It's easy to talk about fairness when running for office, but fairness often requires a fight once an office-holder is sworn in and starts serving.
That was the message of Jake Zimmerman, St. Louis County assessor, who was the guest speaker at Friday night's meeting of the Phelps County Democratic Club.
"You want office-holders who treat everybody the same," Zimmerman said as he explained his FAIR Plan. FAIR stands for fairness, accountability, independence and responsiveness. "There is not a Republican or Democratic way to assess a house."
Zimmerman peppered his talk with anecdotes about what he encountered. A tornado required reassessments in that county, and tracking down property owners whose homes had been destroyed was difficult, time-consuming, but part of the job, he said.
"I tend to think ... they want a little less 'not my department' and a little more 'how can I help,'" Zimmerman said.
He told of discovering that some property owners were taking advantage of Missouri's assessment program in which residential, commercial and agricultural properties are assessed at different rates, agricultural being the lowest because the state wants to promote food production.
"It turns out we have some major commercial developers who decided to get into farming business," Zimmerman said. He found warehouses, casinos and parking lots assessed as agricultural property.
He also found inequities in a country club restaurant being assessed at a lower rate than a nearby commercial restaurant. He changed the rates and there were appeals to the Board of Equalization.
"Nobody had the guts to pick a fight with them," he said.
In some instances, even the equalization board gave in, but Zimmerman appealed. The court upheld his assessments.
In other business or discussion led by Janet McKean, president of the Phelps County Democratic Club, and Paul Long, chairman of the Phelps County Democratic Committee:
n McKean reported the club and individual members provided much support to the Denny Ford Fill-A-Ford for the Holidays campaign. McKean said that after she sent an email to members about the need to donate, "My porch every day was filled with canned goods" dropped off by Democrats. In addition, the executive board authorized spending $102 from the treasury to buy additional goods.
The club ratified the executive board's decision "We delivered six huge boxes," McKean reported. "I would recommend we do this every year."
n The club also ratified an executive board decision to contribute $300 to help pay Sen. Claire McCaskill's post-election debt. "She had a tough fight," McKean said. "Thank God she won."
Page 2 of 2 -
n McKean suggested that the club buy blue tablecloths or blue fabric to make tablecloths that would be reusable.
She said she did not think it appropriate for the Democrats to use plastic table coverings that would be disposable. Someone in the audience asked, "Who would wash these tablecloths?" McKean said, "I'm going to." In that case, said the audience member, "Brilliant idea.
Absolutely brilliant." McKean said, "I hope you all heard that."
n More cooperation between county Democratic organizations is expected in 2013 and beyond. McKean said she has contacted Democrats in Crawford and Pulaski counties and all the clubs intend work more closely on events such as Truman Day and campaign speakers' events. Other counties are also considering a regional cooperative movement.
n Club members indicated a willingness to participate in a candlelight vigil Feb. 14 to draw attention to the problem of violence against women. The Democrats will work with other organizations to conduct this vigil. "I think it makes a statement as to what we believe in and what we think is important," McKean said.
n A slate of officers will be presented to the club at the March meeting, she said. The nominating committee is taking names. "If you would like to serve, we would just love for you to," McKean said.
n Long reported on the procedure that will be used for nominating candidates for a special election in June to find a successor for Jo Ann Emerson, who has resigned her post as Eighth District U.S. representative. Both parties are in the process of selecting candidates. Long stressed the importance of getting out the vote for the June special election. Picking an Eighth District representative will be the only decision made that date, June 4.