Endorsement: Kaegi for Democrats as Cook County assessor
Credit Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios for recognizing the institutional problems that existed in his office long before he took control in 2010. For 40 years, Berrios says, the assessor's office operated in a way that shifted the county's property tax burden from wealthier landowners to lower- and middle-class families.
A harshly critical report from the nonpartisan Civic Consulting Alliance issued Feb. 15 confirms this. And yet only in recent months, when staring down a stiff challenge in the March 20 Democratic primary, does it appear Berrios became really serious about doing something about it. We ask, what's taken so long?
The same is being asked by Berrios' primary challenger, Oak Park asset manager Fritz Kaegi.
Kaegi offers not only strong condemnations of Berrios' operations, but specific and -- importantly -- immediate steps to change them. He would employ a proven model to produce fair and accurate assessments and drastically reduce the excessive number of appeals. He would address flaws that allow commercial properties in downtown Chicago to be assessed below value. And he'd refuse campaign contributions from tax appeal lawyers -- those who benefit most from the unusually high number of appeals Berrios' assessments generate.
The name of Chicago property tax analyst Andrea Raila will also appear on the ballot, but voters are to be told at the polls that a vote for her will not count. This week, a judge upheld a hearing officer's ruling declaring her ineligible because of a "pattern of fraud" in her petitions, but the ruling came too late to remove her name from ballots.
Kaegi contends "change is long overdue" in the assessor's office. We agree, and give him our endorsement.