Sunday, June 7, 2009

Where's The Burning Sense Of Justice?

Jim Burn rode to the defense of Dan Onorato in a recent letter published by the Post-Gazette. He apparently was in such a hurry to saddle up that he may have inadvertently left some of his principles behind.

Mr. Burn is not only a county council member and a supporter of Dan Onorato but also -- as mentioned at the close of his letter -- chair of the Allegheny County Democratic Party. With the Democratic Party's history and values in mind, my eyes grated on these passages of Mr. Burns' letter:

In theory, Jim's [Roddey'] approach on assessments would work out any inequities that may exist in the system.
Jim talks about the consequences of Dan's base-year system. By continuing to use 2002 assessments, Allegheny County has stayed on an equal playing field with surrounding counties. It seems to be working.
Any inequities that may exist? The current system seems to be working?

Here is an "inequity that may exist": This property was offered for sale yesterday on one of the "Panorama of Estates" shows I sometimes stumble upon while looking for Meet The Press or This Week on Sunday mornings. Asking price: $1,500,000.00. Doesn't seem unreasonable for a six-bedroom, 5,700-square-foot home with an ancillary building on four acres of Fox Chapel. What is unreasonable, however, is the property's assessment: roughly half the asking price.

Here is how the system is "working" in less lofty areas. This property was profiled in a Post-Gazette article on Saturday. Asking price: $89,900. Seems reasonable for a well-maintained, two-bedroom home on one-sixth of an acre in Turtle Creek, and in line with the assessed value, $85,000.

The system seems to be working for property owners in Fox Chapel and Sewickley (unless, of course, their sense of honor and morality curbs their selfishness), and for owners of million dollar properties in other pockets of the county, as the next paragraph depicts. But is it working for Amy Horton (by the way, if you're looking, she appears to have done nice things to the interior) and her neighbors in Turtle Creek? What about taxpayers in Homewood? Duquesne? Braddock?


Asking prices vs. (assessed value) for homes currently offered in Allegheny County: $6,750,000 ($2,224,500); $5,000,000 ($1,441,400); $2,700,000 ($1,625,000); $3,200,000 ($1,349,000). These figures establish the immorality of the county's current assessments.

Did I miss the part of the recent Democratic Committee bylaws convention at which the party slogan was changed to 'Afflict the afflicted, and comfort the comfortable?'

Jim Burn and the party he leads are better than the positions expressed in that letter, promoted by certain elected officials and inflicted on the less-affluent residents of Allegheny County. I hope he reconsiders and brings his position into better alignment with what I believe to be Mr. Burn's worthy moral compass.

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