Cook County homeowners told to pay up for tax breaks they shouldn’t have received, Illinois Dems’ assault weapons ban and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

SHARE Cook County homeowners told to pay up for tax breaks they shouldn’t have received, Illinois Dems’ assault weapons ban and more in your Chicago news roundup
Water_Tower_Place_2.jpg

A 58th-floor condo at Water Tower Place, 180 E. Pearson St., that owners Barbara Kaplan Israel and Martin Israel are trying to sell for $3.3 million was among the properties the Sun-Times has reported had a much lower tax bill because of errors by the Cook County assessor’s office.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be mostly cloudy with rain likely and a high near 74 degrees. Clouds will stay on tonight and temperatures are expected to drop to 67. Chicagoans can expect sunny skies on Saturday and Sunday with highs of 76 and 84 respectively.

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Afternoon Edition
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Top story

Pay up, Cook County orders homeowners after Sun-Times exposed wrongful property tax breaks

A wealthy couple has agreed to repay more than $67,000 in property tax breaks they incorrectly claimed for two years on their 58th-floor Water Tower Place condo.

The daughter of a dead mobster has to repay $16,271 in tax breaks she got after her father’s name was repeatedly signed on applications to lower the property taxes on their Bridgeview home.

And an 89-year-old woman has to repay $90,552 in property tax breaks reserved for homeowners and seniors that she continued to take even after her Pilsen apartment building was signed over to a company controlled by her grandson.

After a series of Chicago Sun-Times reports exposed questionable tax breaks, Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s staff has ordered four people to repay a total of $254,298 for years of tax breaks they shouldn’t have gotten.

And, in a rare move for the assessor’s office, the dead mobster’s case has been turned over to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office to determine whether any laws were broken in wrongfully claiming the exemptions, which cut the home’s property tax bills.

Other homeowners have seen their property taxes soar after Kaegi’s staff recalculated the exemptions they’d claimed under one of the most lucrative property tax exemptions — the “senior citizen freeze,” which can drastically cut tax bills.

That tax break caps property assessments for people 65 years or older whose household income is under $65,000. The aim of the law creating that exemption was to protect seniors against rising property taxes in booming neighborhoods.

Two years ago, the assessor granted the senior freeze for 144,904 properties, which shifted $250 million in property taxes from them onto Cook County’s other 1.77 million properties. Altogether, taxpayers in Cook County pay $15.5 billion a year in property taxes.

Tim Novak and Lauren FitzPatrick on the impact of the reporting here.

More news you need

  1. Among the harrowing stories emerging in the aftermath of the Highland Park parade shooting are accounts of community members supporting each other amid the violent chaos. Our Brett Chase spoke with two doctors — Dr. Loren Schechter and Dr. David Baum — who went from watching the parade to treating the wounded.
  2. Illinois Democrats are working behind the scenes to drum up support to ban assault weapons and large-capacity magazines as the fallout of the Highland Park massacre continues. Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state lawmakers are also looking at ways to fix shortcomings in the state’s firearm owner identification card system and pass other gun control measures, our Tina Sfondeles reports.
  3. South Side residents will soon have access to an array of new physical and mental health care options with the opening of a new, $43-million health center in Woodlawn. Touted as a one-stop shop for preventive and primary care, Friend Health Woodlawn Center organizers say the center will serve 35,000 patients annually and help counteract decades of disinvestment in the South Side.
  4. Putting a dome over Soldier Field, expanding the NFL’s lowest seating capacity, installing synthetic turf and selling naming rights will not keep the Bears in Chicago, sports marketing expert Marc Ganis said. Even if the city could implement every idea in a report by a mayoral panel that studied how to re-imagine Soldier Field and the Museum Campus, the Bears are as good as gone.
  5. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has $2.5 million in her campaign war chest — three times the take for her next-highest competitor, except millionaire businessman Willie Wilson — after raising $1.25 million in the second quarter. One day after former CPS CEO Paul Vallas dropped $836,500 into his mayoral campaign fund, Lightfoot yesterday saw Vallas’ opening bid and raised him by $413,500.
  6. For its 30th anniversary, Sun-Times critic Richard Roeper looked back on the beloved classic “A League Of Their Own.” The film continues to resonate as a groundbreaking sports film with a woman-led cast and a woman director, Penny Marshall, Roeper writes.
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A bright one

In Pilsen, weekly Aztec dance ritual offers joy and a link to tradition

On Thursday evenings, as long as the weather is warm, the playground at Harrison Park in Pilsen becomes a stage for leaping dancers and the age-old sounds of drums.

It’s the rehearsal of a traditional Aztec dance that’s become a beloved gathering for the neighborhood. About 20 dancers, including children, rehearse wearing bandanas around their foreheads and rattles strapped to their ankles.

The dancers practice with a group called Huehuecoyotl, which means “ancient coyote” in Nahuatl, an indigenous language spoken in Mexico. The group started rehearsing at Harrison Park last summer in part because many of its members live around Pilsen.

Axel Becerril (left), Sergio Abrajan Flores and other members of the Huehuecoyotl dance group practice at Harrison Park in Pilsen.

Axel Becerril (left), Sergio Abrajan Flores and other members of the Huehuecoyotl dance group practice at Harrison Park in Pilsen.

Jason Marck/WBEZ

Huehuecoyotl is one of several Aztec dance groups in the Chicago area. More than being about just entertainment, the group dances to reclaim and preserve the indigenous cultural identity of Mexicans in Chicago.

“The danza Azteca is a Mexican tradition that has been kept alive for hundreds of years,” Ana Patiño, one of the group’s leaders, said in Spanish. “It creates harmony in the community and with nature. It also teaches you discipline and promotes strength.”

Their dance is a ritual, a ceremony, said Sergio Abrajan Flores, who leads rehearsals. It’s an offering, a prayer in motion used to meditate, heal and connect with nature and everything around.

“La danza is a representation of the universe – a small version of it here on earth,” Flores said.

WBEZ’s Adriana Cardona-Maguigad has more on the communal practices here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

What makes Chicago different from any other city?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: What is the greatest Chicago-set movie of all time?

Here’s what some of you said…

“‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ has everything that you would want to see in Chicago — Lakefront, Michigan Avenue, music, excitement, drama, Wrigley Field, the Art Institute and the scene where Ferris’ friend Cameron drives his father’s sports car off the wrong end of the garage. What’s missing?” — Gene Tenner

“The greatest Chicago-set movie of all time is ‘The Blues Brothers.’ This iconic, star-filled movie re-set the world’s perception of Chicago from Al Capone & Gangsters to Jake, Elwood & kick-ass Music and outlandish comedy bits. (Just too many to cite here!) — George Klippel

“‘Adventures in Babysitting’ — because it is wacky and nostalgic” —Greg Kulevich

“‘Cooley High’ has the best-written script that presents three-dimensional characters in believable situations and shows off the streetscape of the city — from Downtown to the neighborhood.” —Jim Rafferty

“There are so many great Chicago set movies. Some of the oft-forgotten that show more of the neighborhoods are ‘Thief,’ ‘Medium Cool,’ and the original ‘Child’s Play.’ —Anthony Imburgia

“‘The Untouchables!’ It will always be a classic, with the cinematography of our city in the prohibition era!” —Voni Lacey

“‘The Fugitive,’ because is, was filmed mostly in my old elementary school on 46th in greenwood. ‘The Blues Brothers’ because the scene with Ray Charles was filmed on 47th one block from the El. ‘Ferris Bueller’ because I was downtown watching them film the Twist and Shout scene — and finally ‘Adventures in Babysitting’ because after the movie wrapped, I got a job in that building, It’s so many more to list!” —Camille Austin

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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