in response to Governor Blanco supposedly resorting to deal making in exchange for support of creating a constitutional amendment. If passed by voters, the amendment would reduce the Orleans parish assessors establishment from seven to one.
I wondered what the late big Jim Comiskey would think if he knew that politics had stained the world of assessors. Comiskey, during his prime, was the boss of the Third Ward who parlayed his assessor¹s position into a neighborhood political machine. One night a week the faithful would attend a meeting in his garage to ask for and have favors granted,
Quick now, describe what assessor Claude Mauberret looks like. The Mauberret family has had such a lock on their seat that they have been able to pass it down the family line without even being visible, and without serious opposition.
Algiers assessor Tom Arnold is said to have the best political organization on the West Bank and used it to get his son, Jeff, elected to the legislature.
And then there is Assessor Henry Heaton, the brother of lawmaker Alex Heaton, whose family over the years has been successful at having the legislative district lines drawn to favor them.
Betty Jefferson ended the reign of the once potent Burke family with the power of her brother Bill¹s political organization. And the Comiskey hold was stopped by another powerful political organization, BOLD.
Assessors have either kept their seat in the family or, as their districts turned black, lost to black political organizations. Perish to say, either way politics was involved. Truth is, having even one elected assessor is inherently political. If a person owes his job to his ability to keep taxes low than he will perform accordingly. That may not be good business but it is great democracy.
Having one assessor will not lessen the politics. In Jefferson Parish, where there is only one assessor, the Chehardys, first the father and then the son, have been powerful forces in property tax law. The old man ever chaired the committee on property tax when the present state constitution was drawn up.
Politics is not always bad, what needs to be eliminated though is the duplication, inefficiency and waste of having seven tomes too many offices. In the wacky world in which we live, Katrina has stirred some breezes of political reform. For the moment at least-reform is good politics.
Just thinking about New Orleans
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