Running for: Commissioner of the Board of Review, 1st District
Political party affiliation: Democrat
Political/civic background: Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney, 2000-2004
Education: J.D., The John Marshall Law School, 2000
Campaign website: supporttammy.com
Facebook: Friends of Tammy Wendt
As the Cook County assessor moves to make assessments more transparent and reduce the need for appeals, as he has pledged to do, what will you do to reduce the overhead in your office?
I will work to bring a general awareness to the office. To educate taxpayers on the entire appeal process. With that comes the ability to appeal properly at the assessor’s level. Hopefully the assessor will reduce the need for so many appeals as he has pledged to do, thereby reducing the amount of appeals at the Board of Review resulting in less overhead, less need for additional hires, and less need for mandatory overtime.
The Board of Review historically has been described as a body that greases squeaky wheels — people who file appeals — rather than working more generally to be an arbiter of uniformity in assessments. What’s your view of the board’s proper role?
I believe the role of the Board of Review is to be an arbiter of uniformity in assessments.
To ensure that the assessor is not overvaluing property or disproportionately determining assessed values.
In the past, people who were dissatisfied with a ruling from the Board of Review could go to court to appeal that decision but had to prove “constructive fraud” —that there had been fraud or gross error in making the original assessment. That standard has been made less stringent. Has this been a change for the better, or has it resulted in too many baseless court appeals? Please explain.
I believe, with the current state of affairs facing the tax appeal system, that the standard being made less stringent in court is for the better. If a mistake is made at the Assessor, Board of Review, or PTAB levels, a taxpayer should not have to prove fraud or gross error in order to appeal that decision to the courts. It gives the taxpayers another avenue of appeal and a more thorough review and evaluation of the assessed value to determine if they are paying more than their fair share. My vision is to eventually minimize errors at the lower levels so that there will not be a need for so many levels of appeal, costing the taxpayers and the county so much money.
Are there too many or few avenues of appeals — the county assessor’s office, the Board of Review, the Illinois Property Tax Appeals Board, the courts — available to property owners? In your view, which avenues should exist?
I believe there are too many avenues of appeal which is resulting in too much money being spent. If it was done properly at the very beginning, being assessor’s office, there wouldn’t be so many avenues in the first place. Changes need to be most pronounced at the assessor’s level - square one.
Should governmental units be given more time to argue that particularly large properties are under-assessed? Please explain.
No. They should be given the same amount of time as any other. My reasoning for this is that governmental units should have it down to a science as to their arguments. Why would they need more time?
Are staffers fairly distributed among the three Cook County Board of Review commissioners? Please explain.
I would not be able to answer this question with certainty until I actually see the amount of work that is distributed amongst each of the three commissioners. However, recent reports indicate that Commissioner Patlak feels he does not have enough staffers. My plan would be to first evaluate if the staffers are fairly distributed, using common sense and placing them according to where they are needed most, not necessarily giving each commissioner an equal amount of staffers.
What should be the role of the Cook County Board of Review in providing technical help to school districts and other local taxing bodies when they challenge decisions by the Illinois Property Tax Appeals Board to trim assessments? Please explain.
School districts and other local taxing bodies should be able to ask questions at any point in the appeal process. But hopefully the technology is self-explanatory where most could understand it without help. Part of my view for the office is to make it run more efficiently, this includes the use of technology. There should always be a staffer available for a set amount of time on a weekly basis to walk people through the steps if necessary. This is a public office that should assist when necessary.
Should you have to be a lawyer to represent someone before the Board of Review? Why or why not?
No. Everyone should have the right to appeal without an attorney. However, having an attorney would definitely give the taxpayer an advantage because the process does become complicated. If taxpayers want the best result possible, I believe having an attorney would be the best option.
Is it acceptable for a member of the Board of Review to work as a lobbyist at any level of government in Illinois? Please explain.
No, it is not acceptable for a member of the Board of Review to work as a lobbyist because Governmental units rely on tax dollars to operate and a member of the Board of Review will require focus to objectively investigate every appeal without bias. The Board of Review needs to balance the needs of taxpayers and governmental units. Any lobbying activity by a Board of Review member could diminish effectiveness and give the impression that they cannot see property valuations through an objective lens.
As a side note, and in furtherance of my answer to the question below, I thought it appropriate to mention that one explanation that has often been proposed for the origin of the term “lobbyist” is that it derived from the lobby at the Willard Hotel in Washington DC.. where off-the-record conversations in a city famous for private dealings were had with President Ulysses S. Grant while he smoked cigars in the lobby.
What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.
I most admire and draw inspiration from former President and Union Army General, Ulysses S. Grant. Before he was President, and in my opinion, he was probably the best General that America has ever seen. Prior to President Lincoln putting Grant in charge of the Union Army, the Civil War was not going in our favor. Once Grant was put in charge, the tide turned and we won the war, thereby abolishing slavery. General Grant was a natural, and the soldiers loved him. He was the ultimate tactician of the Civil War...the Babe Ruth of the military tacticians. Despite the fact that Grant’s family fired him from the family business, he was a genius when it came to military tactics.
His roommate was General Sherman at West Point. They weren’t the greatest students, but they were the greatest generals in the Civil War. I am proud to say that two of my great-, great- grandfathers served under General Grant in the Civil War, Thomas McEnery and Henry Wendt.
After the war, Henry Wendt migrated to Chicago and became a saloon and hotel keeper, opening a farmers hotel and saloon (H. Wendt’s Farmers Hotel) at the corner of 50th and State in the now Bronzeville neighborhood. I could go on as to my family roots in Chicago prior to and after the Chicago fire, but I will save that for another interview.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
Chicago Med. I enjoy the show because the writer has amazing story lines, excellent actors, and it’s based in Chicago. I like the fast paced life in the ER. (And because it has nothing to do with the law, which is a break from my reality) .