What it’ll take to root out discriminatory property taxes in Cook County

By Curtis Black – August 3rd, 2017

Longstanding concerns over fairness, transparency and accountability at the Cook County assessor’s office under Joe Berrios have come under renewed scrutiny in the weeks since an investigation by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica revealed that property assessments are systematically skewed to overtax low-income communities.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates are addressing conflict-of-interest issues by calling for a ban on donations by tax appeal lawyers to candidates for assessor, among other reforms.  A citywide coalition of community groups this week called on Cook County to refund the money they say low-income neighborhoods have overpaid as a result of biased assessments.

Fritz Kaegi, who’s challenging Berrios in next year’s Democratic primary, argues that solving the problem requires a change of leadership in the assessor’s office.

A longtime progressive Democratic activist with decades of experience as an investment manager, Kaegi said, “The assessor can do much of this on his or her own, using better models, using modern statistical packages, and getting rid of this conflict-of-interest baggage and ethical cloud over the assessor’s office.” He’s refusing to take donations from tax lawyers.

“A fair, ethical, transparent assessment system” is “totally doable,” Kaegi said.