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July 3, 2009 (San Diego)—Jeff Olson, who currently serves as Chief of Assessment Services for the County, has announced plans to run for the County Tax Assessor/Recorder/Clerk position in June 2010. If elected he pledges, “I will always be an advocate for the taxpayer and will ensure that no taxpayer is paying more in property tax than they are legally responsible for. Also I will work with our State Legislators to protect Proposition 13 and amend poorly written property tax laws already in place.”

Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 proposition, capped property taxes and reduced them by an average of 57%. Former County Tax Assessor Greg Smith once called for amending Prop 13, which he noted had sharply reducing local revenues in the 1980s. Recently, Prop 13 has come under criticism by many who blame Prop 13 for the state’s budget crisis. But Olson disputes that contention. He notes that in 1984, the assessed valuation in San Diego County was $61; in 2009 it is estimated at $399 billion. The AV has risen annually over the past 25 years, with the exception of a modest dip this year that he attributes to “unbridled demand for real estate caused by the sub-prime lending practices of the early 2000s.”

Olson says he wants to expand provisions of the Revenue and Taxation code to better serve the public, including programs to help the disabled and disaster victims. He adds, “I believe in being very proactive when it comes to the taxpayers. This includes public outreach and educational programs to better educate and inform taxpayers.” He praises current efforts by the Assessor’s office to process record numbers of property tax reductions. “Thousands of taxpayers are receiving temporary reductions in their assessed values due to the current downturn in our real estate market, without having to ask.”

Among other duties, the County Tax Assessor/Recorder/Clerk performs marriage ceremonies. Locally and in other jurisdictions, the issue has arisen of whether or not to require employees who object to gay marriages to perform ceremonies. Asked what his policy would be if a federal court challenge, legislation or future initiative should declare same-sex marriage legal again in California, Olson replied, “The California Government Code requires that all employers make an effort to accommodate the religious beliefs of their employees. I would, of course, attempt to accommodate any objections from staff should same gender marriages be declared legal in the future.”

Olson holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in finance. He started with the Assessor’s office in 1990 as property assessment specialist and has since accumulated 13 years of appraisal experience. He also holds an advanced appraisal certificate from the State Board of Equalization.

For more information on his candidacy, visit

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Clarification on Greg Smith's position re: Prop 13

Editor's note:  An earlier version of this article stated that Greg Smith had called for amending or overturning Prop 13.  Greg contacted ECM to clarify that he does not support overturning Prop 13 and believes that while imperfect, it helped many people particularly older homeowners keep their homes at a time when property values were soaring.


Back in 1991, I interviewed  Greg Smith for an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Prop 13. That article focused on how state and local governments were beginning to have troubles because of the reduced revenues from property taxes under Prop 13.  Many people interviewed, including Smith, suggested that some reforms were needed.  Greg sent me a letter praising the article as the best he'd seen on the Prop 13 issue. I regret that I apparently misunderstood his position and mistakenly construed his letter and comments to indicate support for repealing the proposition.  I could not review that old article before writing this one, because it is no longer availabe online (though a copy could be obtained through the U.S. Copyright Office for anyone interested). 


Ironically, the article is no longer online due to a copyriight lawsuit I initiated against the Union-Tribune, which will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in August.  Someday I hope the UT will put its full archive back online and agree to pay the writers whose works it now admits it infringed back in the 1980s and 90s.