Monday, December 18, 2006

The Demotion That Makes No Difference

Posted By on 12.18.06 at 05:08 PM

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Thomas Jaconetty is a man who wears two hats. He's an election-law attorney, routinely called upon by Democratic incumbents to use his mastery of the election code to defend them agianst nominating-petition challenges or knock independents off the ballot. And since 1989 he's also been deputy chief commissioner of the Cook County Board of Review, the three-person body that oversees property tax appeals.

His election-law business remains steady, as evidenced by his presence at the County Building on Monday, December 11, where he accompanied one of his chief clients, 45th Ward alderman Patrick Levar, as he filed his nominating petitions for February's election. But his position at the board took a blow earlier in the month, when he was dumped as deputy chief commissioner. Greg Hinz at Crain's Chicago Business reports that Jaconetty was the victim of a power struggle that had newly elected commissioner Brendhan Houlihan (no relation to Cook County assessor James Houlihan) teaming up with incumbent commissioner Larry Rogers Jr. against commissioner Joseph Berrios to replace Berrios's pal Jaconetty with Rogers's chief of staff, Scott Guetzow.

Apparently Jaconetty landed on his feet. While watching Levar file his petitions, he told me that he was now on Berrios's staff and had no grudges against Rogers, Guetzow, or Houlihan. As long as Berrios is at the board, Jaconetty will be too. Their alliance goes back to the 70s, when they were young precinct captains in alderman Thomas Keane's legendary 31st Ward Democratic organization.

For property tax payers it's a tempest in a teapot. No matter who's in charge, our property tax system remains an unfair, seemingly arbitrary mass of contradictions. The well connected get big breaks; the rest of us suckers don't. Under the new regime, look for the Board of Review to continue doling out small breaks to the little guys smart enough to hire the right lawyers. As the commissioners see it, if they give enough little breaks to enough little people, we'll remember them with fondness come election time. 

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