Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
Website: http:// www.electpatlak.com/
Office sought: Cook Board of Review 1st District
Family: Married, one child
Occupation: Commissioner, Cook County Board of Review
Education: Valparaiso University, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with concentration in Finance Licensed Real Estate Broker since 1986 Graduate of the Real Estate Institute (GRI) Certified Illinois Assessing Officer (CIAO)
Civic involvement: Parishoner, St. Joseph the Worker Church 4th degree Knight of Columbus, Regina Council
Elected offices held: Commissioner, Cook County Board of Review Dec. 2010-Present Wheeling Township Assessor January 2006-December 2010 Board Member, East Maine School District 63 1995-1997
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Elect a qualified Republican commissioner to represent the 1st District.
Taxpayers deserve to have elected officials who are actually qualified for the position which they seek and who have demonstrated some previous interest in the issues affected by the office they wish to hold.
Please allow me to explain why I am the only qualified candidate for this office.
With a demonstrated interest in fair and equitable taxation, I possess the practical hands on experience, formal education and professional accreditation that makes me uniquely qualified to serve the citizens of Cook County as a commissioner at the Board of Review.
In addition, I am the only candidate who currently serves and will continue to serve as a full time commissioner at the Board.
My interest in tax and spend issues began not long after graduation from college in 1984.
The Grace Commission report (AKA the president's (Ronald Reagan's) private sector survey on cost control) was of particular interest to me and eventually brought me to join Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and become a local volunteer coordinator.
In the early 1990's I organized two 'Taxpayer Action Day' rallies on behalf of CAGW at the Daley Plaza and the Kluczinski federal building.
In addition, I testified before the Cook County Board against imposition of the original -- cent county sales tax.
From 1986 to 1996 I worked as a full time Real Estate Broker. I attended the Real Estate Institute and earned the GRI designation held by only 9% of Realtors nationwide at that time.
I worked at the Board of Review for Republican Commissioner Maureen Murphy from 1999 to 2006 as an analyst specializing in residential, commercial apartment and exempt properties.
In addition I supervised preparation of cases to be heard by the Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB) and represented the county at over 500 oral hearings.
I also served as Commissioner Murphy's Public Information Officer, writing press releases, responding to media inquiries, assisting in writing letters to the editor, contributing to the annual report and communicating with local elected officials.
As a surrogate speaker for Commissioner Murphy I made presentations at approximately 60 assessment appeal seminars.
While at the Board, I attended classes conducted by the International Association of Assessing Officers and the Illinois Property Assessment Institute and earned the designation of 'Certified Illinois Assessing Officer' (C.I.A.O.).
In 2005 I was elected Wheeling Township Assessor and was re-elected in 2009.
Just prior to being sworn-in as Commissioner of the Board of Review in December 2010, I resigned as Wheeling Township Assessor and devoted myself to the Board of Review full time.
I am a member of the National and Illinois Association of Realtors and the International Association of Assessing Officers.
Key Issue 2
Electability & keeping the 1st district Board of Review seat in Republican hands'
In order to provide a minority party check and balance of a powerful office such as the Board of Review, it is in the best interest of all Cook County residents that the 1st Board of Review seat remain in the hands of an authentic, competent and electable Republican.
The Republican Party can best hold this seat by offering voters a stark contrast between its candidate and the Democrat candidate in the general election. As noted in issue number one, my background and experience over the past twenty years make me a perfect fit for the Board of Review and an attractive candidate for voters.
In addition I have a record of success in elections having won for school board, Township Assessor twice and in the most recent Board of Review primary and general elections. The two Board elections included defeating my current opponent in the last primary and being the first Republican to defeat a sitting Democrat Cook County office holder in fifteen years in the 2010 general election.
Of course, authenticity in Party affiliation should be important to all tax payers and especially to Republican primary voters.
As an active and proud Republican for the past twenty five years, I have voted in a Republican primary every year since graduating from college in 1984.
From 1993 to 2003 I was a Maine Township Republican Organization Precinct Captain and served as Treasurer of that group for two years.
From 2003 to the present I have been a Precinct Captain for the Republicans of Wheeling Township while also serving as a Deputy Committeeman.
Over the years I have volunteered on dozens of campaigns for Republican candidates, knocking on thousands of doors, making thousands of phone calls and stuffing thousands of envelopes.
And while I have contributed money to and raised money for many Republican candidates and organizations, I have never made a contribution to a Democrat.
On the other hand, my opponent voted in Democrat primaries his entire life until deciding to run for the suburban Board of Review seat as a Republican.
He has made contributions to the 19th Ward Democratic organization as well as several Democrat candidates.
He never joined a local Republican organization until he decided to be a Republican candidate. These very questionable actions on his part beg the question as to whether my opponent would really serve as a Republican check and balance at the Board if he were elected.
Key Issue 3
Making the Board of Review a full time occupation--
Commissioners at the Board of Review earn a salary of $100,000 plus generous benefits.
I made a commitment in the previous election to serve as a full-time commissioner and I have fulfilled that commitment.
I have no business interests outside the Board of Review and I do not directly supervise 1000 employees as my opponent does, consequently I will continue to spend each day devoting myself full time to the taxpayers of Cook County.
What changes would you propose in the operation of the Board of Review? Why?
On-line appeals were just the first step in creating a totally digital and paperless system at the Board. The system is in development and will eventually allow us to decrease a variety of costs as well as build efficiencies in Board operations.
Many significant changes have already been made at the Board in the thirteen months since my swearing in:
On-Line appeals-On September 6 the Board began to offer on-line appeals to its constituents.
Besides the convenience this offers to appellants it also allows the Board to be more efficient by reducing man hours associated with data input and reducing costs for printing complaint forms.
Since installing on-line appeals, 52% of cases filed at the Board have come via the internet despite no budget to advertise our new program.
We expect usage and associated cost savings to increase significantly.
This is the fulfillment of a campaign promise I made during the last election.
Educational Assessment Appeal Seminar Outreaches-Since January of 2011, my staff and I have made presentations at over 60 Assessment Appeal Outreach seminars.
The seminars have educated thousands of tax payers regarding their rights to appeal as well as providing general information about the Cook County property tax system and exemptions available to homeowners.
I believe that an educated taxpayer is an empowered taxpayer who will be better informed when they go to the ballot box and attend meetings of their local taxing districts.
These programs are a great success and will continue as long as property owners want them.
Suburban satellite offices have remained open-Suburban tax payers constitute a majority of residents and property parcels in Cook County.
Despite two difficult budget negotiations where the closing of our suburban offices was suggested by the administration, we have maintained all five of our suburban locations so that aggrieved property owners can speak to a Board representative in person without having to travel downtown.
Keeping these offices open is the fulfillment of another commitment I made.
Continuing education for Analysts-Rather than relying only on internal training my analysts took a assessment class (free of charge) offered by the Illinois Department of Revenue and an additional class on evaluating appraisals from a retired instructor from the Illinois Property Assessment Institute.
Annual Report posted on the Internet-In December, the Board issued its first ever Annual Report signed on to by all three commissioners.
The report details responsibilities of the Board, statistical information on number of appeals, success rates, budget and employees and interesting facts abut the county.
The report is posted at www.cookcountyboardofreview.com.
Once again, a promise made and a promise kept.
Permanently correcting errors in property description-Prior to my election, there was no mechanism between the Board of Review and the Assessor's office to correct the Assessor's property description records if the Board found an error.
Within weeks of my election, the Board worked out an agreement with the Assessors office to correct property description errors discovered by the Board.
This new arrangement has already saved many property owners the trouble of filing appeals repeatedly to get relief for the same mistake.
It has also saved money for local governmental units who would stand to lose money when aggrieved taxpayers would file certificates of error to get a refund for what they overpaid based on incorrect property description.
Correcting this long time problem was my pledge during the campaign.
Continuing to accept appeals at no charge to the appellant-This was a suggestion that was brought up during budget negotiations but was shot down by myself and the other two commissioners.
It was a commitment I made during the last election.
Improved relations between the Assessor's office and the Board of Review-Prior to the last election the Assessor's office and the Board of Review were at each others throats for many years.
The result was no cooperation and reduced efficiency in the county property tax system. Now our offices meet monthly to discuss better ways to improve our operations and cooperate to get tax bills out in a more timely and efficient manner.
A key example of cooperation between the two offices is the Assessor making his technology department available to the Board to help get our on-line appeal system up and running.
What measures can be taken to trim the influence of firms filing appeals with connections to political figures'
Despite popular opinion to the contrary, firms with political connections do not have any more influence over the Board of Review than anyone else.
With that said, the best way to assure fair and equitable decisions at the Board is to promote as much transparency as possible.
While all citizens have a right to appeal and to choose their own council, the public has a right to know who is appealing, what contributions have been made, who is representing appellants, and the results received.
In the spirit of transparency, the Board of Review saves all of its appeal files for five years.
Those files are available for inspection by individuals, good government groups and the media to ensure that the decisions rendered are just and fair. The Board of Review is currently working to post all current appeals within a few days of their filing and the results after they are certified.
My policy is to refuse political contributions from the big three law firms of Madigan, Cullerton and Burke.
Any political contributions in excess of $500 should be required to be reported to the State Board of Elections within 48 hours and posted on their web site immediately.
Currently the state law only requires contributions of $1,000 or more to be reported within five business days of deposit.
How does the Board of Review effectively balance the financial needs of the county with the requests from taxpayers to lower assessments'
Assessment reductions granted by the Board of Review do not impact the overall amount of taxes collected by government bodies. The total accumulated amount of taxes collected is set by individual taxing districts such as schools, villages, park districts and library districts.
However, an assessment reduction for one property does increase the relative share of taxes owed by all other properties.
Keeping that fact in mind, the Board's duty is to fairly and objectively analyze appeals from aggrieved property owners and grant reductions when sufficient evidence of over-assessment is presented.
The Board can reduce borrowing costs on the part of taxing bodies and subsequently costs to taxpayers by completing our work on a timely basis so that tax bills can be delivered on the timetable required by statute.
The Board is working very hard to improve efficiency and close early enough for tax bills to be sent on time this session.
What improvements should be made to the office's and the county's ethics rules' What is your view of whether employees should be able to donate to you and others elected? What should the office's policy be on nepotism and why?
Board of Review employees are banned from making contributions to commissioners.
I never have and never will solicit an employee of mine for a contribution.
While each of the three commissioners makes their own decisions on whom to hire, my policy is not to hire relatives.
This was a pledge I made when last running for election and I intend to continue to abide by that pledge.
Can this office meet budget goals set forth by Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle without compromising services' Is so, how? If not, what alternative do you propose?
Budget time is always difficult because each county office is competing with the others for scarce resources.
Each year the Board of Review works with the President's office and the seventeen elected county commissioners to agree on a budget that is lean but which will allow the Board to fulfill its statutory responsibility to review assessment appeals in a fair and timely manner.
The Board's budget has been relatively static for a long time despite a four-fold increase in appeals over the past twelve years.
Our number of employees is also lower than at any time in recent history.
The Board has met this challenge by increasing the use of technology, cross training employees and establishing comp-time instead of increasing personnel.
The next step in efficiency is to go to a paperless system where all documents are submitted electronically and reviewed by an analyst on a computer screen.
That step will take a significant capital investment and we are working with the President's office and the Bureau of Technology to make it a reality.