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Proviso Probe

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Berrios, Houlihan, Cook County Assessor and Sun-Times self-righteousness

I saw this tut-tutting by the Sun-Times about Joe Berrios, currently chair of the Cook County Democratic Party and one of the three members of the Board of Review.

I'm not enamored with Berrios as Cook County Assessor, but the Board of Review is set-up for pay-to-play politics. The Board has the power to directly save money for property owners appealing their assessments. And Board members can ask for campaign contributions.

I have a hard time imagining a scenario where Berrios dismantles information systems installed by current Assessor James Houlihan.

I suppose it's possible Berrios could alter assessments within the process (it's supposed to rely on a super secret formula), but all the assessments are public. And assessments that are out-of-whack can be detected. If Berrios gets contributions that seem too large, it's possible to learn what properties that person owns and then look at the assessments for his/her properties.

It's harder to check this kind of mischief if Berrios gets the money from attorneys and then the attorneys' clients receive the benefits.

But Berrios already has this power on the Board of Review. So, I'm not getting the outrage about him going to an office where it will be harder to work the pay-to-play angle than in his current office.

(I think nominating Berrios could conceivably hurt other Democratic Party candidates by tainting the party, but that's a partisan argument against Berrios getting the nomination, not an ethical argument.)

IMO, Houlihan deserves more scorn than he's getting. Houlihan knew Berrios wanted the job. Russ Stewart:
Quite succinctly, [the Assessor's] looming problem is that property values are plummeting while government spending is increasing. Therefore, property taxes will not decrease.

"Try explaining that to property owners," observed one Northwest Side Democratic politician. "That's why Houlihan quit. Berrios was going to challenge him in the primary and blast him for not reducing property taxes. (Houlihan) would have lost. In 2014 Joe will have the same problem."

So, if Houlihan knew Berrios was going to run and Houlihan didn't want Berrios to get the job, shouldn't Houlihan have recruited a candidate to run against Berrios?

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  • I thought there was a challenger to Berrios running for Assessor?

    Oh, I goggled it: Robert Shaw. Well, not much better. And Eugene Staples, a former River Forest police officer.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:23 PM, September 10, 2009  

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