Saturday, October 4, 2008

A window into life in the D

I really hate to write this post. There is enough in the national media that makes Detroit look like a ridiculous city with ridiculous people in charge, but living in Detroit is undeniably a unique experience. The public (especially Michigan's) perception of Detroit is extremely unfavorable, and largely blown out of proportion. I have not have any incident where I feared for my safety and the city is full of largely underpatronized quality restaurants, bars, etc.
However, all that said, some of the stereotype about Detroit's government rings true. I received a property tax bill for a bit more than I believe it should have been. Here is the story, in chronological order of what happened:

1) I called the city tax office. Twice. Three times. Four, five, six.

2) I show up at the city tax office. I am informed that I am correct and my taxes should be lower.

3) I go to a second office hoping to get the tax adjusted. There is literally no one in the office. I walk up to the desk. The clerk tells me to take a number. I take 37. Immediately, she looks at the "now serving" window and calls 37. I am in disbelief. She informs me that it should be adjusted, I just need to wait.

4) I leave satisfied, but not entirely convinced. I walk fifty feet away. I turn around.

5) I go back to the first office, just to double check as long I was there. A new clerk informs me that I am correct, however, an auditor needs to adjust my account. She informs me that I cannot visit his office, I need to call to make an appointment. She gives me the number and says ominously "if you don't get a hold of him, keep on trying."

6) I call the office. No answer. Voicemail. Mailbox full. Transfered to attendant. Attendant is not available and does not have voicemail setup. Goodbye.

7) I call the office again. Same thing.

8) I go to the second office again. Take a number. Wait 0.0002 seconds. Number is called. I ask if she knows where I can contact the auditor I need to talk to. She does not know. She says his office is on the same floor as the first office. I walk around that floor. I see a room of cubicles. I debate going in. I do not.

9) I call again. Voicemail-full-attendant-goodbye.

10) I repeat step nine literally one hundred times. I try other numbers and after waiting on hold give up.

11) Finally, in a last ditch effort I google this guys name and the word "Detroit assessor" in hopes of finding an e-mail or another number to try.

12) I receive two hits. Neither of them are contact information. They are news stories about this guys recent arrest and indictment. Son of a . . .

13) Since then, I have paid my overrated taxes, with the assurance I will get a refund when it is all straightened out, but have not yet been able to get a hold of anyone. I need to go back and walk around the city office building again.

Meanwhile . . .the former mayor was sentenced to jail time, the city council is under investigation by the FBI, the biggest project in the city stalled last week, someone slashed my tire in the parking garage, and nearly every major freeway in and out of Detroit is closed or barely open.

All that said, I love the city and am glad to be living here. Plus, I just painted my condo, like I'm gonna move.

Seriously though, Detroit is a great place to live, despite the unique issues.