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June 22nd, 2008:

Casey on the appraisal problem

Rick Casey devotes a column to the HISD versus HCAD situation, and points to the obvious solution.

Texas is one of only five states that doesn’t require that sales prices of real estate be reported to the state.

The government knows what you earn. It knows what you paid for your car and your clothes. But in Texas it doesn’t know what you paid for your house or your business property.

Because the middle class lives mainly in neighborhoods where all the houses are similar, appraisal districts are able to do a good job at guessing at the values. Studies show the houses tend to sell for close to their appraised values.

But very expensive houses and commercial properties almost always sell for considerably more than the amount listed on the tax rolls.

The gap was illustrated earlier this week when Dallas officials told a state Senate hearing they want to change the law to require price disclosure on real estate sales.

Support for the change swelled in Dallas after the city found itself having to pay about $42 million for a piece of commercial property listed on the tax rolls as being worth $7.3 million.

The change won’t happen, though. The people who are paying more than their share are afraid to tell the state how much they paid for fear their appraisal will go from, say, $220,000 to $240,000.

We’ve discussed this issue before – as we know, legislation to require sales price disclosure came up last session and will surely be introduced next year as well. The thing is, I don’t see the objection Casey raises as being an intractable problem. Far from it, in fact: it should be a fairly straightforward matter to do some math, estimate how much revenue could be raised this way, and then point out that with a more accurate method of appraising high-end properties, the tax rate can be reduced, giving some real relief to the homeowners Casey frets about. This really shouldn’t be that hard to get public support. Getting it past the lobbyists is another matter, but then it always is. The first step, though, should be very doable.

A tale of two headlines: Slow/No slow

From Friday’s Chronicle: Housing analyst sees end to local slowdown.

From Saturday’s Chronicle: Houston’s jobs pace hints at economic slowdown.

So which is it, fellas?

Actually, the two articles themselves don’t really conflict with one another. But it was amusing, in a whiplashy sort of way, to see these seemingly contradictory headers on successive days.

Cricket experiments with instant replay

Football, baseball, and now cricket.

Major League Baseball take note, Indian cricket will experiment with TV replay.

Players will be allowed to appeal against an umpire’s decision for the first time in a challenge system on trial starting next month.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India said it had agreed to play the series under the experimental rules allowing cricketers to ask for a TV umpire to review decisions on the field by either of the two on-field umpires.

Each team will be permitted to seek the review, using TV replays, of three decisions each innings. Decisions can be overturned on the TV umpire ruling. A failed appeal will cost the team one challenge.

I don’t know enough about cricket to reasonably guess how disruptive this is likely to be. Given how long matches can be, it’s probably not that big a deal. Good luck with the experiment, y’all.

It’s not bad, it’s a classic

John Scalzi opens a can of worms:

[W]hat makes science fiction different than every other genre of film — what makes it unique, for better or worse — is that a strangely high percentage of the classics of the genre are not good films; some are structurally flawed in major ways, while others are just plain awful.

He goes on to list a few examples, including the beloved 1954 original “Gojira”, a/k/a “Godzilla”, which I probably saw a dozen times as a kid when they were doing “Monster Week” for the afternoon movie on Channel 9. I’ll stipulate that it’s perhaps not the finest example of the craft of moviemaking, but I loved it anyway, and Lord knows it was influential. I look forward to watching it some day with Olivia and Audrey.

There’s some good discussion in the comments about the meaning of “classic” and why some of these films endure despite their faults, so check it out. What’s your favorite example of a “classic” movie, from any genre, that’s also an objectively crappy piece of film? Leave a comment and let me know.