Suffredin- Changing County Government  

Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions
Unsung Heroine


  Office phone numbers:  

The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.


Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.

  The Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trade 60% of the world futures contracts.

Editorial: Berrios and Kaegi: What a new assessor can and can't fix

Thursday, July 26, 2018
Chicago Tribune
by Editorial Board


Berrios and Kaegi: What a new assessor can and can't fix

Editorials reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board, as determined by the members of the board, the editorial page editor and the publisher.

In a rare act of rebellion, Cook County primary election voters in March fired one of the Democratic Party’s most powerful politicians. They nominated a newcomer, Frederick “Fritz” Kaegi, a financial adviser from Oak Park, to appear on the November ballot in place of incumbent Assessor Joseph Berrios.

Kaegi ran a grass-roots campaign that tapped into local taxpayer resentment over rising property taxes and Berrios’ insider politics. The saga of Berrios’ office accepting campaign money from attorneys whose clients wanted assessment reductions attracted international interest. The Economist magazine profiled the race last fall in an article with a headline that summed up Berrios’ reign: “How Cook County’s Democratic machine works.”


The system of assigning property values in Cook County, a key exercise in determining property tax bills, along with the property tax appeal process have long been viewed as rigged. An award-winning 2017 Tribune and ProPublica Illinois series, “The Tax Divide,” exposed the system as clout-driven and regressive, hurting minority and low-income communities while protecting wealthier ones. Yet Berrios relentlessly defended it. His refusal to admit the obvious inequities cost him his job.

READ MORE: Cook County assessor candidate Kaegi: Ethics reforms to start on 'Day One' »

Hope for newcomer Kaegi is high as he prepares to take over what has been an engine of Democratic fundraising. Every assessor — but especially Berrios, who also ran the Cook County Democratic Party — has leveraged the position to rake in huge campaign donations from tax appeals lawyers and property owners. Not anymore. Kaegi says he won’t take donations from those interests, which he dubs “the tax appeals industrial complex,” and he would support an ordinance banning such contributions.

Once Kaegi gets past the general election as expected — he faces a Republican opponent who isn’t campaigning — he will begin dismantling a system that benefits the state’s most powerful interests. House Speaker Michael Madigan, Chicago Ald. Edward Burke and many other elected officials, lawyers, lobbyists and influence peddlers have earned fortunes off the broken property tax system. Madigan’s and Burke’s law firms represent some of Chicago’s most expensive commercial properties, seeking lower assessments.

READ MORE: Nearly a third of city property tax collections diverted into special taxing districts »

But if taxpayers expect swift change under Kaegi, they might be disappointed. Reversing decades of established bad practice in property valuation will take time. Motivating and training a patronage-laden and union-protected workforce in the assessor’s office will take persistence. Confronting the state’s elites who profit from a fixed property tax system will take courage.

Kaegi’s win represented more than taxpayer backlash. It set him up for a clash with the titans. During a meeting with the Tribune Editorial Board, Kaegi said he’ll have the tools to fix flaws in the system that punish low-income homeowners, without leaning on Springfield to enact changes. Through models he expects to test, and with a data-rich real estate landscape, there’s no reason the assessment process can’t be fair and transparent.

That’s good. But remember, many factors determine what property owners owe in taxes: their school district’s spending, their ZIP codes, the existence, or not, of commercial development. All of that is part of the puzzle that determines a tax bill. City dwellers got their new reassessment notices this summer, with some North Side property owners reporting increases. North suburban communities are next. Then the south suburbs.

There is no guarantee that a new assessor, running a fairer assessment system, will mean lower property tax bills. But we hope it will mean renewed trust in that system. Kaegi believes property owners, especially those familiar with the appeals process, are willing to pay their fair share, as long as they feel confident the system isn’t driven by politics.

Property taxes and how they’re determined should be a math problem, a formula on paper, not a money grab for politicians. Taxes guide business owners and residents in their decision-making on whether to stay in Chicago and Illinois — or whether to join the exodus of expatriates moving to other states.

It’s crucial the assessment process be corruption-free and transparent. Finally, there’s hope it will be both.

Join the discussion on Twitter @Trib_Ed_Board and on Facebook.

Submit a letter to the editor here or

Recent Headlines

Pappas: There's help for senior citizens struggling to pay Cook County property taxes
Friday, December 14, 2018
Special to

Cook County Public Guardian sues DCFS: “Abject moral and human rights failure”
Thursday, December 13, 2018
Capitol Fax

Borrow $10B to help stabilize city pensions along with legal pot, casino and benefit cuts: Rahm
Thursday, December 13, 2018
The Daily Line

CTA Moves Forward with Major Red Line Projects:
Thursday, December 13, 2018
Special to

Cook County repeals lower parking-app tax rate
Wednesday, December 12, 2018
Crain's Chicago Business

How local suburbs voted in Cook County minimum wage/paid sick leave advisory referenda
Wednesday, December 12, 2018
The Bugel

Cook County restores tax on parking apps before January cut took effect
Wednesday, December 12, 2018
Chicago Tribune

County Board to take on taxes,toilets at Wednesday meeting
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

PRECKWINKLE’s tax tweak — Details on BURKE raids — State REPUBLICANS look for hope — SUMMERS’ tirade
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Illinois Politico

Woman, 19, arrested after escaping police custody at Cook County courthouse
Sunday, December 09, 2018
WLS ABC Chicago 7

Here's an exciting prospect: A boring assessor's office
Saturday, December 08, 2018
Crain's Chicago Business

Sheriff starts unique inmate program to combat Chicago's gun epidemic
Thursday, December 06, 2018
RTV 6 Indianapolis

Staff feud at tax appeals board turns nasty
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
Crain's Chicago Business

Cook County Tax Bills Posted Online Three Months Early
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
CBS Chicago

County Board makes it easier to choose Preckwinkle successor
Tuesday, December 04, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

New Cook County assessor vows end to favoritism as he takes office
Monday, December 03, 2018
Crain's Chicago Business

New Cook County Board members sworn in Monday
Monday, December 03, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Cook County referendums: 'Yes' to everything
Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Chicago City Wire

Glenview to discuss Cook County minimum wage, paid sick leave ordinances in December
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Wilmette reverses course, fully adopts both county minimum wage and sick time rules
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Chicago Tribune

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.