Candidate: Sharon Strobeck-Eckersall, Republican, of Evanston
Occupation: Real estate broker and appraiser
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Civic Involvement: Board Member of Resources for Living, Inc.; Mundelein College Alumni Association; The Rushes Homeowners Association; Member of Certified Illinois Assessing Officer's Association, National Association of Realtors, Illinois Association of Realtors, Evanston Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Notaries Association, Norwegian Chamber of Commerce
Elected Offices Held: Evanston Township Assessor, three terms for an aggregate of 11 years. Appointed first in 1999 to complete the term vacated voluntarily by my predecessor.
What is your No. 1 campaign issue? The citizens of Cook County deserve every dollar they have coming to them. That won't happen until there is a truly qualified, highly credentialed individual serving as Assessor, so that politics can be removed from the workings of this office and replaced by integrity. The job of Cook County Assessor is a complex technocratic position, not a political prize. My Number 1 priority is this: Run the Cook County Assessor's Office with the best possible 21st century technology, efficiency, transparency and taxpayer assistance and this cannot be accomplished by an amateur. I'm the professional choice in this race. My relevant elective, administrative and managerial background will permit me to serve very knowledgeably, which is what this office so badly needs. My reputation and no-nonsense approach to public service gives voters a large measure of assurance that I can run the Assessor's Office with honesty, fairness and efficiency. I am a Certified Illinois Assessing Officer with over 1,000 hours of continuing education. I have served as a Township Assessor for 11 years. I have been a real estate appraiser for 16 years and a real estate broker for 23 years. These relevant qualifications set me apart.
What is your No. 2 campaign issue? Technology is key. Updating the systems and procedures used in the Cook County Assessor's Office to make them as efficient as possible means more tax revenue can be collected quickly and fairly. This includes better record-keeping and collaboration between government agencies to assure that (1) building permits for vacant land are properly monitored and processed, so new properties can be added to the tax roles without delay; (2) building permits issued for residential property result in revised upward assessments where appropriate; and (3) the homeowner exemption abuses can be curbed if not eliminated. Online information access must be greatly improved, and the Assessor's Office website revamped. The appeals process for homeowners should be made easier to navigate. Pressure must be brought to bear on the conduct of business before the Cook County Board of Review so that tax bills can be distributed on schedule, thereby allowing incoming revenue to be collected in a timely fashion.
What is your No. 3 campaign issue? Ethics reform is crucial. The power of the Cook County Assessor should not be misrepresented. I am not engaging in the intellectually dishonest and patently misleading game of pretending that the Cook County Assessor has the power to decrease taxes, eliminate taxes or set tax rates. To imply as much is factually incorrect. The office confers no jurisdiction to accomplish such things. Having said that, I do believe in using the "bully pulpit of elective office to advocate for necessary reforms regarding assessment issues. I support:
1. Calling upon the best experts to devise a fair formula for assessments in view of the many foreclosures, short sales and reduced home property values the current economy has produced. This issue clearly speaks to fairness and therefore is an ethical consideration.
2. Outlawing current conflict of interest loopholes plaguing the Board of Review. For instance, Board members should not be Springfield lobbyists with conflicts, nor should the Board be permitted to drag out appeal judgments, thereby ignoring tax bill distribution deadlines.
3. Outlawing campaign contributions, whether cash or in-kind, from law firms which represent clients attempting to secure assessment appeals.
4. Forbidding Cook County Assessor's Office employees from contributing to the Assessor's campaign fund.
5. Forbidding campaign contributions to the Assessor or assessor candidates from Cook County Assessor's Office vendors.
Also, the new law requiring senior citizens to apply for the senior exemption every year should be amended as soon as possible to remove this burdensome requirement.