Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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In Denial and Sticking to It.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | August 13, 2009

Posted by Cliff Tuttle (c) 2009

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied a stay of its order to Allegheny County to promptly reassess real estate. Well, no surprise there.

But perhaps County Executive Dan Onorato’s comments as reported in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette should raise some eyebrows.

“Hold tight. Nothing has changed. I’m disappointed. I think the worse thing that could happen in this county is a government-mandated reassessment. I’m a lawyer, and as county executive I don’t believe judges should order something that the people in the county don’t want.”

He then went on to say that he didn’t want to see a reassessment in Allegheny County until every other County is required to do the same.

Well, the State House did pass a moratorium until 2011, until the legislature is able to address the problem. Its a reasonable guess that the Senate will go along. So Onorato probably gets his moratorium.

But that only postpones the problem. It is unclear whether this or any legislature can adopt legislation that fulfills both the constitutional mandate of equality and the political agenda of Onorato and many others.

It may take a decade, but in the end, Pennsylvania is going to have to adopt a practical system for assessing properties from top to bottom at fair market value.

It is an interesting psychological phenomenon that fear of loss is far more motivating than hope of gain. The people who are going to absorb the economic burden of a changing system will become politically motivated while those who stand to have a reduction in assessments remain indifferent and politically unorganized. This has happened in the recent past. Spot reassessments in Mt. Lebanon and Sewickley, seen as an expedient to balance the county budget, created such a groundswell that the Republicans were swept into office for the first time since 1932. Onorato can see that coming again if he energizes the opposition by making the wrong political move.

See also: Pittsburgh Tribune Review, August 13, 2009.
Infinonymous Blog, August 13, 2009.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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