"Hi, I'm your state representative," he says, "and I wanted to stop by to let you know there's an election coming up in a few weeks. I'm running for re-election, and hoped you'd support me. One of my big issues is helping homeowners make sure they're not paying more than their fair share of property taxes. You've probably noticed your bill just went up. That's because it was our section of the county's turn for property re-assessments. It happens every three years."
He goes on:
"As you know, our area is desirable to live in, and our home values have increased. So have our property taxes, as a result.
"Now, there will be an opportunity next spring for you to appeal that assessment if you think yours is too high. I make it a point to do what I can to help the people of my district with this. Can I help you with it next year? Okay, great, I'll make a note and get the form to you as soon as they're available. I hope I can help you out."
But he's not finished. Before he departs your doorstep, he says:
"In the meantime, there's an election coming up, and I'll need your vote to stay your state representative. Can I count on your vote? Would you mind if we put a sign in your yard?
"...Thanks! We'll be in touch,"
He smiles and walks off to the next house.
Now, is there anything wrong with that scenario? Or is that exactly what you'd expect an incumbent state representative to do?
Okay, let's pretend you've already decided you think your district needs a change and you're ready to vote for the challenger this election. The incumbent comes to your door, promises to help you save hundreds if not thousands on your real estate taxes by facilitating your appeal process. Would that affect what you say to the man at the door and how you commit to vote?
State Rep. Paul Froehlich (D-Schaumburg) takes pride in helping his constituents by handing them a green brochure outlining the property tax appeal process. A campaign walk sheet indicating folks with a handwritten "Appeal '09" often translates into yard signs, and presumably, votes in the ballot box.
To the right is a sample of one of these walk sheets from the Froehlich 2008 campaign, with commitments to assist with an appeal listed. While not every "sign" indicated a homeowner's appeal would be made in 2009, every single time "Appeal '09" was jotted onto the list, the word "sign" appears nearby.
One has to wonder if this is just smart "Illinois" campaigning on behalf of Froehlich, or was questionable political pressure applied or implied? Just how many real Friends of Froehlich are there?
Related stories in the Friends of Froehlich series