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Can You Fight City Hall?

About 15 years ago, I was building our store building in Texarkana and the chief building inspector told me that I had to put a lock box on it.  So, I asked for and got a meeting with the city manager and the fire chief who was responsible for enforcing the ordinance.  At the meeting, I told them that the ordinance was unconstitutional for two reasons.

  1. It was unconstitutional because it gave unfettered access into private property to a government agency without a judge’s warrant.
  2. It was unconstitutional because we had to buy this small metal lock box from one company, which on the open market would probably have cost about 20 to 30 dollars. But since that one company had a monopoly, they charged a minimum of $240 per lock box. (The current amount charged for the lock box after tax is over $400.  I recently looked a a similar size lock box by a different company on Amazon for $15.95.  I just thought you might want to know.)  
     
Then the city manager took his finger and pointed it right up into my face and said, “I don’t care what you think.”  I said nothing so he then said, “Don’t you want to know why I don’t care what you think.”  So I said, “Okay, why?”  He then held his finger straight up and said, “Because you are just one person.”  My father had always told me, “never get mad because when you get mad you lose your temper and you can’t think straight".  But if you do get mad, don’t show your enemies that you are mad because they will use your anger against you.”  So I didn’t say a word, stood up and walked out.
After a couple of days, I devised a plan.  I started going to every city council meeting that I could (I went to more meetings than some of the council members).  For the next two and a half years, every time the city council did something I knew a group of people in Texarkana would be upset about, I’d write a Letter to the editor.  During that time I wrote 8 Letters, at the Texarkana Gazette, they printed all of them.  By the end of that time, there were nights that the city meeting was overflowing with people that were screaming and hollering. At that point after over two years, the city told the city manager that either he resign or they were going to fire him.  Now, according to many of the Texarkana residents, we have the best city manager ever, Shirly Jaster. Now most commercial buildings under 5,000 square feet aren’t required to have a lock box. Many towns in Texas have some version of this unconstitutional lock box ordinance.  Should any city official seek a higher office when they have not reformed their own city's laws to be in line with the supreme law of the land of our country? With proper education and determination, one person can make a difference.

 

FIGHT FOR EQUITABLE PROPERTY VALUES

About 4 years ago after studying the Property Tax Values near our property on New Boston Rd, I decided to fight the grossly unfair valuations. The former county judge had a property just 2 blocks from ours and his property was valued at $29,750 an acre. Our's $80,000 an acre and every other property in the area for over 4 blocks on New Boston Rd towards Downtown was valued between $70,000 to approximately $140,000 an acre. The following 2 Letters to the Editor are about these injustices by our Bowie County Appraisal District (BACD) and how I did not give up for several years to get justice for not only my business but my neighbors as well on New Boston Rd in Texarkana, Texas.

FIGHT FOR RIGHT

Published in the Texarkana Gazette Letter to the editor:

"Hundreds of people responded positively to my Letter to the Editor last year. Through fighting the unfair Bowie County District’s appraisal, I was able to get about an $86,000 reduction in appraisal for our Granary St. Natural Food Store property of New Boston Road for 2018. I want to thank everyone for their support and help in this fight, but unfortunately it is not over. For this year, the BCAD had raised their appraisal of our property back up to over $21,000 more than the arbitrator’s appraisal value of 2018. After pointing out to the BCAD that raising the property value the year after binding arbitration is unlawful, they did back down for now. Why should the average citizen have to make sure they follow the law?
With Internet competition from all over the World, many of our local businesses are being squeezed out of business with excessive property taxes. Other than a few exceptions like the Richmond Road / Summerhill Road areas, there are many vacant buildings where once thriving businesses have gone out of business. With big stores like the Walmart Super Center on New Boston Road paying a fraction per square foot of floor area that we do and other powerful people like the County Judge paying about a third of the amount per acre than the owners of properties next door or across the street, is it any wonder more and more businesses in Bowie County are failing?

The BCAD has made it almost impossible tor the average citizen to fight their unfair appraisals. They use our own tax money to overwhelm us and from my experience, if you don’t know the laws they will not follow them to make you succumb to unfair taxes. How ironic? And if you dare oppose them, they go after you year after year as you can see. It does take a lot of time and some money, but at least we do have remedies available. And Texas law says that in ALL disputes between property owners and appraisal districts, the appraisal district has the “burden of proof.”

We Texans have an outstanding history of fighting for what is right. If we don’t continue to fight for what is right, you and all our future generations lose. It is really that simple.

Robert Worthen
Texarkana, Texas

JUSTICE SERVED

Published in Texarkana Gazette as a Letter to the editor:

"For the past three or four months many Gazette readers have been following my fight with the local Bowie County Appraisal District. I have very good news to report. For the last three years I have been pointing out to the BCAD that they were over appraising the value of almost all the properties East of the loop on New Boston Road, especially one of mine.
Even though I had presented what should have been overwhelming evidence showing they were not being fair, the chief appraiser in particular would not back down and be reasonable. Almost all of the sales in the area were far below what the BCAD had them valued and had been over valued for a long time. As a result of being taxed for more than the actual market value, the values kept decreasing and crime started rising in the area.

As time went on, I met with a more unreasonable and unacceptable response from the BCAD. At the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator said if I had a report sitting in front of him from a certified Texas commercial appraiser, it would carry a lot of weight with him. So I asked several friends in the real estate business who they thought would be the best certified commercial appraiser in Texarkana. As usual, to get the best you have to wait. After a couple of months, I did get a certified appraisal and it showed I was right all along.

To sum it up, most of my neighbors on New Boston Road are going to get some tax relief this year. Only one property that I know of (which was obviously undervalued) in the area is going up in appraised value and one in remaining the same.
We have seen a number of injustices around our country lately but here in Bowie County justice has been served! I want to thank all the people who have supported this case and in particular the Texarkana Gazette for printing several articles including this letter to bring the public awareness to this issue. May this true story be an inspiration to all in their fight for fairness and justice.

Robert Worthen
Texarkana, Texas
"

Mr. Ronny Bailey was the BCAD employee assigned to “fight” me in this Property Tax dispute. He now supports me to be our Texas 4th Congressional District’s Representative. In fact, he wrote me this letter of endorsement:

"I have known Robert "Bob” Worthen for about 6 years now. Bob and I have had our differences over the years but I can honestly say without a doubt that he is a good person. He is a man of faith, honest, patriotic, and has been a successful business man for many years. He loves to share his opinions about today’s issues and has always wanted to be a voice of reason. I am writing this letter today in support for Bob Worthen for the Congressional 4th District of Texas. Not only do I believe he is qualified for the job, but he would be the roll-up-your-sleeves person to do the job."

 

Corrupt Texas Counties

In 2014,  I was asked to serve on the Bowie County Financial Advisory Committee. When I started asking questions that did not sit well with the chairman, he tried to kick me off of the committee. Apparently, since I was the most qualified of the business men asked to serve on the committee, the Bowie county commissioner’s court said they wanted me to continue my work independently of the committee. I told them that I did not want the job but I would do the job and that no matter the outcome I would report the truth about what I found.

There were five assistants that helped me including a couple of accountants and at least one attorney. The most important information that we discovered was that the Bowie county auditor had never in 12 years filed a single quarterly financial report and published it so any citizen could read it as mandated by Texas state law. There were several laws that I pointed out to the Commissioner’s Court that were being broken or just plain ignored including one that required that the county auditor was to be either replaced or reappointed every 2 years by the 3 District Judges. Even though our Bowie county auditor had never produced and published a single financial report as required by law, the very next week after my report, the 3 District Judges reappointed him.

Since then, I have spoken with several of our Texas legislature members including Gary Van Deaver who has not gotten back with me and Texas Senator, Brian Hughes who has said he will check into it. From reports, Bowie county is not the only county to have such shenanigans going on. I am calling for the Texas Legislature to put some teeth (jail and / or fines) in the laws they pass so the county and city officials who break the law(s) will have to pay a penalty like the rest of us. From reports I have been getting it seems that this subject is NOW getting some attention since the Bowie county commissioner’s court is at least talking about starting to follow the law. It is wrong for our local officials to be able to break the law with no consequences while the average citizen is punished when we break the law. No more laws without penalties for local government officials. There could be literally billions of dollars being siphoned off by dishonest Texas local officials.  Should any Texas State Senator or Representative seek a higher office when they have allowed this kind of corruption to go on?  Send these people who have been touting their fine records back to Austin to fix the inequities they have overlooked.

"When the people fear their government, there is TYRANNY; When the government fears the people, there is LIBERTY."  Thomas Jefferson

 "A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have. "  Thomas Jefferson


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