Wednesday, August 08, 2007


For today's report on class war in America we take you readers down to hang with the rich and famous in south Florida. Now anyone who has been to the Miami area can tell you how clear the divide is between those folks and the "real people" who inhabit the not always so beautiful, but still hot and humid areas, away from the sandy beaches.

Anyway, the story below will tune in on a small demonstration by union members who seem to be unhappy, and I can't imagine way, with the way their city/country taxes or doesn't tax the homes and condos of some of the richest people you're ever gonna meet.

But first, a little background.

Fisher Island is a census-designated place (CDP) and town located on a man-made island of the same name in both the City of Miami Beach and on unincorporated land in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Named for automotive parts pioneer and Miami Beach developer Carl G. Fisher, who once owned it, Fisher Island is 3 miles off shore of Miami, Florida. No road or causeway connects to the island, which is accessible by private ferry and helicopter.

Today, Fisher Island is a very exclusive and wealthy community. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Fisher Island had the highest per capita income of any place in the United States in 2000. There are only 800 properties on Fisher Island.

And for some "unknown" reason the people there think they need a break.

While most Florida homeowners are itching for a break on their property taxes, Fisher Island’s wealthy residents have been getting breaks for years.

In Miami-Dade County Florida law allows property owners to appeal any assessment on their property taxes. This is supposed to catch any errors made by appraisers.

Residents of the exclusive island at the foot of South Beach have gotten accustomed to challenging the property appraiser’s assessments before the Miami-Dade County Value Adjustment Board —and saving big on property taxes.

A research report called “Fisher Island: Rich Play, Poor Pay” concluded, “…between 2002 and 2005, Fisher Island property owners managed to use this process to lower their assessed property values a cumulative total of more than $965 million below what it should have been.” Again, hard as it is to believe, there are only 800 properties on Fisher Island

This crap cost the county $15.2 million in tax revenues for one of the poorest cities in the United States.

And that "trickles down," as the Republicans like to say, to hurt the working people and unemployed of the county.

Oh by the way, just as a point of reference, up north in the great state of Indiana, in Marin County (that would be Indianapolis), it seems that folks in the County's poorest neighborhoods faced the largest percentage increases in assessed values and tax bills before a storm of public outrage compelled the governor last week to order a recalculation.

An analysis by The Indianapolis Star found that four of the five neighborhoods that would have been hardest hit are predominantly black, and the median household income in all five is well below the county median of $40,421.

The analysis also found:

• Three of the hardest-hit areas were in Washington Township, two in Center Township. Taxes on single-family homes in those areas jumped an average of 100 percent or more, compared with a countywide average of 23.6 percent.

• Only 13 percent of the county's neighborhoods have a median household income of less than $25,000, but 30 percent of the highest property tax increases and 40 percent of the highest assessment increases were in those neighborhoods.


The following is from the Miami Herald.

Union protests Fisher Island tax adjustments

Union leaders demanded that residents of Fisher Island, the nation's wealthiest community, stop using Miami-Dade's Value Adjustment Board to lower their property tax assessments and instead pay the full value of the property taxes they owe.

On Wednesday morning, 40 or so union members rallied in front of the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami.

''They will be coming before the board tomorrow [Thursday] to get their taxes reduced again. When the board reduces those assessments, that means the county doesn't have the money to pay for nursing homes and other services for needy people,'' said Hiram Ruiz, political director of Service Employees International Union, or SEIU.

In June, SEIU published a study alleging Fisher Island residents used the Miami-Dade Value Adjustment Board to lower their property values by $965 million from 2002 to 2005. Gary A. Appel, an attorney who represents most of the unit owners on Fisher Island, disputed those figures on Tuesday. He said from 2002 to 2005, the amount of reductions totalled $52 million, not $965 million.

He said three separate reductions -- totalling $15.5 million -- were for the Fisher Island Clubhouse, the old Vanderbuilt mansion that cannot be demolished or put to more profitable use because of its historic designation.

''SEIU's attempted link to the VAB process is wrong, dangerous and nothing more than self-propaganda as the system benefits, equally, all economic classes,'' Appel said.

For months, the union and Fisher Island leaders have been squabbling over SEIU's continued efforts to unionize workers at Fisher Island Club and the Fisher Island Community Association.

''It is obvious from the reference to Fisher Island workers not making enough that SEIU's real issue is with the various employee entities including union recognition and compensation of employees,'' Appel said.

Three-fourths of property owners on Fisher Island do not have homestead exemptions, he said, so they cannot qualify for Save Our Homes, a state law that caps yearly assessments at 3 percent of a property's value.

Despite having the highest per capital income in the United States, according to the U.S. Census, Fisher Island is one of several communities in Miami-Dade that appeals property tax assessments. Property owners in Sunny Isles Beach and Coral Gables also appear before the board and secure the reductions they seek.

Ruiz said that county officials told him Appel will present 280 applications for assessment reductions Thursday. Appel said he believed the number less than that.

Thursday afternoon, SEIU plans to demonstrate in front of the Fisher Island Ferry Terminal, located off the MacArthur Causeway, according to union spokeswoman Tanya Aquino.

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