The Berrios vacancy


Joe Berrios won election Tuesday as Cook County assessor. He'll leave the county Board of Review — his appeals board's formal name — to take the new gig. After which the appeals board on which Berrios now sits will affirm or reject the property valuations of ... Joe Berrios, assessor.

Property tax attorneys no doubt hope that Berrios will be replaced on the tax appeals board by a like-minded officeholder. Berrios accepts campaign cash from lawyers whose big clients have an uncanny habit of then receiving reductions in their property valuations. It's a zero-sum game: When those building owners pay less, the rest of us pay more.

The job of appointing Berrios' successor on the appeals board falls to Judge Timothy Evans, the head of Cook County's court system. By law, Evans' choice must be a member of Berrios' political party. Democrats, start your applications.

Berrios has dominated the three-member tax appeals board, which needs an infusion of businesslike efficiency and modern technology. Evans can make a hugely positive change in this powerful if obscure backwater: Whomever he appoints will join another new board member, Republican Dan Patlak, who formerly worked at the board and has served as Wheeling Township assessor. On Tuesday, Patlak ousted incumbent Democrat Brendan Houlihan. The third board member, Democrat Larry Rogers Jr., has two years left in his term.

Regular Dems likely will press Evans to select someone who'll protect Berrios — he runs the county Democratic Party — by not aggressively second-guessing his office's property valuations. We hope Evans instead chooses someone with Patlak's strong background in assessment to replace Berrios. Installing another Democratic insider could worsen this office's already dismal reputation as a pay-to-play haven, and further delay the tech overhaul it needs.

Evans told us Friday that he's looking not only for someone who is fair and impartial, but who is willing to lower or raise property valuations if that's what a review of the numbers dictates. That will rattle lawyers who reflexively file appeals regardless of the merits.

Judge Evans, you'll draw a lot of attention with this appointment. Please make it on behalf of taxpayers who need more fairness in property valuations — not on behalf of tax attorneys who want someone to accept their donations and smile on their clients.


Patlak says he’ll add balance to Board of Review


The Democrats' decisive election-night victories confirm that the party remains the Goliath of Cook County government. But Wheeling assessor Dan Patlak, newly elected Cook County Board of Review commissioner and one of a handful of Republicans to prevail Tuesday for county office, insists he's no David.

"I will be a voice for what I feel is right, for Republican values, but more importantly for the needs and values of the people who elected me," said Patlak, who defeated Democratic incumbent Brendan Houlihan for a seat on the three-member board, which hears homeowners' assessment appeals.

He hopes that his victory will help pave the way for increased political balance within county government.

"It's not a healthy situation when you have one party controlling everything in the county that has to do with property taxes, because it's a breeding ground for corruption," said Patlak, who worked for eight years as an aide to Houlihan's predecessor, Republican Maureen Murphy.

Patlak said he will work with his fellow commissioners to "run the most fair, efficient, cost-effective board of review" possible.

To that end, he spent three hours Wednesday going over the transition with a prospective staff member.

"My desire is to hit the ground running with very little downtime for myself or my staff," said Patlak, who will be sworn in on Dec. 6.

Patlak campaigned on a promise of working in the position full-time, saying the pay scale merits a full-time commitment.

As a former review board employee, "I felt things worked better when commissioners were present," he said


Heights' Houlihan loses seat on Cook Board of Review



By Kevin Olsen
From The Regional News

A Republican will now sit on the Cook County Board of Review after Wheeling Township Assessor Dan Patlak defeated Palos Heights resident Brendan Houlihan for the District 1 seat on Tuesday night.

District 1 serves suburban Cook County on the three member property-tax assessment appeals board.

Patlak received 253,409 votes, or 51.9 percent of the unofficial vote total, with all 1,437 precincts reporting. Houlihan received 235,003 votes, or 48.1 percent.

“I ran an honest campaign based on my background and experience and competence for the job,” Patlak said on election night. “[Voters] wanted competent government, they wanted clean government and they wanted balanced government.”

The election is for a two-year term on the three-member Board of Review before the districts are redrawn in 2012. Houlihan was elected in 2006 and served one term.

Patlak’s first goal is to work with the other commissioners to implement an online tax appeals process to increase the efficiency and transparency of the Board.

“My intention is to work in the interest of taxpayers,” Patlak said. “If my lead holds up, this is something that helps improve the balance with county government.”

Patlak said political balance is needed on the Board of Review. Citizens want confidence that appeals are being analyzed fairly and that it cannot happen with Democrats controlling the Board and the tax system as a whole, he said during his campaign.

“Complete control of an institution like the Board of Review or Cook County is extremely unhealthy for government,” Patlak said.

Patlak will resign from his possession as Wheeling Township assessor, which he was elected to in 2005 and re-elected in 2009. He also spent eight years working as a full-time analyst for the Board of Review.

He has held a real estate broker’s license for the past 24 years and is a graduate of the Real Estate Institute. He graduated from Valparaiso University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He was also a volunteer leader for the national organization Citizens Against Government Waste.

Houlihan, like Patlak, made one of his top campaign goals to work toward creating an online appeals system. He could not be reached for comment on election night. Houlihan is a 15-year resident of Palos Heights and works at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.


Patlak Victory

Patlak Victory!


The results are in and we are victorious. Our winning margin is approximately 19,000 votes or 4%. Thanks to all of you who voted, contributed, placed a yard sign, sent an e-mail, called a friend, passed some literature or walked a precinct. Your efforts have been rewarded. Our work over the past seventeen months proves that you can run an honest and ethical campaign based on issues related to the the position in question and come out on top. I will now endeavor to continue our work at the Board of Review so that it is run in the best interest of the taxpayers of Cook County.
Thank you again for all your support.

Dan Patlak


The Daily Herald Endorses Dan


Cook Board of Review: Patlak

Cook County voters should not overlook the Cook County Board of Review District 1. It’s your say for one of three members of the board, which is where you go if you don’t agree with how your home or business land has been assessed for taxing purposes.

The Daily Herald recommends Republican Dan Patlak over the first-term incumbent, Democrat Brendan Houlihan of Palos Heights. Patlak has a better grasp of the issues and is better equipped, with credentials as the Wheeling Township assessor since 2005 and as a former Board of Review employee. The board, which has been accused of being a tool of the clouted and powerful, needs new leadership. Patlak is a start.

But we strongly urge Patlak to draw a line in the sand against taking campaign donations from tax attorneys who appear before the board. This sort of conflict just further erodes the board’s credibility.


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