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Claypool to Announce Run for County Assessor

By Kevin Robinson in News on Apr 6, 2010 2:00PM

Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool will announce his bid as an independent candidate for Cook County Assessor this morning. “I didn’t expect to be a candidate,” Claypool told Carol Marin last week. “But I was angered and surprised someone like Joe Berrios with record low turnout could slip in with 39 percent of the vote . . . carried over the finish line by ward bosses.” Claypool announced in January that he was leaving county government last year, opting instead to head to the private sector to work on his new health care venture. Since then Toni Preckwinkle won the Democratic nomination for Cook County Board President, a seat Claypool once hoped for, and Berrios won the nomination for county assessor as Jim Houlihan leaves office. Houlihan, who's clashed with both Berrios and State Dem chairman Michael Madigan to ensure that tax assessments in Cook County are fair, has warned that Berrios and his pals are trying to manipulate the vote by delaying this year's tax bills, which are expected to be significantly higher.

Claypool got his start in Mayor Daley's administration as Chief of Staff, but made his name by cleaning up the Chicago Park District. On the county board he was one of a handful of reform-minded commissioners, Democrat and Republican, that tried to hold the line on tax hikes and patronage. And in 2006 he came within striking distance of beating John Stroger for the board president position, until Stroger fell to a stroke and his son was installed in the slot after the primary. County Assessor isn't as sexy a position as board president, but it holds as much importance in the day-to-day lives of Cook County residents. That's because the assessor not only tracks property ownership, they also handle determination of property values for taxation purposes. If a property owner feels that their property has been valued too high, they appeal to the county assessor. If that doesn't satisfy the taxpayer, they take their case to the three-member Board of Review. Berrios is on that board. And both Madigan and state Senate President John Cullerton are not just friends of Berrios, they're also real estate tax attorneys. As is too often the case in these parts, the conflicts of interest are glaring.

Claypool's got his work cut out for him - reform-minded Ray Figueroa came in last in the primary, and Claypool needs to get 25,000 valid signatures before June 21st to get on the November ballot. His spokesman says they're already circulating. He'll need significantly more than that, though, as he'll surely face hefty challenges from Berrios and his backers, including Mayor Daley and Madigan.