RACE: Cook County Board of Review

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About the Candidate

Name: George A. Cardenas
DOB: Oct. 9, 1954
Occupation: Alderman - 12th Ward
Political Experience: 19.5 years as Alderman in the City of Chicago, 2 years as 12th Ward Committeeman
Website: https://cardenasforcook.com/
Twitter: @aldcardenas
Facebook: www.facebook.com/votegeorgecardenas

Candidate Statement

My name is George Cardenas, Democratic nominee for Commissioner of the 1st District Board of Review. I’m running for this office because taxpayers deserve a commissioner who is well-qualified and prioritize accuracy and fairness. I’m a seasoned financial professional, having worked for many Fortune 500 companies on tax policy, auditing, data mining and corporate management.

I currently serve as an alderman in the City of Chicago, floor leader and chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection. I will use my unique experience to make the Board of Review work for everyday people.

As commissioner, I will fight back against unfair assessments by reviewing the assessor’s decisions based on fair market value of each property to ensure homeowners no longer pay a disproportionate share of the property tax burden.

In addition, I will be an advocate that the board release reports disclosing the methodology used to adjudicate appeals, including assumptions about capitalization rates, vacancy and other market factors.

Further, I will propose revisions to the ethics ordinance to increase accountability and improve employment practices.

Look, Cook County must be a livable county with good-paying jobs that allow individuals to live and raise families. We need to tax commercial properties competitively, but also adequately fund our local governments.

I also believe that residential properties for seniors should be taxed less and I will work to educate seniors about the property tax benefits and exemptions they’re entitled to. 

Fairness, equity, transparency must be the board's top priorities. As commissioner, I will work relentlessly to implement reforms to make appeals procedure less complicated. I will bring the board's services directly to the people. As soon as I take office, I will launch an aggressive outreach program to educate property owners about the right to appeal their assessments.

I look forward to serving you and thank you for the opportunity to come before you.

Candidate Q&A

Why are you running?

I am running for this office because taxpayers of the 1st District of the Board of Review deserve a Commissioner who is well qualified and will prioritize accuracy and fairness. As Board of Review Commissioner I will advocate for efficient policies and a government that delivers for all taxpayers. I will provide fair and impartial hearings in a timely, professional and cost efficient manner for all homeowners and taxpayers.

What does this office do well, and what needs fixing?

Since Assessor Kaegi took office there has been some progress in tax equity, but we have a long way to go. 

As you know, the Sun-Times exposed “major errors” in the $250 million-a-year program that offers a tax break to certain seniors. This report prompted Cook County Clerk Yarbrough to halt the calculation of Tax Year 2020 second-installment tax rates until she received corrected and accurate data.

Also, in recent days, more than one article has been published exposing that Board of Review employees are engaging in blatant unethical behavior. This is unacceptable. This culture undermines public trust and confidence, and I am prepared to put it to end. We need a fairer, more accurate, transparent, lawful, and nondiscriminatory assessment and appeal system. If I am elected, I will fight back against unfair assessments, and deliver accuracy to avoid constant property tax increases driven by mistaken calculations I will hire qualified analysts, who are diverse and representative of all people in Cook County. I will develop a team whose core mission will be to lift up working families and protect seniors and those with disabilities while ensuring transparency, efficiency and accessibility

I will launch an outreach like never before, and overhaul communication strategies to educate homeowners and help them take full advantage of exemptions and appeals, while providing much needed information and resources

What is the most pressing issue facing your constituents and how do you plan on addressing it?

Homeowners are at a breaking point, our property tax system is broken, lower-income residents continue to disproportionately pay more, and are subsidizing the homes of the wealthy. I see it every day as an Alderman. I receive the long list of properties with delinquent taxes just in my ward. Per data by the Cook County Treasurer, minority communities make up for more than half of the population with the highest debt to property value. Every homeowner has a right to appeal, but the process isn’t attainable to all. Working, minority families need an advocate at the BOR.

What specific steps would you take to ensure your office is accessible and responsive to your constituents?

I will make it a priority to make contact with 1st District residents and hold as many local forums necessary to help them file their appeals. I will hire a diverse staff, representative of the 1st district. As Commissioner, I will make sure to office provides services in various languages, and ensure all appeal forms are translated.  .

To ensure greater transparency, I look to release reports outlining the methodology used to adjudicate appeals, including disclosing assumptions about capitalization rates, vacancy and other market factors.