The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Why the Recorder of Deeds Matters

By Kevin Robinson in News on Jan 30, 2008 5:25PM

Among all of the jockeying for Cook County State's Attorney and the sparks and drama of the presidential primaries, one of the more significant local races this primary season hasn't gotten nearly the attention that it deserves.

28th Ward Alderman Ed Smith is running against Eugene Moore for Cook County Recorder of Deeds. "The Recorder of Deeds Office is the worst ran county office in Cook County," Smith said in a debate with Moore on Fox News Sunday. The county's problems are deeper than just bad leadership--there's also a severe lack of transparency and accountability.

The office records financial information – property sales, mortgage values and rates, condo conversions and default rates. But it's all kept in a maze of papers in the basement of the county building, which means creating statistical models out of that info is expensive and time consuming, so its value as analyzable data is lost. Although not nearly as sexy as county board president or state's attorney, the recorder of deeds could potentially hold the key to understanding the local real estate market and population trends, greater academic research and more streamlined revenue lines for the county.Smith is running to clean up that mess, hoping to bring the Recorder's office into the digital age. He told the Tribune "I endorse the ultimate elimination of the Office of Recorder of Deeds," favoring merging the office with Cook County Clerk's Office, something that most other municipalities have already done.