Little known race hits hard with ads

January 31, 2008 4:09:14 PM PST
The race for a little known position that has a huge impact on property taxes is gaining attention through advertisements. Allegations of sweetheart deals and claims that new cartoon commercial is offensive is fueling the fire for candidates running for one post on the Cook County Board of Review, which has three members.

In one candidate's advertisement, Todd Stroger and Joe Berrios are portrayed as two merry men sucking money out of the wallets of taxpayers. The 30-second spot ends with a foot chase in which FBI agents chase down the duo. It's not amusing to Berrios.

"These are all accusations. The FBI are not chasing me. As far as I know the FBI are not chasing Todd Stroger," said Berrios, who has been on the Board of Review for two decades.

Berrios is the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party and helped engineer Todd Stroger's elevation to county board president.

"If there's a spot reflecting the outrage and anger of what's happening," said Mike Quigley, (D) Cook County commissioner. "This is the race, this is the seat."

P Reform-minded county commissioners support Jay Paul Deratany, who is also backed by Assessor Jim Houlihan, the man who estimates the value of your home.

Houlihan's support for Deratany is the inspiration for a new Berrios ad that shows a picture of Deratany: "Funded by the inside who tripled your assessment." Joe Berrios then promises he 'will bring your tax bill back down to earth.'

It's a promise Berrios, who has been accused of giving big breaks to the attorneys who contribute to his campaign and others with connections-- including the owner of a trucking firm at the center of the Hired Truck scandal, doesn't have the power to keep.

In 2001, the assessor says Michael Tadin paid $4.5 million for his Gold Coast home. He claimed in two appeals that the value of the house is closer to $3 million. Last year the Board of Review cut Tadin's tax bill by $30,000. A few weeks later Tadin gave Berrios a $1,000 campaign contribution.

"If it's not directly a bribe, it's at least appearance of pay-to-play situation," said Jay Paul Deratany, Board of Review candidate.

Political watchdog Cindy Canary said both men are getting money from questionable sources.

"This may the perfect race for us to publicly finance, to take it out of the real of the connected," said Cindy Canary, Illinois Campaign For Political Reform.


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