In a major disappointment to many reform-minded New Orleanians, opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment to replace the seven-member board of assessors in Orleans Parish with a single assessor successfully killed legislation that would present such a referendum to Louisiana voters. Although the bill purportedly had the support of Governor Blanco in the second post-Katrina special session, it failed to emerge from the House Ways and Means Committee.

Fortunately for the seven assessor board members who are seeking re-election and fighting to preserve the status quo, two members of the committee are close relatives of board members. Rep. Jeff Arnold, pictured on the right, is the son of board member Tom Arnold, and Rep. Alex Heaton, pictured on the left, is the brep102.jpgrother of board member Henry Heaton. Refusing to even recuse themselves, both Arnold and Heaton voted against the bills in committee. In a radio interview on WWL-870 after the session, Arnold would not say whether he was for or against having one assessor in Orleans Parish, but claimed he voted against the bill because it was diverting attention and resources from more pressing issues like housing and levee rep95.jpg
reform. Since the interview was not televised, it is unknown whether or not Arnold made this claim with a straight face.

In the meantime, a reform group calling itself “IQ” for “I Quit” is recruiting candidates to run against the seven established board members. According to a recent front page story by the Times-Picayune, IQ candidates would pledge to donate their salary to hire a private firm to perform the assessor functions of the parish, lobby the Legislature to consolidate the seven offices into one, and step down should such an effort be successful. The group, which evidently does not yet have an official website, has not announced the names of any of its candidates. Qualifying is March 1-3. Developing . . .