Berrios, Claypool promise fairer property tax bills

October 21, 2010 (CHICAGO)

"Well I know what I'm doing and he doesn't," said Joe Berrios, Democratic Cook County assessor candidate.

"Joe Berrios is pay two play politics personified," said Forrest Claypool, Independent Cook Co. assessor candidate.

If you own property in Cook County, pay attention to this fight.

The candidates for Cook County assessor include two men who have been bickering for years. Joe Berrios is a member of the Board of Review, which hears property tax appeals. A position, Berrios says, that has given him a bird's eye view of the problems with the way property taxes are assessed. If elected, he vows to use technology and real-time appraisals so property owners only pay taxes based on what their land is worth.

"If you've seen in the last two years there haven't been any sales, why are you going to use that data to come up with the figures for today when you know the market's gone down 25-30 percent?" said Berrios.

Mr. Berrios is also the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party and a Springfield lobbyist who's worked on behalf of liquor and gaming interests. Among those he lobbies is House Speaker Mike Madigan who in turn has private business clients who appeal to Berrios' Board of Review for property tax reductions.

"I've said from day one I'll give up my lobbying in Springfield once I'm elected assessor," said Berrios. Isn't that a bit like saying to your fiancée, 'I'll stop seeing other people once we're married? No, I'm single. I don't have a fiancée."

"The level of corruption and taxes has become intolerable and Joe Berrios is "exhibit A" of an insider culture has raised our taxes and polluted our politics," said Claypool.

Forrest Claypool is a Cook County Commissioner who said he was giving-up politics - only to jump back into the fray a few months later. He also ran the Chicago Park District and served as a chief of staff to Mayor Daley, which causes some to question his credentials as a reformer.

"I will bring sunshine to that process so taxpayers know how much they're paying in higher property taxes because of TIFs, how much their schools and parks are losing because of TIFS," said Claypool

Two candidates with actual experience as assessors are also running. Republican Sharon Strobeck-Eckersall is a realtor and former Evanston Township assessor. The Green Party's Robert Grota comes from a family of assessors.

"I can start running the minute I take office. I know what to do. I know how to handle it. I'm not in it as a political prize," said Sharon Strobeck-Eckersall, (R) Cook Co. assessor candidate.

"There will be uniformity and fairness in the assessment process," said Robert grota, (G) Cook Co. Assessor candidate:

Forrest Claypool and Joe Berrios are spending big money to win the assessor's job. The most recent campaign filings available show Claypool has raised nearly three quarters of a million dollars for his quest. Berrios has picked up nearly $450,000.

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