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Tax reps who want to lower your tax bill – even if you don’t have one

As anyone who owns property in Shelby County knows, 2013 is a reappraisal year.

During reappraisal years, the Shelby County Assessor of Property updates property values throughout the county. For years, it’s been the norm that property owners will automatically file an appeal, forcing the assessor’s staff to defend the new values, because the property owner has nothing to lose. If they win a reduced property value, it cuts their tax bill.

A letter sent out from the Glanker Brown law firm last week gives some insight into this. Tax representatives are naturally eager to represent clients in appealing their values to the assessor, but the Glankler Brown letter was even addressed by name to some potential clients who don’t actually own property.

“You may have already received your notice of reappraisal from the Assessor’s Office,” the letter reads. “Many people throughout the county have indicated dismay at the values reflected on these notices given the overall status of the real estate market in the past several years.”

The letter does not note that the assessor has publicly stated on several occasions that the economic slump of recent years will be reflected in the county’s aggregate tax base as a result of this reappraisal – in short, that the county’s tax base will shrink somewhat because of lower values.

The letter goes on:

“We have considerable experience in handling all steps of the appeal process and would greatly appreciate the opportunity to review your recent Notice of Reappraisal to determine whether there is anything that we can do to assist you in obtaining a lower appraised value and assessment than recently placed on your property.”

Actuarial Study Predicting Soaring Health Care Costs Failed to Disclose Industry Ties

A study produced by the Society of Actuaries predicted medical claim costs could jump 32 percent nationally by 2017 for individual policies under the Affordable Care Act. The research study was widely written about in the press, including The Daily News.

Kaiser Health News and Politico Pro are now reporting the study failed to note the close ties between the actuaries making the forecasts and the insurance industry.

“Undisclosed in the SOA report was the fact that about half the people who oversaw it work for the health insurance industry that is warning about rate shock. The chairman of society committee supervising the project was Kenny Kan, chief actuary at Maryland-based CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield,” Kaiser Health News and Politico Pro reported.

Optum, the sister company of UnitedHealthcare, performed the research for the study. UnitedHealthcare is the nation’s largest private health insurer, the news organizations jointly reported.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act pointed out that the actuary society’s study failed to factor in the potential for competition to lower prices and the subsidies people will receive to purchase coverage.

Post-game from Grizzlies’ 104-83 win over Clippers

Scatter-shooting after the Grizzlies’ 104-83 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday at FedExForum evened their first-round playoff series at 2-2:

  • Rebounding, rebounding, rebounding. In the two games in Memphis (both wins), the Grizzlies out-rebounded L.A. 90-61. It’s no surprise, then, the Griz also own a 44-6 advantage in second-chance points over the last two games. “They beat us up on the glass again,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said.
  • Center Marc Gasol’s refrain for the Griz is “We have to be who we are.” They were again in Game 4 as he went for 24 points (18 in the second half) and 13 rebounds. Zach Randolph had 24 and 9. Asked about point guard Mike Conley, who had 13 assists (plus 15 points) getting the bigs the ball, Gasol said: “That’s what he’s supposed to do. We expect him to be the playmaker that he is.”
  • The Griz starters beat the Clippers starters 88-40 in Game 4 (Chris Paul and Blake Griffin each had 19 points). So it didn’t matter that the Clippers’ bench had 43-16 edge on the Grizzlies. As in Game 3, reserve Quincy Pondexter provided a spark for Memphis; he scored 10 in Game 4 and was hustling all over the court and logged time at the 1, 2 and 3 spots.
  • Griz coach Lionel Hollins rejected the idea they did much of anything different in terms of strategy these last two games. “We took away a lot of stuff (L.A. wanted to do offensively), but not by any scheme, but by hard play.”
  • Big Z-Bo, small Z-Bo. After averaging 13 points and 6 rebounds in the Game 1 and 2 losses, Randolph is averaging 25.5 points and 10 boards in the two victories. “Just getting the ball in the right spots, picking and choosing, being aggressive instead of holding and waiting for a double-team to come,” Randolph said of why the last two games have been better.
  • Someone please stop the tennis madness. Phrases like “holding serve” and “breaking serve” are being thrown around by everyone when talking about how the series “doesn’t really start” until a road time wins. Only one problem, besides how annoying the tennis lingo is, the series could go 7 games without a road team ever winning. That event would be unhappy for the Grizzlies, because Games 5 and 7 are in L.A. Game 5 is Tuesday; Game 6 is next Friday in Memphis.
  • A reporter noted that Gasol seemed a little ill at ease this week when he received his Defensive Player of the Year award while the Griz were 0-2 in the series. He agreed, but when asked if he felt more deserving of the award after evening the series, Gasol, true to form, said, “It doesn’t feel deserved now. We’re 2-2. We’re not 4-2. We haven’t done anything yet. We’ve still got to go out there and win a game.”
  • Chris Paul on the road ahead, with Game 5 and potentially Game 7 in L.A., “That’s why you work so hard for homecourt.”

Wharton on MPA Billboards, Maxine Smith & Republic Strike

 

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. didn’t have a whole lot to say about the Los Angeles Times column by T.J. Simers that is another in a series of diatribes by the L.A. Clippers columnist about Memphis in general.

But Wharton had much more to say about the Memphis Police Association billboards that got attention from Simers in the column with a national reach.

“This city does not support public safety,” read the billboards that include a sign reading, “Danger, Enter At Your Own Risk.”

“Forget this guy in L.A,” Wharton said at a Friday afternoon press conference when asked about the column. “The issue is the billboards. … I think it is self-centered. I think it is selfish. I think it has no place in our city. It never ceases to amaze me that people who have jobs and are comfortable basically pull up ladder once they get up in the tree house. Here we are out trying to bring jobs and tourism for others so that those in the private sector can have just a little bit of what those of us in the private sector (can have.)”

Wharton is concerned about the message the billboard sends to tourists and the impact on jobs in the tourism industry.

The administration and the police union are at impasse in contract negotiations and the union along with several other municipal unions is still in federal court with the city over the 4.6 percent pay cut city employees took in 2011.

“What about the people who lost their jobs during the recession?” Wharton asked. “They (city employees) did not lose their jobs and they will not lose their jobs as long as I can control it. … Is the 4.6 percent cut something to be proud of? Absolutely not. But I don’t think it’s as bad as losing your job.”

Wharton talked with reporters Friday afternoon on several topics after returning earlier in the afternoon from a trip to New York City.

He said he is considering naming one of the city’s three Confederate-themed parks after civil rights leader Maxine Smith, who died Thursday.

Wharton also said the city will monitor weekend garbage pickups by Republic Services, a private contractor for sanitation services with the city. Republic employees represented by the Teamsters union have been on strike for three weeks. Late in the third week, Republic added more drivers and put on extra crews to collect garbage in areas of the city where it hasn’t been picked up regularly since the strike began.

“This is a strike involving a private contractor. They are going to have to sort that out,” Wharton said. “We want the garbage picked up. We are assured it is going to be picked up.”
The city has informally told Republic executives that it expects the company to perform its duties under its contract with the city. If the city doesn’t like what it sees this weekend in that regard, Wharton said the city could put the company on formal notice which could be the beginning of contract sanctions including fines or withholding payment by the city.

 

Maxine Smith’s Legacy

 

Much had already been written over several decades about Maxine Smith long before this morning’s announcement that she died overnight at the age of 83 here in Memphis.

And even more will be written in the years to come.

Her death came about a year after her latest heart surgery.

Smith was the personification of the civil rights movement in Memphis from the mid 1950s to the move of black leaders into the political majority and establishment.

We wrote about her just over a year ago as she donated her papers to the Memphis-Shelby County Room of the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, a considerable trove of data essential to any understanding of our city in the mid to late 20th century.

Smith was one of the first newsmakers I covered extensively when I started doing this for a living nearly 40 years ago. And she was certainly the most controversial in 1975 and for many years later.

She could be polarizing in a substantial and meaningful way that I have never seen anyone else duplicate. And because she could be that polarizing, she almost always in the last 40 years negotiated from a position of strength in and out of the public eye. It was polarization for a purpose. It was polarization based on the premise that no matter how reasonable her position, the fact that she took the position meant she was going to be criticized for injecting race into the public discourse of a city already consumed by all things racial.

In those years, Memphis was still struggling with the idea that it was better to get such issues out in the open instead of making like they didn’t exist or should be hidden from view.

Those who disagreed with Smith politically invoked her name and their opposition to her to build their political support. Those who wanted her support invoked her name and their allegiance with her to build their political support.

But getting her actual political support was not as easy as saying nice things about her or declaring solidarity with her.

And she rarely responded to the kind of vitriolic criticism that has long made our politics much too focused on personalities and personality clashes.

Smith’s importance in the affairs of Memphis was her focus on what to do with power and how to use it once it was obtained.

It was what made her such a pivotal figure for so long and that is her legacy.

 

 

 

Dansette

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