With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Using Burke's Law to rip-off city schools

While Rahm Emanuel continues to blame school budget cuts on retirees' pensions, his machine partner Eddie Burke is getting fat ripping off the schools by helping corporate pals avoid paying property taxes. In doing so, Burke has the full cooperation of Rahm and his City Hall legal department which rarely challenges tax appeals from Burke's clients.

14th Ward Alderman Burke, the man we used to call "Slow Eddie", when he and "Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak organized their racist clique against the city's first black mayor, Harold Washington, isn't so slow after all. While the feds finally caught up with Vrdolyak in 2007 and sent him to prison for mail and wire fraud, Burke remained free by figuring out how to rip off the city and public school system, legally.

And while the idea of a powerful City Council member counseling clients against paying taxes that help keep the very government he works for running may seem to be, well, a bit unseemly, that’s not the worst of it. Burke and his firm has won $10.6 million of those cases by working the court system, where he wields great clout in who gets to serve in the judiciary as chairman of the judicial slating committee of the Cook County Democratic Party. He also knows full well the city’s Law Department is understaffed and can’t keep up with the pace of tax cases involving Burke’s clients.
And yet, that’s not the end of it. The Sun-Times found 59 of his clients—including big names such as AT&T, Commonwealth Edison and Walgreens—do business with City Hall or other Chicago governmental agencies, such as the Chicago Board of Education. As chairman of the Council’s Finance Committee, he has direct access to all matters pertaining to who the city does business with, along with anything relating to bond, tax and revenue issues. -- The Ward Room 
This morning's Sun-Times reports that the mayor is once again resorting to damage control, trying to duck the latest City Hall scandal by putting distance between himself and Burke.
 “I can speak for the law department of the city of Chicago. We’re going to pursue every case to make sure that the taxpayers’ interests are protected. . . ." says Rahm.
The mayor’s claim to pursue all property tax appeals is contradicted by the facts. The law department rarely challenges the lawsuits that Burke files, with just one court challenge in the past three years, records show. And City Hall is legally barred from contesting the majority of Burke’s appeals to the state — those seeking less than a $1 million cut in property assessment — under a 2002 measure Burke helped to pass in the City Council. The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that Burke’s boutique law firm has won more than $18.1 million in property tax refunds for Chicago property owners since 2003 and that those refunds have cost the cash-strapped city $3.6 million.

And so it goes.

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