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Monday Letters: Article, editorial were unfair to Berrios

Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios. | Sun-Times files

The Chicago Sun-Times story and editorial published last week about property valuation appeals filed by City of Chicago aldermen with the Cook County Assessor’s Office were the latest examples of the newspaper’s pattern of unfairness toward Assessor Joseph Berrios.

The editorial should have noted what reporters and tax professionals know: the assessor does not set tax rates or decide the levy for billing. Please allow us to detail other shortcomings by the Sun-Times.

The original story by reporter Tim Novak omitted relevant information. Compounding this irresponsible approach, the editorial was based on that deeply flawed story — so it, too, was missing key facts. Further, it used inflammatory terms.

Mr. Novak’s story did not show that all net decreases were granted by the Cook County Board of Review, not the assessor’s office. The editorial then recklessly implied Assessor Berrios affects BOR decisions. Nonsense. The BOR is a separate and distinct quasi-judicial body independently elected by voters.

Mr. Novak reported that 18 of 19 aldermen who appealed their assessed valuations received reductions. Conveniently, he did not state the amount of any reductions. Worse, he didn’t report that numerous aldermen received no CCAO reduction and we also left the others with substantial increases over the previous triennial reassessment.

This information is available in public records the Sun-Times regularly accesses; not using it was unconscionable.

Figures available, but ignored in print by the Sun-Times, show the initial assessed value for the aldermen-owned property was lowered by CCAO by an aggregate of only five percent from $1,100,405 to $1,045,439. That’s an average of just one-quarter of one percent each.

Evidently, the Sun-Times found “18 of 19” would grab more attention than the less-sensational, extremely low figure of 0.25 percent.

The International Association of Assessing Officers recognizes a reasonable range of assessment; 0.25 percent is obviously at the low end of any range and, again, even these low reductions still left the aldermen with substantial net triennial increases.

The editorial states, “In most cases, assessing a property’s value amounts to an educated guess.”

Not true. The Cook County Assessor’s Office does not “guess” in any way. Ever.

In fact, property assessments in Cook County are developed with data from sales of comparable homes, other market conditions, location, type of structure, etc. Macro data is whittled down by micro data to reach an estimated market value, and the appeal step is a valuable part of the micro stage in the process.

Every taxpayer in Cook County has the right to appeal his or her assessed value. Aldermen are no different than newspaper people, bankers, policemen or firefighters who receive justified reductions.

Assessor Berrios believes the property tax system should not discriminate based on someone’s profession. Apparently, the Sun-Times disagrees — depending on the taxpayer.

Tom Shaer, deputy assessor for communications

Cook County Assessor’s Office

Close call

Fran Spielman is on target with her assertion that Chicago’s pension problems are largely due to Richard M. Daley’s decision to “duck” and to “put [his] head in the sand” eight years ago when the problems could have been addressed much more cheaply.

Mr. Daley’s having left Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Chicago’s taxpayers, with these, and many other, seemingly insoluble problems points out another benefit of Chicago’s having “lost” the Olympics. If this year’s Olympics were to be held in Chicago, there is plenty of reason to believe that Mr. Daley would still be mayor; does anyone think he would have let anyone else “cut the ribbon” on this latest manifestation of the bread and circuses that characterized his administration? Thus “winning” the Olympics would have subjected to Chicago to, among other malodorous consequences, five more years of Rich Daley … and a bigger mess for his successor.

Mark M. Quinn, Naperville

Bringing back memories

The Sun-Times coverage of the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s march in Marquette Park in 1966 brought back memories of the time when I, too, marched with him in Chicago. It was two years earlier when he led a march to Grant Park, where he gave an inspiring speech on the hope shared by all of us who were there on that occasion that there would be a time “someday” when black and white could come together and live in peace and harmony. Some day! I was a young U. of C. graduate at the time filled with youthful idealism, so to me it seemed as if that day had already dawned.

So caught up was I in the spirit of the moment that I excitedly followed him out of the park finally catching up with him on a deserted street somewhere in the South Loop. His body guard had stationed himself some distance away on the corner. I looked into the eyes of history that day. After a brief moment, we parted, and I walked away from history that day.

So I went on with my life, but just a few years later, Dr. King was to meet his tragic end. Suddenly everything had changed, and that day of hope once seen brimming on the horizon now seemed further off than ever.

Edward D. Lasky, Edgewater