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NUESTRA VOZ OF NORTH TEXAS
LULAC OF Denton


Indivisible Denton

by Samantha Hobson

It was April of 2015 when I traveled south of the border to work in Chihuahua, Mexico for the first time. Being from Texas, and somewhat familiar with Mexican culture, there was still much to learn. Excited and full of anxiety about this new adventure, the warmth and hospitality felt upon arrival calmed my fears. Chihuahua was soon to become a second home.

New friends introduced me to their families, invited me to parties and shopping. They shared their lives with me, taught me Spanish and local customs. They saw, not an intruder, but a friend, almost a family member, leaving me forever changed and grateful for the experiences.

It’s my wish that we give new immigrants in our country this same feeling of hospitality that was freely offered to me in Mexico. Sadly, the USA has not been so welcoming to new immigrants with current immigration policies.

We should be grateful that our nation was founded upon principles that include freedom of expression and the freedom to peacefully dissent in hopes of redressing grievances against our government.  These freedoms, when exercised, cast honor upon our country’s founders and are denied to far too many of the world’s people. 

I joined Indivisible Denton because it helped alleviate the sleepless nights caused by current events. The uncertainty I felt was minor compared to the fear and instability that many immigrants may feel, I still felt compelled to add my voice and actions to the groundswell that the Indivisible movement represents, a grass roots effort to oppose injustice, to promote equality, truth, kindness and integrity in our community and our government.  Our message is simple:  we believe the United States should live up to the creed encased in our highest documents a message of offering respect to our fellow man, acknowledging each other’s dignity and allowing everyone to strive to better themselves.

We’re honored to welcome people of good will to Indivisible Denton

>> on the web at IndivisibleDenton.org   http://indivisibledenton.org/
>> on Facebook at Indivisible Denton   https://www.facebook.com/groups/1846758038943043/

April: The Month of Festivals

Miguel Guerra

21 Feb 2017

The city of Denton is a place where creativity flourishes; this is shown by several festivals throughout the beginning months of the year. In February, the Denton Black Film Festival came and it educated participants with various expositions of art, film, and music. However, if you missed out on the opportunity to see a festival there is no need to fret! This spring there will be more festivals in Denton. Here is a little preview of the upcoming festivals that will be taking place this April.

UNT Media Arts Festival 6-8 of April

The UNT Media Arts Festival is open to the public and it displays works of art done by students at the university in categories such as narrative film, documentaries, news programs, screenwriting, audio, as well as mixed media. This event is an opportunity for students to compete for prizes and recognition amongst their colleagues. This event is free and open to the public, and if you want more information please visit their website http://mediaarts.unt.edu/news/media-arts-festival.

Thin Line Film Festival 19-23 of April

This festival exhibits works of art from participants from three separate categories. The first category is the documentary film genre which includes comedies, documentaries, animations, and other genres to explore. The next category is of music performed by musicians from both a regional and national levels. Attendees can listen to a variety of genres and styles of music. The third category is photography with a plethora of international entrees. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the festival, Thin Line will be free but you still have to register for tickets online. More information over the festival and how to reserve tickets can be found on this website http://thinline.us/ .

Denton Arts and Jazz Festival 28-30 of April

Closing out the month of April is the 37th annual Arts and Jazz Festival. This event celebrates the visual and musical arts with a multitude of vendors selling everything from art to food, not to mention the seven stages for music and bands. The festival is organized by the Denton Foundation of Festivals; it lasts three days and is free to the public to celebrate the creative culture of the city of Denton. More information over the vendors and events held throughout all three days can be found on this website http://www.dentonjazzfest.com/index.shtml .

Denton LULAC

Denton Police Involved with Youth

By Mathew J. Crain

The Denton Police Department School Resource Officers have operated a summer youth program for seven years.  The goal of the program is to help young people make better choices through education, building self-confidence, and mentorship.  The program has served approximately 250 boys since its inception. Many of the participants have gone from marginal students with poor attendance and poor company to high school graduates that have been accepted into college or the military.

In 2015 the program started serving female students.  Approximately 50 boys and 10 girls participated in the program in 2015.  The participation and programming for the girls is expected to double for 2016.

The Denton Police Summer Youth Pro-gram is a proactive measure aimed at improving the quality of life in the City of Denton.  The program has shown to be a unique and effective method of encouraging positive behavior in young people.

Each group of students (middle school boys, high school boys, middle school girls) perform a fundraiser each year as a part of the program.  Since 2009 the boys have donated over $3000 to the Scottish Rite Hospital for Children.  This year the high school boys hosted a fundraiser that raised $547.  The boys decided to make a donation to the Scottish Rite Hospital and to a fund that will help support the families of Dallas Officers recently killed.
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Sheriff Tax Sales

By Alfredo Sanchez

A few years ago, I learned about properties being sold by the Sheriff Department in Denton County because people failed to pay the property taxes assessed by the county on their real property.  I have obtained a few of these properties and would like to share this information with others.  Each First Tuesday of the month at the court house on McKinney Street in Denton, Texas, the Sheriff Department sells properties that have been cleared to be sold because owners failed to pay the property taxes.

The sales start at 10:00 a.m. and the properties are sold to the highest bidder.  A list of the properties can be obtained by going to “Denton Country Sheriff Sales” then clicking on Sheriff Sales.  These are cash sales so the property has to be paid by 4:00 p.m. the day of the purchase.  Also the purchaser is required to provide the sheriff with a Request for Written Statement Regarding Delinquent Property Taxes in Denton County Texas Certificate.

The certificate verifies that the purchaser owes no overdue property taxes on his or her other properties.  This form can be obtained at the County Tax Assessor-Collector Office on McKinney Street in Denton, Texas.  Once the form is completed, it is returned to the Tax office and it costs $10 to certify the information on the form.   Any liens prior to the judgment for sale are wiped off.  Properties fall into two categories homestead and non-homestead.  On homestead properties the owner has two years to purchase back the property from the purchaser but must pay what it was purchased for plus 25%. 

On non-homestead properties, the owner has 6 months to purchase property back.  Owner has to pay an additional 25% of what the purchaser paid for the property at the tax sale.  If the property sells for more than what the taxes are the owner of the property (heir) has the right to petition for the balance by contacting the Denton County District Clerk.  The property owner or heirs have up to two years to petition for the excess money.  For example, recently there was a property in North Denton that was being sold because $25,000 of taxes was owed.  The house sold at the auction for $135,000.   

The owner or heirs have the right to petition for the $110,000 which is rightfully theirs.  If no one claims these funds they are distributed by the Court.  At the sheriff sale, most properties sell for much higher than the property taxes owed, especially in today’s market.  There are some purchasers who are approaching owners of property once properties appear on the Sheriff Sales Tax list in order to buy the property before the sheriff sale is conducted. Theoretically, the purchaser pays the taxes and gives the owner several thousand dollars above the taxes that are owed. It is possible that these properties are being purchased at very discounted prices.    If you owe taxes, before you lose your property, have a discussion with the tax office since it is possible that the tax office will work with property owners on a payment schedule.  The information I have provided is not legal advice. Every County has tax sales but each county does it a little differently so you must inquire how each country conducts its own sales.  
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Legacy of Riches

By Dr. Anjelita Cadena

Over the years, either as a student or now as a professor, I hear young adults comparing their childhoods and competing to see who was really poor. Each one has their frame of reference as to what poor means. A fellow university student was saying that her family was so poor her family could only take two vacations a year. And I thought, that’s like my family, but my conclusion was different, that didn’t make us poor.

My memories tell me that my family was rich.    We had two vacations each year while I was growing up: one on our drive up north and the other on our return. When we were too young to help much, our trips were to Buffalo Grove, Illinois, just north of Chicago, with my grandparents and uncles in other nearby cities such as Mundelein and Palatine.  Since my dad was bilingual, speaking both English and Spanish, he worked

as a landscape supervisor at Rolling Hills Nursery and Garden Center. He also manicured lawns as a side-job with us as his crew. My sister and I would drag the full bags of grass to the truck and dump it in so dad could keep mowing. I remember being in the back of the pickup truck full of freshly cut grass and just smelling it.

We also helped him on harder jobs, handed him the burlap, rope, and nails he needed to wrap the roots of trees that he had just dug out. To this day, I love the smell of freshly mowed grass, the look of a nicely manicured lawn; I still remember the smell of burlap and dirt, funny thing, these memories, they add to our riches.

Once, on a business trip to Chicago, I used my memories. I found the spot where I-83 goes right through Buffalo Grove, where there is now an IHOP and shopping center, which is where we used to live, at the garden center, behind the barn, in a mobile home provided by the boss. I followed my memory of our school bus ride and found my first school,  Aptakisic Tripp Elementary, where we made our first set of friends and I developed a love of phonics. Finding Rolling Hills Nursery took more effort, but I did find it after asking around at a few gas stations and I stopped and asked for the owner, Don Sims, but was told he had passed on.  I  asked for his son, Billy, my mother used to watch him when his mom had to be somewhere.  He was the age of my youngest brother, but taller than any of us. They called a few people on their radios asking for Billy, saying that someone was waiting for him at the office.  While we waited for him, I noticed their maps of the original location and I was able to point out all the parts of the garden center.  One of the men was filling me in on happenings and changes, when this sunburnt red, blond hared, giant of a man walked in; I immediately knew who he was and he looked at me and smiled.  He said, “I was just telling my wife last night about my memories of running around with a bunch of barefoot Mexicans.  ”Funny thing about childhood friends, the memories are forever.

My brothers, sisters, and I disagree on many issues. The usual culprits are politics, religion, who looks older, etc. But when I look in the mirror and see my little brother’s eyes looking back at me, it makes me smile. When I look at my sister’s picture on Facebook and remember being in the same place in my life ten years ago, I want to talk to her.  This is the legacy that my parents will leave for us,  recuerdos, of good times, friends, and family. My memories are of riches and my riches are my memories.

I hope that I leave my children with a similar legacy.  What can we do to make sure we leave them a rich legacy? We can show them how to treat our elders and family members with respect and love. We can show them to love people for who they are, not for who we think they should be. We can show them to love themselves and their lives.
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A Dream Vacation

By Alfredo Sanchez

It has been a week now since my wife and I returned from our vacation/Trip to Italy.  In my wildest dream I could never have imaged my wife and I taking a trip to Italy.    

Since we were going to Europe we decided to make this a long trip 4 weeks, April 16th to May 13th.   We decided to take our backpacks and a tent, which we did not use.  Our vacation started with a landing in Rome where we stayed four days in a camping park in a bungalow.  The camping site provided transportation to the metro a couple of blocks from the Vatican.  Our first day trip was to Vatican City to visit the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s.  We decided to enroll in a tour so we could get the most out of tour at Vatican City and eliminate standing in line.  A visit to Vatican City can be a full day trip with so much to see. 

Our tour guild informed us that on Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m. Pope Francis holds a public audience at Saint Peter’s square.  So we definitely had to make that viewing.  Being able to see Pope Francis just feet away was the culmination of our trip to Rome.  While we were in Rome we purchased tickets on the hop on hop off bus that tours the city.  Bus stops at historical sites and riders get off and spend as much time as they need at each site then board the bus to the next stop.  While on the bus riders listen to an audio tour guide.   Boarding the train after 5 days in Rome we headed south along the coast to Naples on a fast train. 

I was definitely impressed with their train system. First order of business was to find a room at each city we decided to stay.  We would put on our back pack, walk out of the train stations and walk around until we located a hotel we could afford.   In Naples we also did the Hop on Hop off tour which allowed us to see many historical sites.  Next city on our list was Pompeii to see the ruins followed with a visit to the Amalfi Coast where small villages are located on steep cliffs and lemons are the size of cantaloupes.  We then boarded an all night train and headed to Florence.  Very impressed with Florence. 

In Florence we saw many historical churches, building and museums.  Michael Angelo’ statue of David was definitely in our things to see.  Next city in our list was Pisa.   In Pisa we decided to do the walking tour that had been recommended in our tour book.    The Leaning Tower along with other historical sites kept us interested.  Before heading to Italy a friend recommend we visit Cinque Terre, five villages located on the cliffed coast on the Ligurian Sea.  There is a historical trail that connects five villages along these cliffs.  It takes about 5 hours to complete the 5 cities trail.  We only walked to three because part of the trail was not accessible.  It was a tough walk due to the steepness of the trail, the number of stairs we had to climb and the narrowness of the trail made the walk tough and challenging. 

We definitely slept well that night. Next city was Genoa followed by a short day trip to Monaco, France where the Rich and Fames live.  Monaco definitely a place we were unable to afford to stay.  Our next stop was Milan.  Using public transportation we made our way not only to the historical sites but to fashion Milan, areas in Milan known for high fashion shops.  Verona a city I would high recommend to visit.   Venice a city that definitely takes a romantic air as evening approaches.  Ravenna a peaceful city where bikes out number cars.  Never seen a city where biking is so popular.  We needed to take a day off and just spend it on the beach.  Rimini was just perfect especially when we located a room at very reasonably priced half a block from the beach.  We headed back to Rome a couple of days early because there was a few more sites we wanted to visit.  Definitely it was a great vacation but after being gone from home so long we were both happy to sleep in our own bed. 
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Famila, Escuela, Comunidad

By Alfredo Sanchez

One could not have picked a more beautiful day, March 5, 2016, for the annual family event known as the La Copa Familia.  Members of Guys/Gals Operating As Leaders (GOAL) joined by their fathers and mothers participated in a day of soccer at Calhoun Middle School in Denton, Texas.  Under the leadership of Chris Ice and other teachers from McMath Middle School, GOAL became a reality approximately 7 years ago. The purpose of GOAL is to assist bi-lingual children who may be at risk of dropping out of school.  By creating a nurturing environment, these students realize their potential by playing soccer, the most popular sport among Latino youth, and also by volunteering in the community.

The purpose of GOAL is to create future leaders. The purpose of the annual tournament is to bond parents and children relationships by having parents participate with their children in the soccer tournament known as La Copa Familia (The Family Cup).  It was an exciting day as parents tried to keep up with the activity of the game. Chris Ice, one of the founders of the organization, and his associates invited students and friends to join in and associate themselves with a soccer player whose parents were unable to attend. The success of GOAL has expanded to other neighboring communities and inquires have come from other school districts.  The GOAL program has been very successful and in 2015 and 2016 GOAL provided three LULAC student scholarships.   Through soccer, students are mentored and instructed that they have value, skills and are leaders.

Chris Ice, a school teacher, has spent countless hours making GOAL a reality.  North Texas GOAL has become a Denton ISD program that supports Family (Familia), School (Escuela), and Community (Comunidad).  Originally GOAL was strictly a boys program but in 2014 the program was extended to include girls.  If you have a son or daughter that you feel would benefit from this program contact Chris at cice@dentonisd.org.  If you would like to volunteer or donate funds to assist Chris Ice contact him at his e-mail.  This is a very beneficial program for the Hispanic youth and community.  If you are looking to volunteer in the community, give GOAL your consideration.  When our children succeed, our community prospers.
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Vaquero or Cowboy

By Alfredo Sanchez

The American vaquero/cowboy is mythologized because of thousands of novels and motion pictures.  The reality is that very few can separate the mythology from reality.   The origin of the vaquero comes from Spain beginning with the hacienda system of medieval Spain.  This style of cattle ranching common in the Iberian Peninsula was imported to the Americas by the Spanish settlers. The need to cover distances greater than a person could manage by foot gave rise to the development of the horseback-mounted vaquero. The vaquero tradition was further developed in Mexico. The vaqueros were horsemen and cattle herders of Spanish Mexico that arrived in the Americas back in the 1600’s.The earliest horses were originally of Andalusian, Barb and Arabian ancestry.  In time a number of uniquely American breeds have been developed.  The Mustang has its origins in these colonial horse breeds that escaped into the wild.  These wild horses also played a significant role in changing the lifestyle and landscape of Native American society.  Much of the vaquero dress and equipment remains the same because it is practical. The vaquero attire grew out of practical need and the environment vaqueros worked in.  As English settlers expanded westward, the vaquero tradition was both embraced and transformed. Today the vaquero tradition has been renamed in the United States as the cowboy tradition.   The vaquero still exists today because of his continued crucial contributions to the ranching industry.  Times have changed and so has the name of the vaquero but the essential work of the vaquero still remains the same -- cattle herder and horseman. Other cultures that contributed substantially to the vaquero culture were Native Americans and Mountain Men.   

The vaquero is alive and well in North Central Texas, in vaquero’s like Frankie Qaytan, a horseman.  At a very young age Frankie was taught horsemanship skills by his family.  Frankie is a fourth generation vaquero.   Frankie a native from Jalisco, Mexico.  He states “it is an honor and a vaquero takes pride in riding a horse.”  At the age of 24 “he came to the United States to learn to be a better vaquero and return to Mexico.”  At first his employers did not believe he had horsemanship skills so he had to prove himself.  At one time he stated he “was training as many as 34 horses per day when the average is 15”.  His day started before sunrise and ended well after sundown.  Many Mexicans are employed in the ranching industry in North Central Texas and are employed to do vaquero work, cattle herding.  Most Mexicans are only employed to do what most consider menial jobs, cleaning stalls, feeding livestock, herding cattle, assisting with calving, branding, building fences, etc. These so called menial jobs are essential to the cattle industry and the work is what the real vaquero has always done, which is making sure the cattle are taken care of.   The Urban cowboy of the 1980 with his pickup truck, tight jeans, large belt buckle, boots and cowboy hat is no real vaquero.  Most urban cowboys could not identify a breed of cattle or separate a cow from a bull.  Other states in Mexico that are well known for their vaqueros (horsemanship) are Zacatecas, Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, and Coahuila.  The area from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City is well known as horse country.  According to Frankie, “Denton County has more horse stalls than any county in the nation”.    Frankie specializes in Cutting Horse Training but is not limited to that. A Cutting Horse is trained to separate a particular cow, identified by the rider, from a herd.  The horse is placed between the cow and the cow herd and will not allow the cow to join the herd until the rider allows.  The horse and rider must anticipate any maneuver by the cow to join the herd. The Cutting Horse competition is very popular in the rodeo circuit. A good cutting horse is expensive and it takes many hours to develop a good Cutting Horse. To learn more about Frankie Gaytan go to gaytanperformancehorses.com. 

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Immigration: Tread Lightly,
Politicos by Linda Carrasco

Immigration law cannot be blanketed over all groups and declared to be the solution to all immigration problems. Have you seen what happened in Arizona as of late? Upon examination of SB1070 and the Legal Arizona Workers Act or LAWA which initiated the E-Verify system of identifying immigrants, the result has been an unexpected, unproductiveness. One of the things that is being reported is that the state gained a reputation of hostility towards immigrants, which diverted business ventures to other states. Construction in the Phoenix area collapsed faster and further than in neighboring states.

 In north Texas and the DFW area, everywhere you look there is construction going on…new businesses, new roads, new infrastructure…all the activity brings with it a vibrancy and evidence of progress. That is good for families and businesses. Families have money to spend…old businesses are growing and new ones are opening because there are customers around to buy food, goods, homes, cars, and services.

A visual examination of construction job sites in the area reveals that the workers doing the hard labor and the unseen workers doing the behind the line jobs which are vitally necessary to make food and other business establishments successful, are highly likely to be immigrants, legal and illegal.

In Arizona and other like-minded states, politicians thought it would be a patriotic concept to sweep through and enforce immigration laws, allowing employment vacancies for other Americans to step in and fill. Job vacancies were not filled as theorized, in construction, in the food industry, hotels, and in agriculture, amongst many others. Businesses have suffered for lack of workers and according to one report, Arizona-style laws are economically destructive and detrimental to growth in cities and states. A labor force shortage was not the only adverse effect, Arizona found out that when “unauthorized immigrants” leave the state they take their businesses, money, and spending power with them, reducing the demand for goods and services.

Texas politicians had better tread lightly and take notice of what has happened to states who have indiscriminately passed and enforced unfair immigration laws targeted at workers.  The state may end up facing abandoned work sites and businesses unable to fill job vacancies, not to mention a loss of billions of dollars in labor income and tax revenue.

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LULAC Celebrates 87 Years


League of United
Latin American Citizens

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), founded in 1929, is the oldest and largest Hispanic civil rights organization in the country. LULAC was created at a time in our country’s history when Hispanics were being denied basic civil and human rights. Since its founding, LULAC has fought for full access to the political process and equal educational opportunity for all Hispanics. LULAC continues to play a role in these efforts.  

For example, the LULAC policy agenda is focused on ensuring access and opportunity to Latino populations. Accordingly, the LULAC policy priorities include working for comprehensive immigration reform, ensuring our children graduate high school prepared for college and career, ridding disparities in healthcare access, bringing critically-needed broadband Internet to our communities and fighting for the rights of our LGBT brothers and sisters. In addition, LULAC provides critically needed resources to the community through the following key programs: Latinos Living Healthy, Ford Driving Dreams, Empower Hispanic America with Technology, Pocket Smart, Hispanic Immigrant Integration Project (HIIP), Ready! Set! Go! and the Democracy Initiative.

LULAC is also fighting to ensure diversity in the corporate work place. This November LULAC will host the Latinos in Tech Summit in Silicon Valley. The summit will discuss the need to increase corporate diversity, create a pipeline for young leaders in tech, showcase Latino incubators, and provide nonprofit organizations with cutting edge tools.

Finally, this year more than ever before, LULAC is working to ensure that Latinos participate in the political process and vote on Election Day.  LULAC’s voter registration effort focuses on raising awareness on the issues that impact the Latino community such as education, health and immigration. In addition, LULAC will work to promote increased participation and ensure integrity in the electoral process through its efforts related to get out the vote, voter protection and poll monitoring in 23 states.

There is strength in numbers. You can get involved by starting a council in your area or by joining LULAC and being part of our effort to bring opportunities and access to the Latino community. For more information on how you can get involved, go to www.lulac.org. Please join us in helping to make a difference in the Latino community.

Locally you may contact council 4568 at goveaalberto215@yahoo.com or Call 817-797-4015   
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Voting

By Alfredo Sanchez

This year’s early voting period is February 16-26, 2016.  Early voting is the best time to vote for the following reasons:  voters can take advantage of voting at any location in their county, lines are short, there are two weeks slated for early voting so the stress of voting is reduced, and early voting sites are open on the weekends. 

The following forms of  photo Identification (ID) are acceptable when voting:  Texas Drivers License, Texas Election Identification Certificate,  Texas Personal Identification Card, Texas concealed Handgun License, United States Military Photo ID, United States Citizenship Certificate w/photo, and United States Passport. 

With the exception of the U.S. Citizenship Certificate, the identification must be current or have expired no more than 60 days before being presented for voter qualification at the polling place.   For more information on voting in Denton County go to votedenton.com.  Dallas county voters can get information from DallasCountyVotes.org, and Tarrant County voters can go to Access TarrantCounty.com.  

Latinos are encouraged to assist members of their families to vote by reminding them to vote, driving them to the voting location, talking to them about how important voting is, organizing voting in the family and make voting a family event.   Latinos should exercise their right to vote.   Latinos have died defending that right contrary to what some American citizens believe.   United, our votes send a message that we are a force to be recognized and a voice to be heard.
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Protest Your Property Taxes

By Alfredo Sanchez

A new year is here and property tax value notifications will be mailed in April 2016.   I have written about protesting property taxes before and would like to remind our readers why it is important to protest your taxes.  The process of protesting your taxes is extremely easy and will save you money.   Simply fill out and return the Notice of Protest form that comes with your Notice of Appraised Value.   The form can be either mailed in or hand delivered.  If it is hand delivered the clerk will set up an appointment immediately with one of the appraisers. 

Instead of meeting with an appraiser immediately, you may want to wait before meeting with an appraiser to determine your property value so that you can do your research into similar properties to see what value they are appraised and taxed at so that you can use this information in your protest. In the appropriate box on the Notice of Protest form, check the reason for your protest.  Personally I prefer checking the “value is unequal compared with other properties” box.   I check the property values in the neighborhood to see if my property value is consistent with others in the neighborhood.  Then I use those property values to determine the value of the property to negotiate with the appraiser.   If you would rather use figures of current sales of similar properties, that is also an option.  Once you meet with an appraiser, either you agree on the appraised value or you don’t.  If you don’t agree your next step is to go before the Appraisal Board.  An appointment will be scheduled for you.   

You present your evidence which is your research and your argument before the Appraisal Board and they make a ruling on the value of your property.  This process takes around 15 minutes.  If again you don’t agree with the evaluation of the Appraisal Board you can appeal that to an Arbitrator.  As the appellant you are required to post $500.   In the event you lose your case that money is used to cover the cost of the Arbitrator and Appraisal District’s expense.  If you win all but $50 is returned to you.  In my case in 2015, there were three properties that we could not agree on.   I decided to take the three properties before an Arbitrator.   When we submitted our application along with the $1500 check, the Appraisal District made a counter offer on the three properties and we agreed on two of the three.  Therefore we only had to present one property to the Arbitrator. 

A letter is sent to the appellant with several arbitrators listed and you select 3 based on your preferences.  You will be contacted by the Arbitrator as to the time, date and location to meet.  You present your evidence to the Arbitrator and counter what the appraisal district has presented.  In order to win, the Arbitrator’s value of the property must not exceed half of the value the land owner proposed and the appraisal district proposed value.  In other words if the land owner’s proposed value is $70,000 and the Appraisal District’s proposed value is $80,000, then the value proposed by the Arbitrator cannot exceed $75,000 for the land owner to win the case. 

What I learned from the process in 2015:

1). As a small investor owning more than 10 properties, my interview with the appraisal district should have been conducted in a private office, it was not.

2)  While discussing my properties with the appraiser assigned to me, the person next to me, whose property values had been decided previously by the appraiser helping me, went back and found a different appraiser, discussed his property again and had his values lowered.  The property owner should have been denied a second visit with an appraiser.  The owner’s next step of appeal should have been to the Appraisal Board not to another appraiser.  How often does this happen?   The reason I know about this case is that the conversation took place right in front of me and next to me where we were all seated.   The appraiser I was dealing with was drawn into the case next to us and he stated to me after wards what had transpired.   I had already understood what had taken place.  Do some people get special privileges?  I brought this up to a supervisor at a later date and he denied such things happen.  

 3)  As the appellant I had inform the Arbitrator and the Appraisal District that I wanted to evaluate my property based on similar properties in the neighborhood-- which is allowed.   I discovered that the owners of the properties with the 3 highest property values in my property’s neighborhood all had Hispanic last names.  This is a very good reason why Hispanics need to protest their taxes. 

 4) I had the understanding that we would be meeting in a neutral environment, however, we met at the Appraisal District.    After the arbitration session, the Arbitrator remained in the conference room with the Appraisal District employees.  This was unsettling to me because it took away the feeling of being treated impartially.  It would be more proper for the Arbitrator to leave the room first or that the Appraisal District employees leave the room before the land owner in order to dismiss any perception of partiality of the Arbitrator to the Appraisal District Employees after the case has been discussed and closed.  The Arbitrator is supposed to be impartial not friends with the Appraisal District.   

Over all the process is helpful, but a few areas need to be reviewed:  1) the area of the meeting needs to be a neutral place (library conference room for example) and 2) all persons should leave the room at the same time so there is no appearance of undue influence on the Arbitrator by either party.   No additional conversation should occur between the Appraisal District and the Arbitrator, nor the landowner and the Arbitrator once the case is closed. 
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A Dream Lost

By Alfredo Sanchez

Members of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a civil rights organization for Latinos, have been active in assisting the Latino community since it was first established in Denton County in 1983.   Several months ago Denton LULAC was contacted to assist a homeless Hispanic man (whom we will call, Jose).  

I volunteered to help Jose so I contacted the individual that requested LULAC’s assistance (we will call him Jim).  I interviewed Jim and he provided me with information about Jose.  Jose had lived in the United States for over 40 years and Jim believed Jose was over 63 years of age. Jose and his brother had lived together for many years until his brother died after being hit by a car.  Jose had been homeless for many years, was a hard worker but liked to drink.  

Jose worked in the community primarily cutting grass.   Jose had scars on his body after having been burned in a fire.  He had spent many months in the hospital as a result of burns to his body.  As a result of the fire, Jose had lost his ears, a couple of fingers, had scarring throughout his body, had patchy hair and it was almost impossible to understand him when he spoke.

Sometimes it was difficult to piece facts together because of his incomplete recollection of events and his difficulty in communicating.  He had lost a lot of movement in his arms due the scaring of his skin but that did not keep him from pushing a lawn mower once it was started for him.  All of his important personal papers had been lost as a result of the fire.  According to Jim, Jose was a Legal Permanent Resident and had worked many years for two different employers in their community. Both employers had ceased operating their respective businesses. 

Jim wanted me to assist with obtaining Jose’s Social Security benefits.  Jim was adamant that Jose was entitled to those benefits.   Jim had previously tried to help Jose but had run into a brick wall.  He had heard about LULAC and requested LULAC’s assistance.    As I talked with Jim, I learned of other families in the community that knew Jose very well.  I contacted them and was able to obtain a little information.  If occurred to me one day that Jose might possibly have a police record so I visited the police station in order to seek to obtain relevant personal biographical information.

While talking to one of the officers another officer, who had just walked in, overheard the conversation and surprisingly stated that he happened to have one of Jose’s old I-94’s, which is an important document received from the United States Immigration Service.  He had happened to find it a few days earlier.  Jose, Jim and I visited several government offices, Social Security Administration, Mexican Consulate, Homeland Security Office and, Opening Doors International Services (ODIS) and had made several calls to Mexico in an effort to get Jose his benefits.  

While waiting for the information to be processed and verified, one of the daughters of one of the families I had visited with had stopped to visit Jose.  Jose’s shelter camp was an open metal canopy filled with odd farm equipment.  After calling to him with no response she entered the shelter only to find Joe’s lifeless body.  Jim organized a small wake for Jose.  What was apparent to me while gathering information was that Jose had a very generous heart and was a hard worker despite his drinking problem.

 Despite his infirmities he would show up to work for Jim even in cold weather.  Jim stated to me that he believed Jose was his blessing.  Several weeks after Jose’s death we received a letter that his benefits were approved.   

The purpose of this story is to remind us that sometimes we lose sight of our dreams and it can have devastating consequences.  Jose like many Mexicans have come to this country with a dream to make a better life.  The disease of alcoholism ravaged his dreams. 
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