If you’re a landlord who owns rental property in the County of Los Angeles, you should know about those who are seeking to be elected as the Los Angeles County Assessor and what they stand for. It could affect how much you pay in real estate taxes. I interviewed front-runner John Wong at Tommy’s restaurant inMonterey Parkrecently. In this interview he puts forth things about his background and his plan of action concerning the Assessor’s Office.
Question: John, for those who don’t know anything about you, please tell us something about your background and why you are running for the Office of Los Angeles County Tax Assessor.
John Wong: As you probably already know, our current Los Angeles County Tax Assessor was arrested on several counts of taking bribes. Therefore, an election will take place on June 3, 2014 to elect a new tax assessor. As a landlord who owns rental property in the City ofLos Angeles, I believe that I am the best man for the job for several reasons. I want landlords who own rental property in the City ofLos Angeles to know that I understand what landlords have to deal with and I do not see landlords as an endless source of money for the county or the city. Many in public office have never operated a business or know how to balance a checkbook. Government must have limits. Government just can’t create new fees, or raise property taxes when it starts to run low on money. If we do that, we will drive housing providers out of business.
I know that many landlords had to work two jobs for a long time, live a modest lifestyle in order to save up enough money to buy their first building. The money did not fall out of the sky. I understand what hard work and sacrifice is all about.
Some politicians often demonize landlords because they believe it will endear them to renters who are the larger voting bloc. This is wrong, no one should demonize people who are operating a legal business and providing housing to those who cannot afford to purchase a home. Landlording is a valuable and honorable service. I respect landlords and what they do for our society. All across the country, when government becomes involved in the housing business, they usually end up being centers of crime because government usually does a very poor job of operating rental units. This is best handled by the private sector and seldom do any elected officials acknowledge that.
Question: What about local landlords who own older buildings that require constant repair and at the same time, these buildings are under severe rent control where the landlord is collecting less than half of fair market value. A landlord can’t spend money that he/she doesn’t have to improve the condition of the apartment building. What are your thoughts on that?
John Wong: You are correct. I believe that if a landlord owns an apartment building that is generating low rent due to rent control, that landlord should apply for a reduction in their assessment. That is one thing that the Los Angeles County Assessor can do to help landlords remain in business. A landlord is entitled to earn money from his/her units. To me, “profit” is not a dirty word.
I believe in fairness for landlords … some landlords are not aware that they can apply for a reduction in their real estate assessment if they own units that are under rent control and the income they are generating is far below market value rent. If elected, I will work with landlords so that they are not over-assessed.
Question: Tell us about John Wong, the man. What is your background, your personal story?
John Wong: I’ve been an active leader in the community serving in various capacities involving business development, health care and education. I’ve served on the Board of Directors of the Montebello Chamber of Commerce and the Northeast Los Angeles Community Clinic. I’ve also served as the former President of the Los Angeles Wilshire Optimist Club. I serve as the National Vice President, Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Greater San Gabriel Lodge; Executive Vice President of the Monterey Park Chinese Seniors Club, and President of Friends of the Senior, Monterey Park. I’m the founder and Past President of the Mark Keppel High School Alliance, an organization dedicated to providing educational assistance and opportunities to students from kindergarten through high school.
Question: Many business people would like to see people in public office who have a successful business background. What is your business background?
John Wong: I’m an entrepreneur. I achieved financial success starting and managing two medium sized food production and distributing companies in the Los Angeles area. They started out as small modest enterprises and turned into multi-million dollar companies. I believe that the most important thing a person can do for his/her country is to defend it in time of war. After that, anyone who opens up a business that creates jobs for people, that is great too because it is good for the person who has a job and is able to support their family and it is good for the economy. It makes our country stronger.
Question: What about your business experiences in real estate?
John Wong: I’ve been involved in the forefront of local, state and national real estate industry issues. I’m the founder and owner of JW Commercial, an industrial and commercial real estate firm that I started in 1976. I’ve has been actively involved in state and national real estate organizations. I served on the Board of Directors of the California Association of Realtors (CAR) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR). I’ve also served for 18 years on the Los Angeles County Assessment Appeals Board, including five years as Board Chair. During my tenure on the Assessment Appeals Board, tens of thousands of property tax assessment appeals, on all types of properties and value ranges, were heard and resolved. My efforts resulted in reducing over 100 billion dollars of assessed valuations by the county.
Question: Most new businesses have a mission statement, a set of goals they want to reach. Looking at your political career, can you tell me what your mission statement is?
John Wong: As the Los Angeles County Assessor, I will make sure that property in Los Angeles County is assessed timely, accurately, and equitable. I will defend and protect Proposition 13. I will be a strong advocate for the protection of Proposition 13, as the law is currently written. I will oppose and fight all efforts to split the property tax roll to assess commercial and industrial properties differently from residential properties or to assess multi-family properties differently from single family properties. I strongly believe that a “Split Roll” would unfairly burden businesses. The end result of a split roll is that residents will end up paying the increase in taxes of industrial and commercial properties because those owners will pass on the additional taxes to their customers.
Question: Who are your supporters? Who has endorsed you for public office?
John Wong: I have broad support from all types of property owners, business owners and renters. The Office of the Assessor is a non-partisan office. I have extensive endorsements and support from property owners from all segments of the political spectrum. I’ve been endorsed by Mike Antonovich, Senator Steve Knight, Senator Bob Huff, and California Assembly Member Connie Conway.
Question: For those who have not made up their minds about who they are going to vote for on June 3, 2014, what is your message to them and why should they vote for you?
John Wong: I have forty years experience as a real estate broker. I have eighteen years of experience on the assessor’s appeals board with five years as the chair. I have business management experience and an educational background and knowledge to be an effective Assessor for Los Angeles County. As Department Head, I will run an efficient and effective organization. I hope that on election day, June 3, 2014, your readers will vote for me because I will always do the right thing when it comes to dealing with local landlords. My slogan that I’m putting on bumper sticker is “Wong Is Right”.
Bill Hooey is with the Fair Housing, fighting for the rights of Los Angeles housing providers and may be reached at 323-397-8740 or www.fairhousingcoalition.com. If you are part of any community or business group that would like to have John come by to give a talk and answer questions here is his contact information – WWW.ASSESSORLA.COM or the campaign via email at JohnWong@AssessorLA.com . John can be reached directly at (323) 222-2200.