A.D. Q&A with A.D. Quig

A.D. Q&A with Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi

Episode Summary

After roughly three years of upending the Cook County Assessor’s office, Fritz Kaegi is in re-election mode. He’s responsible for setting the values for 1.8 million parcels across the county, which help determine local property tax bills. He came into office on an ethics crusade, pledging to end patronage while also fundamentally rejiggering how the office values big commercial buildings. He’s got early reports that indicate his values are closer to the mark. But politics is never that simple, and he’s got challenges on multiple fronts. One is an opponent in June’s democratic primary, Kari Steele, who argues his reforms have destabilized the business environment. He’s facing similar criticism from some big building owners who have seen assessed values jump in some cases by more than 70 percent, putting a bigger share of the county’s property tax burden on their shoulders. And he’s seeing some of his numbers get knocked down by the Board of Review, a three-member body that hears property tax appeals. Kaegi’s walking a fine line with the BOR. He’s criticized their practices – saying they’ve undone a surprising number of his decisions compared to other jurisdictions – and their policies, including that members haven’t barred donations from property tax attorneys. This episode digs into why, despite those criticisms, Kaegi won’t be using his bully pulpit to elect other like-minded officials to the Board of Review. A.D. Quig spoke to the Cook County Assessor on December 9, fresh off a hearing with the Chicago City Council’s Finance Committee. That hearing was called by an alderman who said Kaegi engineered “a deliberate shift of tax burden” that was harming economic activity in the county. But it ended up as a lovefest. A.D.'s conversation with Kaegi starts there.