By Scott C. Morgan
One constituent cut right to the chase with a question for Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi on Saturday. It was at The Grand at Twin Lakes senior living facility in Palatine, the first location of 17 planned "listening sessions" by Kaegi to reach out to Cook County residents.
Reading from a submitted question card, moderator and former Glenview School District Superintendent Bill Attea asked, "How many of (Joseph) Berrios' relatives are still working for your office?"
"Zero," said Kaegi, referring to his predecessor, whom he bested in a March 2018 Democratic primary. Kaegi then named, and offered praise for, the new staff members helping him bring change to the assessor's office.
For example, Kaegi mentioned how his office has instituted an official visitor's log that can be publicly accessed. Kaegi also talked about legislation moving through the Illinois General Assembly to have automatic renewal of senior property tax exemptions.
Kaegi was also proud to tout the passage of Senate Bill 1379, a data modernization bill requiring commercial property owners to disclose rental income and property expenses to the assessor's office at the outset of the assessment process rather than through appeals. The bill now heads to the Illinois House.
"We have to earn people's trust. We can't automatically expect to have it, and we have to show and not just say," Kaegi said. "The ultimate test will be if we're sending out assessments and people say, 'Yeah, I think that's about what my house is worth on the market today.'"
The Palatine meeting, along with one later on Saturday in Schaumburg, were organized by Kaegi to talk about his 100 Day Plan. Other politicians in attendance in Palatine included Democratic State Sen. Ann Gillespie of Arlington Heights, Republican State Rep. Tom Morrison of Palatine and Cook County Board Commissioner Scott R. Britton (Dist. 14), who offered opening and closing remarks.
"We're going to be a lot more responsive to our constituents," Britton said. "And also try to make the system so much more fair and transparent, which it has not has always been."
Kaegi's listening tour continues April 9 in Wilmette, April 10 in Schiller Park, and April 20 and 25 on Chicago's Northwest Side. Future dates in May and June are still being finalized. For updates, visit cookcountyassessor.com.