Will Fritz Kaegi’s challenge to Andrea Raila’s petitions succeed, knocking her off the ballot for Cook County tax assessor? If not, will her presence on the ballot mean that the challengers will split the anti- Joe Berrios vote, and he gets re-elected? Those are the big questions in the air right now, as Raila now faces a final board hearing, where two hearing officers will make the final decision. And if they split, she gets on the ballot.
“There’s a lot to be said about the system for getting on the ballot here,” says The Daily Line’s A.D. Quig. “I mean the minimum to get on for Assessor and other executive county offices like County Board President is 8,200 roughly. For Governor, for Attorney General it’s only 5,000.”
But that legal number, of course, is only a minimum. “To really be safe that you’re going to make it you have to get three times that amount or else you’re going to get challenged into the ground, and they can challenge you on this signature doesn’t match the one that they have at the Board of Elections. Their address has changed. You notarized it wrong. The person that circulated it didn’t sign this correctly. So there are a lot of technicalities that can get you booted off, and Joe Berrios challenged both Fritz Kaegi and Andrea Raila, ultimately decided they couldn’t get within striking distance of getting them under 8,000, so he walked away.”
That didn’t clear the path for Raila, though.
“But what’s happening now,” Quig tells us, “is Fritz Kaegi has challenged Andrea Raila’s, the notarization process and saying she and her family and members of her business perpetrated this widespread fraud, so notarizing things when the circulator wasn’t there in person, taking petition sheets that were mailed into the campaign and putting them back out on the streets so that the sheet would get filled up instead of them turning in one or two signatures…And the hearing officer believed that case, and Kaegi had a very high burden of proof. He had to prove she went into this with intention and the hearing officer went with Kaegi.”
The stakes are enormous. The Assessor’s job is vitally important, and the accusations against the incumbent are detailed and complicated. They were first laid out by Jason Grotto in the Tribune last June. You can watch his interview withChicagoNewsroom here.
The problem is that the petition battle is taking valuable time away from the issues, Quig laments. “There are so many accusations flying in this thing that we can’t even get to the discussion about what’s wrong with the assessment system,” she tells us.
Shorty after the series of articles by the Tribune and ProPublica, President Toni Preckwinkle demanded an independent inquiry of the entire assessment system.
“If you’re working in politics this was a huge deal,” Quig explains. “So she announced this back in July, late July, and we’ve been waiting and waiting for this report to come out. And last week the Tribune wrote a story saying all right, it’s been seven months; how long could this possibly take? Is Preckwinkle slow-walking this because she wants to protect Joe Berrios? So she came out this week and said, “Nope, it’s coming out next week. We will have a full month before the Primary, so we can work this out.” And it also allows Joe Berrios to say, “I’m following all the recommendations from this independent study and we’re going to make this right.”
But, as Grotto pointed out, there have been studies before this.
“We’ve had I think five studies now that have said there’s a problem with the assessment system,” Quig explains. “So if this report comes to the conclusion it won’t be terribly surprising. But now we have this commitment from Berrios and Preckwinkle that what is in these recommendations we are going to follow.”
Of course, we had that commitment before. “Right,” Quig agrees. “So what a lot of people forget is that the Tribune series showed that Berrios had access to a system to make the assessment more fair dating back to 2011 and he abandoned them.”
A.D.Quig covers all aspects of County government, and she tells us there’s a brouhaha bubbling up at the County Board over Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s slow progress in modernizing the office’s Information Technology.
“She thinks she gets a bad rap on not implementing technology,” quick says. “There was this big battle this week about the e-filing system, which the State has mandated for every circuit court, and it’s going slowly and commissioners aren’t happy. Dorothy Brown has had e-filing on her website since 2008. It’s very clumsy and you still can’t get access to documents online. If you go to federal court it’s called Pacer. You pay a little money you can get access to every single item on the docket. So the State has mandated e-filing by next January, and there has been all this back and forth with Brown’s office about well we already have e-filing. And it’s just extremely complicated and very frustrating for commissioners who have said, “We gave you $36-million to upgrade your technology. Why isn’t this happening when it’s supposed to?”
When the BGA and WBEZ reviewed 113 suburban police shootings over the last 14 years they found dozens in which suspects weren’t armed, shots were fired into moving cars and other actions that violated the town’s own policies. Sheriff Tom Dart offered to help the suburban police forces with training and technical assistance, but he ran into resistance.
“Cook County agreed to do a hearing on how they might do that,” Quig reports, “And when President Preckwinkle was asked about it she said, “Well you know we had this giant budget crunch this past year. We had to lay off 1,000 people and we are trying to slice costs as much as possible, so I’m not sure what kind of resources we can dedicate to this, but I’m excited to see what Tom Dart proposes.”
You can read a transcript of this discussion here: CN transcript Feb 8 2018 A.D. Quig
You can listen to this program on SoundCloud here.