* Background is here. Press release…
Chris Kennedy, Democratic candidate for Governor, called on Joe Berrios to step down from his position as Cook County Assessor following another Chicago Tribune investigative piece on how the Cook County property tax assessment system is rigged against Cook County taxpayers. Kennedy released the following statement:
“The property tax racket run by Joe Berrios and political insiders needs to end and it needs to end today. Berrios has used the property tax system that is defunding our public schools, defunding our social safety net, and defunding efforts to end gun violence as means to keep the political machine in power and enrich the entitled, politically connected few at everyone else’s expense. We will never change the status quo and restore opportunity to our state as long as political insiders like Joe Berrios remain in office.
We can no longer rely on the traditional democratic process because Berrios uses his position as the Cook County Democratic Party Chairman to intimidate anyone who opposes this property tax racket. And, we cannot trust the state party to step in and fix a broken property tax system, as the state Democratic Party Chairman is a property tax appeals lawyer whose personal finances are dependent on the status quo.
All of this means the voters get sidelined and the machine and the status quo system back a wealthy self-funding candidate who will continue to support the racket with impunity. We need radical change and we need it today. Because, if we don’t move away from property taxes and reform the broken system, we won’t embrace a progressive tax. If we don’t embrace a progressive income tax, we will never fund schools properly or restore community safety or rid our cities and towns of the scourge of violence. If we don’t fund schools properly, we will never educate our kids to be economically self-sufficient.
Keeping leaders like Joe Berrios in office puts the very future of our state and our country at risk. We need integrity in our institutions and we need accountability from our elected politicians. We have people in in the city, the county and in Springfield doing their jobs who’ve suffered no consequence for failing to live up to their responsibilities. That ends now.
Joe Berrios should step down and if he won’t, the voters should remove him from office this March.”
*** UPDATE 1 *** From the Joe Berrios campaign…
We strongly advise Chris Kennedy to focus on his failing campaign instead of throwing temper tantrums while claiming as “unfair” the system he has directly benefited from.
In 2016 and 2017, Kennedy appealed the assessed value of his property at Wolf Point. He has also appealed on his residence. In fact, going back decades and starting with the Merchandise Mart, the Kennedy family has used the appeal system to receive many reductions in assessed value.
If Kennedy truly feels the system is “unfair,” I call on him to return to taxpayers the millions of dollars in tax savings resulting from those reductions.
We find it hypocritical that Kennedy remains silent about James Houlihan, the previous assessor whose mismanagement of the office and violations of Cook County policies resulted in a major lawsuit against the County which has dragged on for years. Houlihan is now a key advisor to candidate Kennedy.
Assessor Berrios has focused on improving the assessment system he inherited by making it fair and equitable for every Cook County resident. He is providing all information, data and other cooperation requested in the County’s review of the property assessment system being conducted by the Civic Consulting Alliance.
*** UPDATE 2 *** Biss campaign…
“Chris Kennedy is biting the hand that fed him in asking Joe Berrios to resign, and he misses the point entirely,” said Biss campaign manager Abby Witt. “The problem is larger than any single person in one elected office. It’s that the wealthy and well-connected have benefitted from a rigged system they created decades ago to avoid paying their fair share in property taxes. And now our schools and social services, and the people who rely on them are struggling.
“Instead of spouting empty threats, there are two real solutions this problem. The first is to pass legislation, like the HOME Act, which Daniel Biss introduced this summer that fixes Illinois’ broken property tax valuation, assessment, and appeals system. The second is to let voters pick someone else on election day.
*** UPDATE 3 *** Oppo dump hurled over the transom…
KENNEDY ACCEPTED $10,000 FROM FORMER ASSESSOR JAMES HOULIHAN, WHO KNOWINGLY SENT OUT INACCURATE PROPERTY VALUATIONS & UNDER-ASSESSED COMMERCIAL PROPERTIES ACCORDING TO A TRIBUNE REPORT
James Houlihan Donated $10,000 To Kennedy For Illinois. [Kennedy for Illinois Q3 D2, Illinois State Board Of Elections, filed 10/16/17]
James Houlihan, Who Donated $10,000 To Kennedy, Was Cook County Assessor From 1997 To 2010. “James Houlihan – Assessor From: 1997-2010.” [Cook County Assessor’s Office, 10/16/17]
As Cook County Assessor, James Houlihan Knowingly Sent Out Inaccurate Property Valuations. “As assessor, James Houlihan knowingly sent out inaccurate property valuations. The future consequences could be costly… For more than a decade, the Cook County assessor’s office hid a secret inside the massive computer programs used to calculate property tax assessments for single-family homes. It didn’t look like much — just a few snippets of code amid thousands of lines — but it created erroneous valuations for homes throughout the county, affecting the tax bills sent to more than 1 million residential property owners every year. What the code did was deceptively simple: It decreased every estimated home value in the county by about 40 percent, a troubling practice that ignored legal requirements set out in county ordinances. The artificially low values threw the property tax system so far out of whack that it may have violated provisions of the state constitution. But, shrouded by an opaque and convoluted assessment system, these widespread inaccuracies were invisible to the average homeowner. The Tribune already has revealed how the county’s assessment system under Joseph Berrios has been riddled with errors that punished the poor while providing breaks to the wealthy. Now the investigation shows that the assessor’s office knowingly produced inaccurate property assessments during the long tenure of his predecessor, James Houlihan, and even as far back as the 1980s. Houlihan removed the snippets of code in 2009, a year before he left office.” [Chicago Tribune, 6/10/17]
The Chicago Tribune Reported That Houlihan Knowingly Under assessed Commercial Properties While Assessor. “When Houlihan took charge of the assessor’s office in 1997, those with deep knowledge of the property tax system would have understood that the ongoing drastic undervaluation of residential homes left the county vulnerable to legal challenges. One way to fix that problem would have been to raise residential assessments to legal levels. But that would have increased many people’s taxes, and that is not what Houlihan chose to do. Instead, records show, the assessor’s office left the residential level where it was — at 10 percent — and began taking measures that reduced the levels for commercial and industrial properties. Over the next decade, the median commercial and industrial assessment levels in Cook County fell by more than a third. In 2007, the median level for commercial property was about 17 percent — less than half of what it was supposed to be, according to state studies. Internal studies unearthed in the O’Keefe lawsuits show the assessor’s office knew about the low valuations. One report, titled ‘The Effects of the Decline in Commercial Assessment,’ detailed a significant drop in commercial assessment levels between 2003 and 2004. [Chicago Tribune, 6/10/17]
PROPERTY TAX LAWYER TULLY HAS GIVEN TO CHRIS KENNEDY; THAT LAW FIRM HANDLED KENNEDY’S APPEALS & HEAD TOM TULLY IS A FORMER ASSESSOR
3/23/17: Mathew Tully, An Attorney At Tully & Associates, Donated $1,000 To Kennedy For Illinois. [Kennedy for Illinois Q2, Illinois State Board of Elections, filed 7/17/17]
Chris Kennedy Used Tully & Associates, A Firm That Has Donated At Least $60,000 To Property Tax Officials, To Appeal The Assessment On His Home And One Of The Buildings He Was Developing. “But even as Kennedy took to social media and forums to complain about a “rigged system,” he was actively pursuing a second property tax appeal of his own — asking for a 20 percent reduction for his personal home in the Chicago suburb of Kenilworth… It was penned by Kennedy’s attorneys, Tully & Associates, a firm has donated at least $60,000 to members of the board that considers such requests. The firm also represented Kennedy and business partners when they won a nearly 63 percent reduction in one of the buildings under development, according to Crain’s Chicago.” [Politico, 7/25/17]
Chris Kennedy Used The Law Firm Of Former Cook County Assessor Tom Tully. “Kennedy and associates appealed, using the law firm of former Cook County Assessor Tom Tully, and the final value ended up being set at $5.109 million, a cut of almost 63 percent.” [Crain’s Chicago Business, 5/23/17]
CHRIS KENNEDY WAS STILL APPEALING HIS PROPERTY TAXES UNTIL IT BECAME A POLITICAL ISSUE, THEN QUIETLY WITHDREW HIS REQUEST
Chris Kennedy Was Pursuing A Second Appeal Of His Property Assessment Until A Story On Opponent Pritzker’s Property Taxes Broke, After Which Kennedy Quietly Withdrew His Appeal. “But even as Kennedy took to social media and forums to complain about a ‘rigged system,’ he was actively pursuing a second property tax appeal of his own — asking for a 20 percent reduction for his personal home in the Chicago suburb of Kenilworth. Kennedy then quietly withdrew his appeal request, according to a letter obtained by POLITICO, seven days after a story surfaced that was critical of property tax reductions won by his chief primary opponent, billionaire J.B. Pritzker.” [Politico, 7/25/17]
HEADLINE: “Kennedy Quietly Reversed Illinois Tax Break Request” [Politico, 7/25/17]
*** UPDATE 4 *** JB Pritzker…
As I’ve stated, we need to reform our flawed and inequitable property tax system. But I’m not here to score political points by attacking other Democrats. That’s what my opponents are doing when we should be focused on defeating Bruce Rauner. The voters will ultimately decide if Mr. Berrios deserves another term.