Property Tax Hike Opponents Reveal -- Sorta -- Themselves

We told you last week about a web site -- nopropertytaxhike.com -- that was being circulated by e-mail and through social networking web sites in response to Mayor Nutter's call to temporarily increase property taxes by 19 percent in the fiscal year that starts on July 1 and by 14.5 percent for the fiscal year that starts in July 2010.  PhillyClout found it curious that the web site, set up as an on-line petition seeking names, e-mail addresses and home addresses, didn't say who was running it.  The site was registered by a guy who lives near Chicago and refused to identify the people behind the effort.

Alexis Michels reached out to us a few days later, after the web site was updated to list her name as president of the "Philadelphia Homeowners Alliance."  Never heard of it?  PhillyClout too.  Michels, in an e-mail and later in a phone call, described herself as a "long-time Philadelphia resident."

While preparing for our conversation, PhillyClout figured we would try to calculate how much more Michels might be paying in property taxes if Nutter's plan is approved.  But a Lexis-Nexis search turned up no property records for her in Philadelphia.  What we found was her listed at several addresses -- all in Montgomery County, where she runs a financial and political consulting business and also operates with her mother a firm that provides household help.  We also discovered her brother is a real estate broker in Wayne who specializes in Main Line and Center City properties.

Michels repeatedly said she was "not comfortable divulging that information" when asked where she lived and would not even name her neighborhood.  She said the idea for the web site came up among a group of friends and that it was very informal. "They made me president because I was willing to pay for the web site," she said. "We don't have meetings."  Michels added that the web site has been drawing a surprising amount of responses, though she could not say how many people signed the petition.

Michels was clearly uneasy with questions about her role in the effort.  "This isn't about me," she said. "I didn't expect this to take off.  I guess I should have realized that this was affecting everyone else."

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