Ouch. Joseph Berrios, Cook County's Democratic Party leader, Board of Review commissioner, 31st Ward Committeeman, high stakes lobbyist for coin operators, liquor commission, RTA and other lucrative client relationships, will most certainly get his party's endorsement this week to run for Cook County Assessor. Heck, no one else is running for the slot. Not even among the Republicans.
So you've got to wonder exactly what the Sun-Times and the Tribune are thinking this week. Yesterday the Sun-Times slapped Berrios, pointing out how conflicted Berrios business and political interests are, suggesting the Cook County Democratic organization refuse to endorse their very own chairman this week for his new quest -- to be Cook County Assessor. Where did the sudden interest in accountability come from? (See IR's ongoing Berrios posts HERE)
Then today, the Tribune stings Berrios' other side with yet another run-down of his conflicted interests, point by point:
-- A lobbyist who seeks favors from Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton -- both are property tax attorneys -- and who has a voice on their clients' requests for juicy tax breaks. (Conflicts of interest? Do you think?)
-- A political operative who lured the Illinois legislature into legalizing video poker -- sure to be an exploitative scourge in poor communities -- on behalf of his lobbying clients.
-- A local politician long involved in unfairly shifting millions of dollars in tax burden from commercial properties to residential homeowners.
-- A catalyst in putting Todd Stroger on the ballot in the 2006 race for president of the Cook County Board -- and a loyal supporter of Stroger's much-loathed and unneeded 2008 sales tax increase.
-- A member of the Cook County Board of Review who routinely fattens his campaign chest with cash donations from the same lawyers who ask him for lower property tax assessments on behalf of their clients.
What's most embarrassing is the Berrios et al are so bold as to not hesitate to claim a bigger section of Cook County's property tax assessment playground, knowing no credible Republican will dare to take him on. Cook County taxpayers will ultimately pay for turning their heads, shrugging their shoulders, and letting this travesty go unchallenged.
Maybe that's why Chicago's papers are so big and bad now. What they have to say about all of Berrio's dealings is irrelevant and after the fact. Rather than work as the outer source to hold the Berrios' of this world accountable, they have chosen over the years to become ultimately accessories to the "crime."
Berrios, Madigan and Cullerton win, the Democrats retain corrupt control and the 4th Estate stands by, pretending to be outraged. The Republican Party in Cook County needs to step into this open door and the media needs to push it, for the sake of Cook county's future.
Maybe it's the Chicago papers who should be slapped, not doing the slapping?