As It Is: An issue of residency

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By David Giuliani

Politicians should get credit when it’s deserved. I thank County Commissioner June Garcia and her husband, LeRoy Garcia, because I’ll be getting a reduction in property taxes the next time around.

Last week, I filed for a head-of-house exemption, which deducts $2,000 from the taxable value of a house. You can use such a tax break only for your primary residence. It’ll mean about a $50 reduction in my taxes next year.

Everyone should know about this tax exemption; if you don’t have it, you should go to the county assessor’s office in the old courthouse and fill out a form requesting the tax break.

So why am I thanking a county commissioner and her spouse? Last week, I came upon information that LeRoy Garcia had filed for a head-of-house tax exemption at their new house in Rio Rancho, which has been assessed at $706,000. He also has filed for such an exemption at his house outside of Las Vegas.

Of course, you can have only one primary residence. And the Garcias apparently couldn’t figure out where they wanted to make their home.

It’s reasonable for local voters to expect their San Miguel County commissioners to be, well, residents of this county.

I have only one home, so it’s not hard for me to figure out where my main residence is. But the Garcias own their upscale home in Rio Rancho, a house valued at $180,000 on El Llano Road (where they apparently spend at least some time) and 41 other houses in the Las Vegas area.

So where to do the Garcias live? LeRoy Garcia contends both he and his wife have made their home right here in Las Vegas. This is where they grew up and have invested their lives, he says.

But one of their neighbors called me recently to say that the Garcias are hardly ever at their El Llano house. I’ve gotten a number of other calls to that effect.

State law rightly calls for elected representatives to live in the areas they purportedly represent. That’s so our elected officials know firsthand about the problems people face in their districts. It’s hard to grasp your constituents’ issues if you’re two hours down the road.

LeRoy Garcia repeatedly touts the number of buildings he owns in our community. And he says he  and his wife are local natives.

But none of that matters in the eyes of the law. The issue is whether June Garcia, the District 1 representative on the County Commission, lives here — or does she spend most of her time in distant Sandoval County?

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To be fair, other politicians have had difficulty in answering questions about their residency.

State Rep. Thomas Garcia, who represents District 68, lists his official residence in Ocate. But by his own admission, he spends much of his time in District 70, where he has a home on Seventh Street, right next to the local Democratic Party chairman.

But he says he gets away to Ocate, where he grew up, whenever he can. He said he lives outside of the district because he can get employment in Las Vegas.

His 2008 opponent, Bengie Regensberg, made an issue of Garcia’s residency, but the lawmaker still won. This time around, Garcia has no opponent.

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During the morning commute on Wednesday, Las Vegas Police Officer Robert Gutierrez was doing his job. I should know; he stopped me.

He clocked me speeding 34 mph in a 15 mph zone on Bridge Street.

He issued me a ticket — it was deserved.

David Giuliani is managing editor of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 425-6796 or  dgiuliani@lasvegasoptic.com.