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Assessor Reform


As New Orleans faced the challenge of a massive recovery from the Katrina disaster, issues related to local property valuations came into focus. Since the 1930's good government reformers had assailed the property tax collection system, which encompassed seven separate assessor offices, as being unfair and rife with political patronage. It became clear after Katrina that local property assessments were so flawed as to be worthless in valuing damages done by the storm and flood.

Members of Citizens for 1 saw an opportunity to change the entrenched property assessment system and voiced a public call for assessor reform legislation that would consolidate the seven assessor offices into a single office and require a uniform method of assessment. The organization and the Business Council of New Orleans worked directly with lawmakers to get a bill introduced.

Members of Citizens for 1 then spent weeks at the state capital and attended and testified at every legislative committee session while the bill was under debate. It was an uphill battle, but the measure finally passed. Like levee board reform, assessor reform required amending the state constitution and raising significant funds for a statewide public education campaign. This amendment passed by a large margin in November of 2006, with 80 percent of approval of voters statewide and 70 percent of voters in New Orleans.

Levee board and assessor reform measures were both about good governance, ethical standards, and accountability and about changing antiquated political systems and replacing them with boards of professionals and standards of excellence.

After the passage of these two historic legislative measures, the publisher of The Times Picayune, Ashton Phelps stated in 2006:

"These citizens want a safe city behind sound levees so that no generation would endure what we have endured, and more than that they want honest and efficient city government, one free of old habits of cronyism and patronage that stifled progress and made us all unsafe."