I live in the 39th State Representative District of Illinois.
For a dozen years we were represented by Toni Berrios who is the daughter of County Assessor and Chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, Joe Berrios.
The only reason Toni Berrios was a state representative was because she was Joe Berrios’ kid. It was her only qualification for office.
She went down to Springfield year after year because nobody challenged her during most of those years. That’s how things roll in Chicago and Cook County.
A couple of election cycles ago we threw her out and elected Will Guzzardi.
It wasn’t easy. It took three tries. First she was challenged by a Green Party candidate named Jeremy Karpen. He surprised everybody and won 30% of the vote. Nobody expected that and it showed Toni was very vulnerable.
The next time, Will Guzzardi ran as a Democrat and lost by slightly more than 100 votes.
The third time was the charm. We beat Chairman Berrios and the Democratic Machine.
Joe Berrios is a dinosaur of the Chicago and Cook County Democratic Machine. He runs the Assessor’s office like it’s his personal business. His office is a hiring hall for family and friends.
Remember when Berrios hired his on-again-off-again girlfriend, Vicki LaCalamita, to be his director of Human Resources, with a salary of $107,841?
Berrios also hired LaCalamita’s son as a manager earning $57,923.
And her cousin, too. She made $76,960 as an industrial appraiser.
I’m not getting into the whole soda pop tax in this post. But if people are pissed off by a couple a pennies as a tax on sugared drinks, they should grab a pitch fork and march on the assessor’s office to get rid of Joe Berrios.
He is the epitome of the Democratic Machine’s mash up of systematic racism, regressive taxation and personal corruption.
Last June the Chicago Tribune ran a series entitled The Tax Divide.
The series detailed all that is wrong about property tax assessment in Cook County and Joe Berrios.
Chicago has long been a city divided by race and class, a metropolis with starkly different crime rates, economic realities and educational opportunities depending on where you live. But there’s another division in Chicago and Cook County, one that for years has gone unexamined even as it pits rich against poor.
An unprecedented analysis by the Tribune reveals that for years the county’s property tax system created an unequal burden on residents, handing huge financial breaks to homeowners who are well-off while punishing those who have the least, particularly people living in minority communities.
The problem lies with the fundamentally flawed way the county assessor’s office values property.
The valuations are a crucial factor when it comes to calculating property tax bills, a burden that for many determines whether they can afford to stay in their homes. Done well, these estimates should be fair, transparent and stand up to scrutiny.
But that’s not how it works in Cook County, where Assessor Joseph Berrios has resisted reforms and ignored industry standards while his office churned out inaccurate values. The result is a staggering pattern of inequality.
From North Lawndale and Little Village to Calumet City and Melrose Park, residents in working-class neighborhoods were more likely to receive property tax bills that assumed their homes were worth more than their true market value, the Tribune found.
Meanwhile, many living in the county’s wealthier and mostly white communities — including Winnetka, Glencoe, Lakeview and the Gold Coast — caught a break because property taxes weren’t based on the full value of their homes.
As a result, people living in poorer areas tended to pay more in taxes as a percentage of their home’s value than residents in more affluent communities. Known as the effective tax rate, the percentage should be roughly the same for everyone living in a single taxing district.
It took three times to beat Joe’s daughter.
But we did it.
Joe’s up for re-election. Fritz Kaegi is running against him.
I will write more on this race as it goes along.