While introducing his running mate by e-mail yesterday, Dan Onorato told Pennsylvanians they "can't afford to elect Tom Corbett" because the attorney general "politicized his office and misused his power."
Mr. Onorato has highlighted a worthy point. Public acts designed with campaign ends and political friends in mind are a substantial problem in Pennsylvania. For example:
The Victorian brick manse at 5325 Wilkins Avenue in Pittsburgh contains six bedrooms and seven bathrooms among its 6,500 feet of living space on three-quarters of a high-end landscaped acre in the city's East End. Its current owner paid $1.2 million dollars for the property, but pays taxes on an assessed value of $625,000. This inaccuracy -- declared unconstitutional by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, immoral by anyone with a conscience -- saves the owner nearly $3,000 each year in county property taxes, perhaps another $12,000 annually in school and municipal taxes.
The current occupant? A substantial supporter of a county executive who manipulated assessments for political reasons in a manner that provides a five-figure benefit to just one of his political supporters each year.
One should not jump to conclusions about favoritism, however.
Bishop Zubik, leading by example, recently chose humbler quarters, ending the tradition of a sumptuous bishop's residence (left) in the relevant neighborhood (underassessment: at least $500,000), but this neighborhood nonetheless appears to be a blessed one -- at least, for those able to afford to live there.
The residents of Braddock and Duquesne and Clairton who subsidize the underassessment of million-dollar properties, meanwhile, are left to pray for deliverance in the form of a county executive who doesn't politicize his office and misuse his power.
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