If you do nothing else at your polling place on Tuesday, vote for Frederick “Fritz” Kaegi for Cook County assessor.
If you care about fairness in property taxes, you will join your neighbors in happily showing incumbent Joseph Berrios the door.
Today, we’d like to revisit our endorsement of Kaegi in the race for assessor — among the most important local contests we’ve seen in years — and remind you of our recommendations in several other key primary races.
The Democratic primary for Cook County assessor, essentially a contest between Kaegi and Berrios, could make a difference in the tax bill for every property owner in the county. It could, that is to say, make your property tax assessment more fair.
Again and again, journalists and tax experts have documented how property tax assessments under Berrios have favored the wealthy and the politically connected over the poor, and we saw proof of that again in just the last few days. The University of Chicago’s Center for Municipal Finance on Thursday issued a report saying the most valuable homes in Chicago were undertaxed by an estimated $800 million, shifting the cost to the bottom 70 percent of houses. An earlier study by the Civic Consulting Alliance also found that the assessor’s office under Berrios has overcharged poorer property owners while handing wealthier ones undeserved discounts.
If a level playing field is your idea of good government, vote in the Democratic primary for Kaegi, whom we strongly endorse. Also running is Andrea Raila, who is back on the ballot after an appellate court ruling Wednesday. But if you vote for Raila, you’ll be throwing your vote away.
Kaegi will need every vote to beat Berrios.
Kaegi has pledged to introduce a more accurate system of assessing property — adopting the best practices of assessors across the country — to make the entire system fairer. He also pledges to make public the algorithms and data points used to estimate the property values. As the shadowy system works now, the assessor keeps such basic information under wraps, making it extremely difficult to expose inaccuracies and unfairness.
An open and fairer system would make it hard for some property owners — the ones who can afford the best lawyers — to obtain unjustified reductions in their assessments, which drives up costs for everyone else.
Kaegi, who lives in Oak Park, has the background to steer the assessor’s office in the right direction. As a former longtime financial manager and mutual fund portfolio manager at Columbia Wanger Asset Management, he has worked in valuing assets.
Did we mention, by the way, that Berrios has loaded up his payroll with relatives and rakes in campaign money from the very same tax lawyers who profit off his office’s skewed assessments? Yeah, we should mention that, too.
In another key contest on Tuesday, a race in the Democratic primary for a two-year term on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District will be decided by write-in votes. The ballot will say “No Candidate” but we urge voters to write in the name “Cam Davis.”
The Chicago region is sorely in need of more “green infrastructure,” technology such as permeable pavement that keeps storm water from causing flooding by rushing into the nearest sewer drain. As the former president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes and the Obama administration’s point person on the Great Lakes, Davis has the background and determination to make that happen.
In the 8th Illinois Senate District, we encourage voters to support labor union activist Ram Villivalam. Incumbent state Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, has done a poor job of explaining inappropriate private Facebook messages he exchanged with a victims’ rights advocate whose legislation he was sponsoring. The inspector general said Silverstein “does not appear fully to accept that the [Facebook] messages went beyond joking around.”
Villivalam is knowledgeable about the issues and wants better health care and child-care services and a $15 minimum wage. He was a legislative coordinator for Service Employees International Union, Healthcare Illinois-Indiana, a union has an ownership stake in the Sun-Times.
In a District 6 race for Cook County commissioner, we believe the best choice is Donna Miller, a health care consultant and board chair of Planned Parenthood of Illinois who lives in Lynwood. The last guy you want to vote for is Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta, who seems to think that selling off the county’s precious forest preserves is an excellent way to pay the bills.
A tight race that will have strong implications for not only the South Side but the entire city is playing out in the 25th House District, where the Barack Obama Presidential Center and a golf course renovation in Jackson Park promises to bring major investment and redevelopment. We recommend a vote for Adrienne Irmer for this seat, now held by state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, who is retiring.
For our endorsements in all other races, go to the Chicago Sun-Times 2018 Primary Voting Guide where you can also download a list of endorsed candidates to take to the voting booth.
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