RACE: Cook County Assessor

About the Candidate

Name: Kari K. Steele
DOB: June 17, 1975
Occupation: President of the MWRD Board of Commissioners
Political Experience President of the Metropolitan Water and Reclamation District board. Elected Nov. 6, 2012, I am currently serving my second six-year term.
Website: www.kariforassessor.com/
Twitter: @kariforassessor
Facebook: www.facebook.com/KariForAssessor
Instagram: @kariforassessor

Candidate Statement

Hi, my name is Kari Steele and I am running for Cook County Assessor.  I am currently president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, a licensed real estate broker, and a certified Illinois assessing officer. 

As president of one of the largest landowners in Illinois, I am proud to say that I lead an agency with a billion-dollar budget, AAA bond rating, we’ve increased transparency, and reduced our reliance on property taxes through innovation and efficiency.

Competent management, consensus building, and accountability have been hallmarks of my political career and are a few of the reasons why I’m qualified to say that Cook County taxpayers deserve better. 

Better than assessments that the current assessor can’t explain, better than Trump Tower and dead mobsters getting tax breaks while we pay more, and definitely better than tax bills that come out months late possibly preventing property owners from taking deductions on their federal tax returns.

As your next Cook County assessor, I will lift the office out of chaos. Working families need stability and small businesses deserve predictability.

Unlike my opponent, I will actually do the job: which is to fairly assess the properties across Cook County and apply the proper exemptions, to get the bills out on time. 

I’ll get it done with improved administration, increased community outreach, and a more friendly appeals process.

Look, we all knew four years ago that the Cook County property tax system was broken and needed to be reformed. 

And, unfortunately, it still does.

That’s why I’m asking for your vote on June 28th…because I won’t spend the next four years talking about it, I’ll be about it!

Vote for Kari Steele for Cook County assessor.

Candidate Q&A

Why are you running?

I am running for this office because of the blatant mismanagement at the hands of Fritz Kaegi. From the COVID factor to bills being sent out months late, he has demonstrated his lack of ability to lead this office, and give voters the reforms he promised. As President of the MWRD board, I lead an agency with a billion dollar budget, maintain an AAA bond rating, and have reduced our dependence on property taxes through innovation and efficiency. Additionally, I instituted our first Inspector General to increase transparency and accountability. Cook County deserves a transparent and competent leader, and that is why I'm running for this office.

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

I admire Fritz Kaegi's efforts to shift the burden from middle-class families to downtown businesses. However, Fritz Kaegi has made some significant residential increases and raised taxes on local neighborhood main streets, some well over 500%. I think we need to ensure businesses are paying their fair share, without forcing our small local businesses, the backbone of our economy, into bankruptcy. Additionally, the late bills coming from the Assessor's office are going to have devastating effects on local governments, as they are going to be forced to borrow to cover the difference. Under my leadership, I would never allow this to happen.

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

The most pressing issue for my neighbors across Cook County is the unpredictability and instability of the Assessors office. Local families and businesses have no comfort in the appeals process, no predictability of what their bill is going to be, and are unable to get anyone to return a phone call. Nor can anyone find out how valuations are being determined by Fritz's office, because he is not responding to FOIA requests. Residents of Cook County deserve better.

I will establish a regular cadence with local governments and stakeholders to ensure no one is surprised by assessments, and ensure my office is accessible by all.

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

I think it is incredibly important for the Assessors officer to be responsive to all stakeholders and residents within Cook County. To make property valuations more predictable and transparent, I will establish regular communication with key stakeholders, by hiring a team of community liaisons, who will be tasked with keeping the lines of communication open with stakeholders and units of local government, so there are no surprises when assessments come. With so much at stake in property valuations, especially for middle-class families, I pledge to run an open, accessible office to all.

Additionally, as Assessor, I will release a mid-year market valuation report with key indicators like market absorption rates, sales volume and sales prices so that no one is surprised and we can address issues ahead of assessments. I will also conduct special sub-market research so assessments on mixed-use properties–“moms and pops”--are more accurate.