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.
Office sought: Cook Board of Review 1st District
Family: Married to Mary Lynn, daughter Monica and son-in-law Steve Madura, two granddaughters, Bailey and Chloe.
Occupation: Deputy Cook County Recorder of Deeds from 1999 to present.
Education: Graduated from Tinley Park High School Attended the University of Nebraska
Civic involvement: Coordinator, 1996 Atlanta Olympics: helped coordinate all wrestling events. Coordinator, 1995 World Wrestling Championships: helped coordinate all wrestling events. Wrestling Coach: Homewood Flossmoor High School (1997-98) Wrestling and Football Coach: Marian Catholic High School (1982-1996) Volunteer Youth Wrestling and Football Coach: Oak Forest Park District Program (1980-1982)
Elected offices held: Bremen Township Highway Commissioner 2005 to 2009
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: NO!
Key Issue 1
I believe that the Board must work to restore the public?s confidence in the property tax system. The first way to accomplish this is to make the Board?s process completely transparent. Like other courts around the country, the Board of Review should make all of its decisions immediately available online, including both the numeric result of its decision AND the hearing officer?s methodology that led to that result. Currently, this is not the case, and I propose to change that. In addition, unlike my opponent who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from attorneys that practice in front of him, I have put a voluntary $250.00 limit on contributions from attorneys that practice in front of the Board of Review. I believe this is an important step in restoring the faith of the citizens of Cook County in their government.
Key Issue 2
I pledge to open the Board of Review on time each year and to expeditiously work through the appeals. However, opening on time and working hard will not completely solve the problem. As commissioner, I will demand that the Board of Review end its dependence on paper. The current laborious process involves the production of a paper file for every appeal the Board of Review receives. Then, these files are physically transported on carts from staff to staff. This manual process costs the Board of Review weeks of time. As Commissioner, I will streamline the process by bringing the same proven technological improvements to the Board of Review that I brought to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds office. I will push to fully automate the appeals process, which includes the requirement that attorneys file their paperwork electronically. Electronic files will allow the Board to shorten timelines, and thus reduce costs. In fact, this system could save the Board weeks and even months during the appeals process.
Key Issue 3
I would institute an extensive public relations campaign in association with community groups, homeowners associations and municipalities in my district. This effort would utilize public access television, town hall meetings, and internet social networking to explain the appeals process and help homeowners file appeals. I would seek to partner with every park district and public library in the County to make Appeal Forms and uncomplicated instruction booklets available to homeowners. Finally, I will be a full-time commissioner, with no outside employment, to ensure that I am available when the homeowners need me.
How does the Board of Review effectively balance the financial needs of the county with the requests from taxpayers to lower assessments?
The Board of Review?s ONLY job is to correct a wrong. If a property tax bill is not correct or if an error has taken place, then it is the duty of the Board of Review to fix that problem and that problem only. The Board of Review is not a taxing agency, so it has no control over the revenue of the County. I will ensure however that only those that deserve a proper tax reduction get a proper tax reduction, and I will not be improperly influenced by tax lawyers or their politically-connected constituents.
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?
This responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the Commissioners themselves. Unfortunately my opponent was accused by his opponent of violating this very issue during the primary election. Through transparency of the office, including my self-imposed restriction of campaign donations from employees and attorneys that practice in front of the Board of Review, I hope to create a new culture of government in Cook County-- one in which its citizens are proud of their government officials and offices.
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?
Absolutely. There are many technological advancements that I plan to institute, that are not currently being used in the department. These improvements alone will definitely streamline processes, and significantly cut costs. I plan to examine every possible way to modernize the department, in the same way I did at the Recorder of Deeds office, which showed substantial and tangible savings.
Is it desirable for both commercial and residential property owners to be treated equally by the Board? How would you create that system, and would it include limits on how much of a reduction property owners can get from one year to the next?
I do not support a limit on how much a property owner can get in reductions from one year to another, because a reduction should ONLY be given if there is a mistake or error in the bill. No reduction should EVER be given absent a mistake or error. Second, property is property regardless of its use as commercial or residential and as such should be treated the same.
Address the bribery charges against John Racasi and Thomas Hawkins. What oversight do you propose to prevent corruption; also, what measures could trim the influence of firms with connections to politicians, when those firms file appeals?
I am outraged by these allegations. This is not just a case of poor choices made by two individuals. There is a lack of transparency and accountability at the Board of Review, which has made the culture ripe for corruption. I share the same sentiment of Cook County taxpayers when I say that this is intolerable, and it confirms that drastic changes are needed at the Board of Review. From the beginning of my candidacy, I have eliminated any perception of impropriety by instituting a donation limit: I will accept no more than $250 in donations from any attorney that practices in front of the Board of Review. In contrast, my opponent has accepted more than $400,000 in campaign contributions from Tax Appeal Lawyers. While those are lawful donations, they do nothing to instill a sense of trust and transparency that is rightfully expected by taxpayers. As I have stated throughout this campaign, when elected, I will introduce the following specific reforms that will increase accountability, reform our ethics code and restore the legitimacy of the review process. Accountability: The Cook County Board of Review Commissioners must be accountable for their operations. For all commercial properties, attorneys should a) write extensive briefs that detail the reason for the requested relief and b) submit clear and convincing evidence to support that request. If clear or convincing evidence is lacking, the case should automatically be rejected. Additionally, each hearing officer will thoroughly document the reason for any relief given, including but not limited to, presenting the exact mathematical formula used to give the desired relief. Finally and most importantly, we need to implement a system that will provide the public with immediate online access to both the attorney evidence and the hearing officer's conclusions, thereby eliminating the need for FOIA requests and cumbersome review of paper files. Ethical Reforms: In my campaign, I have voluntarily capped donations from attorneys and firms that practice in front of the Board of Review at $250.00. If elected, I will work with my fellow Commissioners to make this the law of the land. Commissioners should also never ask for or accept any donations from a government employee that works for them. Restore the Confidence of the Taxpayers in the Review process: When taxpayers appeal their taxes, all they ask for is a fair shot. First, make the Board's process completely transparent. All decisions should be immediately available online. For far too long, the Cook County Board of Review has operated in a vacuum in terms of technology. As I stated previously, if elected, I will work with my fellow commissioners to close this vacuum. I will bring this office into the 21st Century.