The County Assessor’s job is a professional job – not a political position. It requires knowledge and experience. Jim Johnson has worked in this office for 26 years while his opponent, Phong La, has no experience whatsoever. I have spoken with employees of the assessors’ office who are very worried that if Johnson is not elected, the assessor’s office will be in chaos. Property owners should take this very seriously. Johnson has the support of the current County Assessor, as well as the other employees in the office. Indeed, you can hear them yourself at his Facebook page – in English and Spanish.
It is definitely true that the Democratic and Green Party establishment have thrown their weight behind La – albeit for different reasons. Early in the election cycle, the Green Party sent Johnson a questionnaire in which he expressed opposition to a splitting Prop 13 so as to increase taxes on commercial property while keeping the low taxes on homes. He answered in this manner because he does not believe that the role of the assessor is to express policy views, including about the need to change current laws. Rather, he sees the job of the assessor as implementing the law, whatever it is. His political inexperience led him to do some other political mistakes early on, but it would be foolish to punish a professional simply because he doesn’t know how to play politics.
The Democratic Party, meanwhile, supports Phong La because he is a well known political operative and contributor to Democratic candidates. Most concerning to progressives is that in addition to running his own firm, La works for a privately held real estate holding company and is a real estate investor himself. Just as worrisome is the fact that La amassed multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions – an unheard of amount for a county assessor’s race. Several of these contributions have been in the five figures, and come from both individuals and corporations. As money in politics is never free, we are concerned about how La plans to repay such generosity by his contributors. Recent corruption scandals involving the Los Angeles County and Contra Costa County assessors come to mind.
We don’t know why La is running for assessor, but we do believe that if he wants to do the job, he should first apply to a junior position with the assessor’s office, learn the ropes and then run.
Meanwhile, I urge voters to vote for Berniecrat Jim Johnson for Assessor.