Kegi made an unbiased assessment; Steele says he has broken promises of reform

As a candidate in 2018, Fritz Keggi ran as an outsider, pledging to grow business as usual in the Cook County assessor’s office. He vowed to end corruption and ambiguity, refused donations from property tax attorneys and promised to correct errors in assessments that the Tribune often benefited big-city landholders at the expense of less affluent homeowners.

They have apparently changed the system, shifting the tax burden away from residents to commercial properties, while leading a failed push for large building owners to disclose more data. Along the way, he has rankled fellow elected officials, trade unions and real estate insiders who say his revised assessment has stymied bills from mounting and new investments. His critics say his embattled administration of office contributed to inaccurate adjustments to the impact of COVID-19 and delayed the upcoming mailing of tax bills by several months.

Many of those interests now stand behind Kari Steele, Cagi’s lone challenger in the Democratic primary on June 28.

Steele, who is currently the chairman of the Greater Chicago Board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, says she will focus on building a steady hand and consensus, which includes getting commercial real estate interests back on the table. No Republican candidates are in the running: Whoever wins next Tuesday will face moderate candidate Nico Tsatsulis in the November 8 general election.

Steele presents Keggie with considerable challenge: he has garnered support and donations from powerful union groups, including Operating Engineers Local 150 and the Chicago Federation of Labor, and elected officials such as the popular outgoing Secretary of State Jesse White. That’s John O. Steele, a former judge and Sixth Ward alderman. Democratic insiders say he may have the upper hand with black and female voters.

In 2018, Keggie was the outside option for Cook County Democratic Party chief Joe Berios. This time, Kagi has the support of the party and the support of many progressive people of the party.

Kegi, a former mutual fund asset manager, has also given close to $2 million since the announcement of revamping his operations. Other Big Contributions Have Come From Democratic megadonor Fred Eichner, who gave $100,000; Morningstar founder Joe Mansueto, who contributed $106,000; Bulls and White Sox president Jerry Reinsdorf, who gave $10,000; and other in the world of financial services.

Meanwhile, according to the State Board of Elections, real estate and business interests — including the Building Owners and Managers Association, the Chicagoland Apartment Association and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and Magellan Development Group — have given Steele nearly $270,000.

She has received even more money from unions representing construction workers, including $1 million from funds backed by local 170,000 and more than $170,000 from other labor groups.

“Development depends on sustainability, predictability, and anything more than what the appraiser’s office has given,” says Ed Maher, a Local 150 spokesman. Any slowdown in construction activity puts union jobs at risk.

Keggie supporters, like former longtime Cook County Clerk David Orr, say Steele’s support suggests she will return the office to its old ways. They say that Caigi has inherited a deeply broken system and is fighting deeper forces benefiting from an opaque system. They say it will take years to fix.

“When you’re a guy who knows the system is broken and try to change it, you’re at war with those who want to break it. That’s the most important thing to understand about this race.” That’s it. This is a monstrous money-making opportunity and they want to protect what they have,” Orr said.

Oak Park resident Keggie explains study The study later found that homeowners and small businesses were being treated unfairly under the old system, and that large building owners benefited from both the misappraisal and their understanding of the game of insider appeal. The remedy was to rebalance the scales.

His initial post suburban assessment showed commercial property valuations climbing above 70%. In the southern suburbs, median home valuations increased by about 4%, while business and industrial properties saw an average increase of around 44%.

After taxpayers had a chance to appeal their assessments to the review board and the final bills were calculated by the county clerk, the average commercial tax bill rose by 15.8%. in the northern suburbs, growing just 1.1% in comparison to residential property. The following year, homeowners in the South and Southwest suburbs saw their bills increase by 2.9% in the 2020 tax year compared to 2019, according to the Cook County Treasurer, while commercial and industrial landowners saw a 7.2% increase in bills. Saw it.

Farzin Parang, executive director of the Building Owners and Managers Association, says Cagi has unnecessarily villainized commercial landlords and changed the system to secure votes from homeowners. “We think he’s making a lot of evaluation policy by politics.”

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But Cagi says he’s just following the market, and his estimates are closer to his true value. A study conducted by the International Association of Assessment Officers to determine whether Cagi’s first look at north suburban properties in 2019 was close to actual sale prices found that appraisers’ numbers were “very close to 100% of market value”. , indicating a sound overall assessment.”

and Chicago business analysis of a crane Of the 35 large commercial properties in downtown, it is suggested that Cagi may have actually been undervalued. In all four cases, the analysis found, Kegi’s 2021 assessments were below the assessed value.

Steele, who hails from Chicago, is unclear as to what changes she will make to Kagi’s formula. but he criticized them decision to change assessment Keeping in view the impact of the early days of COVID-19, errors in administration Senior Freeze Program and Slow response to open record requests,

Keggie defended the COVID-19 assessment as a necessary response to the pandemic’s initial economic fallout. Many senior freeze errors were due to Berios’ problems, his office said. And his office has recently accelerated its FOIA compliance, after sacking the former head of records requests.

Cagi has also tangled with members of the elected Board of Review, a wealth tax appeals body that has blunted the impact of Cagi’s reforms. In an interview with Crain’s, Board of Review Commissioner Larry Rogers described the 2021 cycle under Keggie as “the worst evaluation cycle I’ve seen of any appraiser I’ve served.”

Both blame each other for technical problems, due to which tax bills are getting delayed significantly. It’s the kind of “chaos” that Steele says she will end.

But much of Steele’s campaign has also been marred by controversies involving her husband, Maze Jackson, who was criticized for her history of anti-Semitism, fear of homosexuals And anti latino Comments on the same radio show in which he promoted Steele’s campaign. Both Steele and Jackson have since apologized. Steele has also faced questions about Jackson’s work as a lobbyist for the Oni Group, one of Chicago’s most active real estate developers of the past decade.

In a recent candidacy forum, Steele said that Jackson would not lobby for the assessor’s office and that she would dissociate herself from “anything that appears to be a conflict of interest” associated with Jackson’s work.

Steele also pointed to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District hiring its first inspector general and overseeing the revision of the body’s ethics ordinance. But current and former MWRD insiders say that while Steele supported the changes, both were the long-contested initiative of former commissioner Debra Shore. Three of Steele’s colleagues on the MWRD board have backed Kegi.

Steele has stumbled several times when asked what exactly she would change about the appraiser’s practices. In a recent episode of “The Munir Muhammad Show,” she misjudged the income limit for the senior freeze exemption. And while Caggy’s office billed Steele and her mother about $3,500 for a four-year homeowners exemption, the office says the South Side home was mistakenly claimed by Steele in the past for their residence. was listed as The lawyers of Steele’s mother, who owns the house, are fighting for it.

aquig@chicagotribune.com

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