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More sizzle than steak

Friday, Jul 14, 2017

* BGA

As a candidate for governor, Democrat Chris Kennedy has called for a sweeping overhaul of a property tax system he calls “a racket” that enables politically connected lawyers to arrange lucrative breaks for their clients.

But as the part-owner and manager of a four-acre parcel near the Merchandise Mart, Kennedy leveraged the very system he now condemns to shave $1.5 million off property tax bills for the lot, known as Wolf Point, just as he and partners were priming it for a $1 billion high-rise development.

An investigation by the Better Government Association found that Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios had initially calculated a $23.5 million fair market value in 2012 for the then mostly undeveloped Wolf Point property. That was up sharply from the pre-2012 valuation by the assessor’s office of $13.5 million.

Instead, Kennedy appealed the valuation through the law firm of Thomas Tully, himself a former Cook County Assessor, who since 2012 has donated more than $135,000 to political funds tied to Berrios.

* But, scroll down

The appeal filed by Tully centered on an argument that the assessor had mistakenly thought a revenue producing three-story parking garage occupied the Wolf Point property. Such a structure had once existed but had long since been demolished and replaced by a surface parking lot.

In the appeal, Tully said it was proper to only consider revenue produced by the surface lot in calculating the property’s value for tax purposes. Berrios’ office agreed, choosing not to factor in the development potential of a property that the Kennedy group had already begun trying to exploit by 2012.

So, is there hypocrisy here? Some, but Kennedy did have a fiduciary responsibility to his investors at the time. And it’s not like he was ripping out toilets to game the system. The property was clearly being assessed too high. And Kennedy’s first hand experience ought to give him some credibility to talk about the system’s many problems. Instead, the BGA goes for “sizzle” stories.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

9 Comments
  1. - JPC - Friday, Jul 14, 17 @ 10:29 am:

    Hypocrisy claims are often more subtle than they seem, I find.

    Let’s say Kennedy did game the property tax system to his advantage and he’s against the laws that allow this. This is not really the inconsistency people make it out to be. Personally, I favor a progressive tax that would likely place a greater tax burden on the JPC family. The fact that I don’t currently donate the difference between this and the current tax doesn’t make me a hypocrite.

    In the worst version of the Kennedy case, he filed appeals to lower his taxes. That’s the way the current system works. Acting in accordance with that (presumably legal) system and wanting to change it to a different system is not an inconsistency. (You can make, by the way, the same argument against Trump hypocrisy claims: that he gamed the tax system to his advantage AND thinks the system to be unfair (did he?) wouldn’t be an inconsistency).


  2. - Not It - Friday, Jul 14, 17 @ 10:39 am:

    The BGA is not interested in better government, they are interested in getting news coverage of themselves fighting for “better” government.


  3. - Just Observing - Friday, Jul 14, 17 @ 10:56 am:

    The BGA and now the Project Six are only after clicks and likes, no substance. The BGA and Project Six have no meaningful impact in reforming Illinois government or exposing corruption.


  4. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 14, 17 @ 11:31 am:

    The BGA may be more news room than reform organization, but they’re still head and shoulders better than IPI-offshoot Project Six.


  5. - DuPage Saint - Friday, Jul 14, 17 @ 11:51 am:

    It is not gaming a system to take advantage of the appeal process. In addition in his case there was an error in the assessment. It is not ganging the system to take all legal deduction on the Federal Income tax either.
    However it might seem like gaming the system to remove plumbing from a perfectly fine house to lower assessed value


  6. - Just Observing - Friday, Jul 14, 17 @ 11:55 am:

    === IPI-offshoot Project Six. ===

    Oh… I was unaware Project Six was an IPI offshoot. Makes sense.


  7. - VanillaMan - Friday, Jul 14, 17 @ 1:44 pm:

    No matter how hard I try I can’t shake JB’s toilet removal plan. He needs to be innoculated over this. It’s too hard to forget.


  8. - JoeMaddon - Friday, Jul 14, 17 @ 3:09 pm:

    How much money has Pritzker given BGA?


  9. - Ward Heeler - Friday, Jul 14, 17 @ 4:08 pm:

    Cannot fault Kennedy on this one. It is similar to the complaints about Trump’s income tax returns. As bad as the system is, as a taxpayer, you play by the existing rules during the game. The property tax racket needs to be reformed, but it is not going to start with Joe Berrios and his main man Madigan.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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