Chuy goes after Burke for property tax appeals work for Trump Tower

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Ald. Edward Burke, left, with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at the City Club of Chicago in 2015. | Associated Press

Democratic Congressional nominee Jesus “Chuy” Garcia on Tuesday accused Ald. Edward Burke (14th) of “disrespecting” the residents of his predominantly Hispanic ward by doing property tax reduction work for the riverfront tower that bears the name of President Donald Trump.

One day after Burke declared his brother’s humiliating defeat would not alter his plan to seek re-election, Garcia made the case for ending the 49-year-reign of the City Council’s most powerful and longest-serving alderman.

It’s the same reason state Rep. Dan Burke lost to Aaron Ortiz, a 26-year-old Garcia-backed political newcomer in a race dominated by Edward Burke’s property tax reduction work for Trump International Hotel and Tower.

U.S. House 4th district Democratic candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, speaks before the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board in Chicago. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

U.S. House 4th district Democratic candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, speaks before the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board in Chicago. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

“The fact that he has been Trump’s lawyer on reducing his property taxes and has been part of the property tax system in Chicago that has affected working people more than anybody else in a regressive manner are issues that have to be taken into account,” Garcia said.

“It was highly offensive to the community,” he added. “Anyone who isn’t representing the community’s interests should be worried.”

WATCHDOGS: Burke’s firm saved Trump, investors $11.7 million

Garcia said he’s stunned Burke would have the “audacity” to continue to represent Trump when he knows what a red flag that is to his constituents.

“Donald Trump began his campaign for the presidency attacking the Mexican-American community. The overwhelming number of residents of the 14th Ward are of Mexican-American heritage. It is highly disrespectful to put that aside and simply respond to self interest,” Garcia said. “It shows that he’s out of touch with the community and that the community’s concern was nowhere on his radar screen.”

Burke could not be reached for comment.

Earlier this week, Burke argued that his brother’s March 20 defeat was not a prelude to his own political demise.

On the day after that upset, Clem Balanoff, head of Our Revolution Illinois, a grass-roots political organization, said he was “coming after Ed Burke.”

He flatly declared that Burke will not be alderman come May 2019 because there is a “young, energetic movement going on the Southwest Side” where there is “no room for smoke-filled, back-room politicians like Ed Burke.”

Garcia declared that day: “The Burke dynasty is sunsetting … against the emergence of a Latino community that wants to make its voice heard and its vote felt.”

On Tuesday, Garcia was asked again whether he intends to recruit and bankroll a challenger against Burke, who has run unopposed in 10 of the last 11 elections, sits on a massive campaign war chest and has never won less than 70 percent of the vote.

“Candidates may just surface over the next few weeks and months as we approach the 2019 cycle. … It isn’t for me to decide whether someone will run or whom that will be. I will look to see who may emerge, then make a decision if I want to get involved in that race or not,” Garcia said.

Burke has nearly $10 million in campaign funds. The powerful Council Finance Committee chairman reported $2,918,724.93 cash on hand in the two campaign funds he controls and another $6,923,044.69 tied up in investments.

Those resources didn’t deter Garcia when pressed on bankrolling a Burke challenger.

“I could,” Garcia said. “It depends on the individuals who come forth and why they seek to represent the people of that part of the Southwest Side. I have consistently stood for the empowerment of the community and to help elect candidates who are true to the interests of the hard-working people of the Southwest Side.”

Nearly two years ago, the Chicago Sun-Times Watchdogs reported that Burke’s law firm specializing in property tax appeals has helped Trump and investors in his Chicago River building cut their property taxes by 39 percent over seven years, saving them $11.7 million.

In a November follow-up, the Watchdogs reported that Burke had filed yet another lawsuit aiming to win property-tax refunds for the hotel and vacant retail space in the skyscraper.

Days later, Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) condemned as a “disgrace” Burke’s decision to file yet another lawsuit aimed at winning property tax refunds for Trump.

He noted that Burke’s sixth lawsuit sought to deprive the city and its public schools of millions of dollars in sorely-needed revenue and put that money into the pockets of, as Pawar put it, a “racist and a bigot and a demagogue” who has “demonized” Chicago and its immigrant population.

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