Tax Fight: Berrios Vs. Houlihan

Jack Higgins

Cook County Assessor James Houlihan is steaming mad over the political calendar.

Houlihan called a press conference Wednesday to rail against the man who would like to replace him, Joe Berrios, and his Democratic keepers for working to delay property tax bills until after the November election. A cap on assessments ends this year and many homeowners will receive shocking bills.

Berrios sits on the three-member tax Board of Review, and also acts as chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party and has close ties with State Dem leader, and House Speaker Michael Madigan.

“They're ... engaged in a plan to delay second installment of property tax bill so they come out AFTER the election,” Houlihan said. “Giving large breaks to commercial property owners, they will hurt homeowners during these difficult times and will not allow homeowners to react at the polls.”

Houlihan even invoked Papa Daley in the fight.

"Their refusal to act despite Mayor Daley's constant reminders to do so, suggest they meant to provide inappropriate relief to commercial businesses at the expense of tax owners," he said.

Both Berrios and Madigan say that’s preposterous.

"Speaker Madigan has nothing to do with the assessment process," spokesman Steve Brown said. "Assessor Houlihan has apparently fumbled the ball again. If he wants somebody to blame for any delay, he should look in the mirror."

Berrios accused Houlihan of playing politics. He is not, however, running for reelection.

"(Houlihan) is trying to play politics with all the different taxing bodies and the effect that this will have on them," said Berrios at a later press conference. "This is not -- when you're looking at the tax system, this is not something you play politics with. If you get it right the first time, then guess what, the Board of Review would not be hearing so many cases."

The issue could open a door for popular Dem Forrest Claypool to enter the race for assessor as an independent, Clout Street notes.

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