Sunday, March 15, 2009

Media Are Corporations Too

In yet more sloppy writing by the Journal Sentinel, Marie Rhode, in her article Appellate Court Rules For City In Dispute Over Value of Parking Lot Near Airport, implies that the City tried to reopen a case after learning of a sale higher than the assessed value. I can only guess (much like Ms. Rhode must have done for her reporting) that she did not bother to read the court decision.

They way the article is written, it insinuates that after learning about a 2007 sale, the City tried to go back and increase the assessed values on a property for 2004 and 2005.

In late 2006, the City was merely presenting their case for their assessed value ($10,115,000) for 2004 and 2005 on a parking lot near the airport, to which Allright Properties was objecting. The court ruled in Allright's favor, the City appealed.

In 2007, "After post trial briefing, but prior to the trial court issuing it's decision [Court of Appeals #2008AP510]," the City learned that the Allright Properties parking lot had been sold for $12.3 million dollars (May 22, 2007); over $2 million more than the assessed value. This seems a pretty good indicator that not only was the City closer to the correct valuation on the property, they may have actually been low. The City asked that the record be reopened to allow this evidence. The City just wanted to use this evidence to support their case, not to punitively increase the assessment.

Sloppy reporting like this only continues the myth that the City (and government in general) is bad, corrupt, out to get people, and unfairly taking our money. None of that is true.

The real story should have highlighted the fact Allright Properties was claiming the City had overvalued their property by two-thirds at the same time the company was selling the property for even more than the assessment. This could have been an in-depth analysis of the avoidance schemes corporations use to escape taxation and cause regular homeowners to pay more. But instead, as usual, the media chose the false "government is bad...those poor businesses" perspective. Inexcusable!

Secondly, this story could have highlighted how bad court case law can be instituted when judges unfamiliar with assessment practices and real estate try to grasp and rule on cases they don't fully comprehend (luckily, the City appealed). Just another business-friendly judge doing crappy work? Who knows? The Court of Appeals judge reversed and remanded the judgment of the Circuit Court judge. Which implies that the Circuit Court judge did a disservice to the law and to taxpayers in reaching a decision, siding with Allright Properties, the first time.

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