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Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
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The Political Round-Up

Don't tread on me; Fanning the embers; Take your time; Book 'em, Dano?; Location, location, location 

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
This and that, scuttlebutt, a little speculation and string picked up along the way.

Ten local officials are scheduled to hold a press conference this afternoon to issue a joint statement about the city's recent proposal to annex four areas on the city's western outskirts. The officials include county commissioners Mike Dean and Stephen Nodine, School Commissioners Bill Meredith and Ken Megginson, state legislators Jim Barton, Spencer Collier and Chad Fincher, state Sens. Ben Brooks and Rusty Glover and Sheriff Sam Cochran.

A complaint with the state ethics commission against Mobile County Commissioner Mike Dean is in the works, according to various sources. Dean's detractors hope to fan the embers from last spring's firestorm over his use of public discretionary funds to help retire a private debt incurred in the construction of a field house at Alma Bryant High School in south Mobile County.

Democratic attorneys battling to keep the party's school board nominees on the ballot in November are mulling various legal strategies, among them resisting any acceleration of the legal process. It is the thinking of at least one attorney that Probate Judge Don Davis' complaint asks Circuit Judge John Lockett to remove the names of Levon Manzie and Reginald Crenshaw from the ballot. Such language suggests Manzie and Crenshaw are on the ballot. If that is the case, supporters of the unopposed school board candidates see no need to rush matters. Assert your prerogatives, allow the ballot to be printed with their names and make barring them from office an even more disagreeable task.    

Sheriff Sam Cochran's all-time favorite law enforcement show is ...?

Mobile City Councilwoman Connie Hudson has joined Robert Brothers as a real estate agent with the (Elaine) "Sessions Team."

Candidates for mayor of Mobile and the seven City Council seats can start raising money for their campaigns beginning Monday. Municipal elections are scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009.

News should soon leak that Evan Bayh, former Indiana governor and its junior senator, is the likely Obama VP pick, per Mobile native attorney who travels in upper Democratic reaches.

A $500,000 project to replace the bridge on Museum Drive at the botanical gardens and municipal park should be completed in mid-September, according to John Peavy of Peavy Construction.

An item in the paper's Sunday real estate section caught Renee Williams' eye. The Chevron station at Government and Ann streets sold for $775,000. So the county revenue department veteran, who is also the Democratic nominee for revenue commissioner, did a little research. She suspected the transaction would be another case in point in her argument that homeowners are bearing an unfair share of the county's property tax burden. Her instinct was rewarded, she said, when she learned that the real estate was appraised at $268,200 and the equipment upon it at almost $69,000.

Homeowners are paying a penalty under the present annual reappraisal system, said Williams, because residential sales occur far more frequently than commercial sales, resulting in increased values and tax payments for homeowners while commercial real estate gets the benefit of a lag before tax payments reflect true value. Additionally, many homeowners are further penalized because their neighbors' properties are improved in advance of their sale, leading to a higher sales price and skewing the appraised value of nearby properties whose owners intend to spruce up the place one of these days, said Williams.   

"(With the sale of the gas station) My point is that the total property being taxed by our office was less than half the market value it sold for," Williams said. "That's my problem with reappraisals based on sales and residential sells more frequently than commercial. So homeowners are suffering more frequent tax increases.

"Working people are paying a heavier load and commercial business is getting a break. In my opinion that is a problem with the system."

"The three main factors controlling the value of real estate are what? Location, location and location. If residential has appreciated then so has the commercial."

"I would rather us go back to four-year reappraisals," she said. "I think it takes four years to measure trends. One year gets a blip of what's happening in the market. A sustainable trend takes longer to identify. For instance, when they lower interest rates we have a boom. But interest rates fluctuate so you get a better idea (of true values) over time. I would rather look at all 12 sales rather than four sales this year, four sales next year and four sales the year after that. You see artificial increases the way we're doing it right now."

"It would be good for us to slow it down so we could do a better job," she said.

Another flaw in the system, said Williams, is the concept that the value of one house automatically increases because of the sale's price of another house in the neighborhood.    

"That thinking doesn't allow for differing conditions in the neighborhood, " said Williams. "Of course the house that sells is going to be in the best condition possible. The rest of us are just trying to fill our gas tank and pay the utility bills on time."
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