City Manager’s Office identifies a $6.22 Million disparity between the valuations of the Lane County Office of Assessment and Taxation and private firm Duncan & Brown

A City Just Got Forked

To protect a transfer of Millions in wealth from Public Sector to Private, Eugene City Manager’s Office throws Lane County Office of Assessment and Taxation under the bus. That’s a mistake.

The fork is a strategic position in chess, in which the knight (or pawn) moves to a position where it can take either of two pieces. The fork should be considered a strategy for undermining white power perpetuated in the racism of white land-wealth and in symbiotic agreement with police violence. The fork strategy can and should be applied to all City manufactured transfers of wealth from Public to Private as these valuations facilitate graft. Following is the forking of The Lane County Office of Assessment and Taxation and a private, City contracted firm of Duncan and Brown.

Dear Mayor and City Council,

In regard to the valuation of 1059 Willamette, the City Manager’s Office has identified a $6.22 Million disparity between the valuation by the Lane County Office of Assessment and Taxation and the private, contracted firm of Duncan & Brown.

The identification of this disparity of 1059 Willamette’s valuation can be found at the City Manager’s Office “answers to Council questions” #15 at https://www.eugene-or.gov/Faq.aspx?QID=1257 (screen shot above).

Lane County Valuation in 2020: $6,887,899. I’ve rounded this to $6.9 Million

In regard, then, to the value of 1059 Willamette, either:

1. The Lane County Office of Assessment and Taxation made a $6.22 Million error in their valuation of the property, intentionally or unintentionally inflating its value from $680,000 to $6.9 Million, or

2. Duncan & Brown either intentionally or unintentionally deflated the value of 1059 Willamette from $6.22 Million to $680,000.

Sure it’s ugly, but .42 acres in downtown Eugene for $680,000?

In the case of inflating the value to $6.9 Million, the Lane County Office of Assessment and Taxation might have a liability by intentionally or unintentionally engaging in economic redlining. Economic redlining can facilitate graft by dissuading potential “buyers,” reducing competition, otherwise know as “Demand.” The reduction of demand-side, in economics, reduces the value of the supply-side.

In the case of deflating the value to $680,000, Duncan & Brown may be intentionally or unintentionally “low-balling” the valuation. “Low-balling” can facilitate graft. “Low balling” creates a “false value” as opposed to a “real value” discovered by market forces. A transfer facilitated with a deflated “false value” transfers “real value” to the buyer.

How “Public” High-Valuation and “In-house” Low-Valuation Produce City Graft

The Public, Lane County Office of Assessment and Taxation valuation, $6.9 Million (High-Value) and Duncan & Brown’s valuation, $680,000 (Low-Value) work together to produce an advantage or benefit to a “buyer.”

  1. The Public High Valuation limits Demand-Side Economics.

2. The Low Valuation shapes the seller’s perception, convincing them that their property is of low-value.

Together the Public High-Value and the Private Low-Value create a “False Context” of “low demand” and “low value” that manipulates the seller through the psychological principle of “Confirmation Bias.”

The seller is told by an authority (in this case the City Manger’s Office) that their property is of “little value” and the “limited demand” for the property confirms the created bias that the property is “undesirable.” This manufactured Context is a form of “gaslighting.”

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and psychological control. Victims of gaslighting are fed false information that leads them to question what they know to be true. Psychology Today

I’ll note that the other Public Relations/Marketing Tool, known as “Big Think” by such practitioners as Edward Bernays, is the manufacturing of a wider social context of anxiety, panic, and fear, to produce a “great need” within the public who yearn to alleviate that fear. Big Think is also known as “the long con,” or the “Big Lie.”

Fear facilitates wealth transfer by suggesting that a wealth transfer will alleviate that fear and create a condition of “safety” from fear. We see this wider context shaped in the propaganda of an “Affordable Housing Crisis” that can be solved by further privatization. That is a lie, as what we have is a Private Property Crisis that inflates property values.

Creating fear, panic, and a sense of crisis facilitates wealth transfer.

The perception of Low-Value is manufactured by the two manipulative forces: “Limiting Demand” and “Authority,” also known as “ethos.” When property is transferred under these conditions, the “Seller” sells at a “False Value” but the “Buyer” still receives “Real Value.” “Real Value” can be understood through a non-fraudulent analysis of market forces. Manipulation Public Officials into accepting a deflated “false value” in order to facilitate the transfer publicly held wealth to private interests can be understood as graft.

1059 Willamette as an example of Graft

So, for example, in the case of 1059 Willamette:

Competition has been limited by the “high” valuation by the Lane County Office of Assessment and Taxation, and other restrictive elements in the “application” process. This creates the illusion of a “limited demand.”

An internal document contracted by the City Manager’s Office and produced by Duncan & Brown (a request has been made to release this document) is used to “authoritatively” support the City Manager’s position that the property has a value of only $680,000, which is possibly in error by $6.22 Million dollars or more.

The development group also insists that “development doesn’t pencil out” and must receive more money and tax forgiveness in order to be “given” this public asset worth possibly $6.9 Million or more, as can be determined by market forces.

Potential Outcome

The City Council transfers the public property to private ownership under a manufactured perception of “value” created by a context of “limited demand” and “low value” (even negative value, as in the case of the Steam Plant below) under three premises:

1. The property is worth little, nothing, or has a negative value.

2. There is limited demand. No one wants it even though it costs nothing. This confirms the bias that the property is worthless. The buyer is doing us a favor.

3. The erroneous belief that this transfer of wealth will relieve anxiety and fear about the future.

The City Manager’s Office creates this gaslighting “bubble” for City Council. In the case of 1059 Willamette, the creation of this “false context” with the limited demand produced by the Lane County Office of Assessment and Taxation and the perception of “low-value” produced by Duncan & Brown suggests an undocumented transfer of real value of upward or exceeding $6.22 Million dollars.

Potential Criminal or Civil Liability?

As the proposed development of 1059 Willamette will entail the transfer of ownership of the building and property from publicly owned to privately owned, the valuation of the property is important in understanding the monetary value of that proposed public to private transfer as well as its potential liabilities in the case of, for example, a class action lawsuit.

I will note that the valuation of the Steam Plant property has a similar disparity of value, one offered by the Lane County Office of Assessment and Taxation and the other by the same firm of Duncan & Brown.

Since Duncan and Brown appraised the Steam Plant property at -$8 Million and the Lane County Office of Assessment and Taxation valued the property at $552K, that disparity was apparently over $8 Million. Again, beyond any reasonable margin of error.

This does suggest a habitual abuse potentially affecting hundreds of land transactions, past, present, and, if unaddressed, into the future. Already, with only two transactions, 1059 Willamette and Steam Plant, we have errors in valuation of over $14 Million dollars.

I encourage an audit of all Duncan & Brown valuations and an audit of Lane County Office of Assessment and Taxation’s valuations of public properties that have or are proposed to be transferred into private hands to private benefit.

In compiling, researching, and formulating this analysis, I have received no compensation or benefit of any kind. I anticipate both your thanks and grateful acknowledgement of my work.

Otis Haschemeyer

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Stegner Fellow, Stanford University; Spivey and Chancellor Fellow, University of Tennessee. PhD, MFA www.storytheory.org

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Otis Haschemeyer

Otis Haschemeyer

Stegner Fellow, Stanford University; Spivey and Chancellor Fellow, University of Tennessee. PhD, MFA www.storytheory.org

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