Why are Chicago property taxes so much lower than the suburbs?

by Scott Herr

Shifting responsibility for teacher pensions from Illinois to suburban and downstate property taxpayers is a recurring theme in pension reform discussions.

The latest example is Illinois House Bill 98 (see also TRS Pension Reform Proposals) filed on January 9, 2013, by Reps. Elaine NekritzDavid Harris and Sara Feigenholtz. This was also filed as Illinois Senate Bill 35 by Sen. Daniel Biss. Large parts of these bills are also included in Illinois Senate Bill 1 filed on January 9, 2013, by Sen. John Cullerton.

An important point missing from these discussions is the glaring disparity in property tax rates for Chicago and surrounding suburbs.

This disparity is apparent when looking at property tax rates for the suburbs immediately adjacent to Chicago and comparing tax rates for houses with the same market values located just a block away in Chicago. See the one-page chart showing rates compared to Chicago for 25 suburbs going counterclockwise from north to south around Chicago.

10 Crazy Red-Light Camera Cases

from Popular Mechanics

The Post Office Says What We All Wish We Could

In a Jan. 22 letter sent to both the city of East Cleveland, Ohio, and the company that operates East Cleveland’s photo-enforcement program, Postal Service attorney Jennifer S. Breslin said the Post Office should ignore two school-zone speeding citations and five red-light infractions that postal trucks received in December.

“In providing mail service across the country, the Postal Service attempts to work within local and state laws and regulations, when feasible,” wrote Breslin. “However, as you are probably aware, the Postal Service enjoys federal immunity from state and local regulation.” She continued: “The state and/or local ordinances imposing penalties and fines cannot be enforced as against the Postal Service, and there is no statutory basis for doing so.”

Suburban Democrats who hobble the state of IL

Editorial | Chicago Tribune

By all accounts, and especially if you read his literature, Democratic state Sen. Dan Kotowski of Park Ridge is a fiscal hawk.

“Budgeting for results,” designed to make every program prove its worth, is his baby.

He’s chairman of one Senate appropriations committee and vice chairman of the other. In other words, he packs a lot of influence on spending.

State Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, voted against the two most significant pension reform bills to come before the Senate this year. (E. Jason Wambsgans, Chicago Tribune / May 29, 2013)

Which makes it all the more alarming that on pension reform — the albatross that’s forcing Illinois to cut spending on education and other needs — he has been an obstructionist. He voted against the two most significant pension reform bills to come before the Senate this year, including one passed by the House and sponsored by Speaker Michael Madigan.

Transparency Fail

“Most transparent administration in history” releases most redacted document in history.


After the courts laid out the conditions in which the government can compel email providers to turn over users’ private messages, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wondered if the FBI was applying similar guidelines to text messages. So the group filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Justice Department.

In April the organization received an answer that complied with the letter of the law but was almost comically unhelpful. The file contained a memo header, “Guidance for the Minimization of Text Messages over Dual-Function Cellular Telephones,” followed by 15 pages that were completely blacked out. The document “does not even show the date, let alone what the policy is,” ACLU spokesperson Josh Bell told ABC News.

State Rep. McSweeney Says Metra Chair O’Halloran Must Resign

CARY – State Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills) joined the call today for the resignation of Metra Chairman Brad O’Halloran in the wake of the agency’s recent controversy surrounding the exorbitant payout to the agency’s departing chief executive officer.

“I represent McHenry, Cook, Lake and Kane Counties and my constituents are paying taxes to support Metra. We need to immediately stop the clear mismanagement at Metra,” said McSweeney. “While we don’t know everything, the facts we do know are intolerable enough to warrant a change in the Metra Board’s leadership.”

Specifically, McSweeney has signed on as Lead Co-Sponsor of House Resolution 521, which calls for the selection of a new Metra chairman in the interest of transparency and accountability within the second largest commuter rail agency in the nation.

The resolution, filed by State Representative David Harris (R-Arlington Heights), lays out the case for the action by highlighting the importance of Metra to the area and the expectation that both the taxpayers of Illinois as well as the paying customers should have their money used prudently.

How The Federal Government Flushed Away The $833 Billion Stimulus

By Reason.com

If you want to see where a little bit of your $833 billion stimulus went, head south from St. Louis on Interstate 44 until you reach the Mark Twain National Forest. On March 13, 2009, less than a month after President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) into law, the federal government awarded $462,912.30 to a Spokane, Washington, construction firm called CXT Incorporated to build and install 22 “precast concrete toilets” in the park. reason-money-down-the-drain-stimulus

These bunker-style commodes did not add to the number of bathrooms in the forest; they replaced existing toilets that didn’t meet Forest Service condition standards or accessibility requirements. And they were not just isolated outhouses. New Mexico got $2.8 million to spend on new toilets in its national parks. Another $42 million went to upgrading toilets and other sanitation facilities in Alaska.

The stimulus wasn’t sold as a plan to build bathrooms. “We’ll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels, fuel-efficient cars and the alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead,” President-elect Obama said in a November 2008 address. The stimulus, Obama vowed, would “put people back to work and get our economy moving again,” creating between 2 million and 2.5 million jobs. Instead, the economy followed the money right down the drain.

What went wrong? Plenty. The stimulus was rushed to passage based on economic assumptions that remain hotly contested. Its implementation was marred by politics, logistics, and red tape. And the aid it directed toward the country’s least well off may have undermined the very recovery it was designed to hasten. This is what happens when politicians insist that something big must be done, even if they’re not sure what that something should be.

Dundee Township Property Tax Appeal Cutoff Aug. 12

By First Electric Newspaper

The deadline to appeal Dundee Township property tax assessments for 2013 in Aug. 12 after their publication Friday in Elgin’s Courier News newspaper.  How many there’ll be is an open question.  Township Assessor Michael Bielak said, on average,  Dundee Township assessments fell about eight percent this year.

“If something did go up–it was probably a commercial property,” said Bielak.

The Top Five Lies About Fracking


Gasland Part II, the sequel to director/activist Josh Fox’s earlier anti-fracking docudrama Gasland, will run on HBO next Monday. It appears to have rounded up the usual corporate villains and appealing victims of profit-hungry capitalist skullduggery, rather than telling the more substantial story: that fracking combined with horizontal drilling has unleashed a bonanza of cheap natural gas.

Fracking involves injecting pressurized water combined with sand and small amounts of chemicals to crack open shale rocks so that they will release trapped natural gas. Generally, the shale rocks are thousands of feet below the aquifers from which people draw drinking water. No doubt to the dismay of activists, President Barack Obama appears to endorse the process. “Sometimes there are disputes about natural gas,” he said at his climate change speech last week at Georgetown, “but let me say this: We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions.”

The president gets it, but a lot of activists don’t. To help bring them around, I thought I’d take a look at some of the misleading claims made by opponents of fracking. Fortunately I just got a fundraising letter from fine folks at foodandwaterwatch (FWW) urging me to sign and send in a petition to the president to ban fracking. The letter is a nice compendium of anti-fracking scaremongering.