Legislation that could lead to elected assessor benefits only Yingling, Lake County board member says
Lake County board member Steve Carlson says Gov. Bruce Rauner shouldn't sign off on a referendum that could lead to the county's assessor's office becoming an elected official and told the board as much during their meeting earlier today.
"This whole affair is the direct result of one state rep who took a poll and decided that property taxes are a wedge issue that he could use to make himself look good," Carlson said in a statement to the board that he provided to the Lake County Gazette before the meeting. The "he" in Carlson's statement is Illinois state Rep. Sam Yingling (D-Grayslake), who represents the state's 62nd District and is a strong proponent of turning the county office into an elected seat.
"He has taken in and used many good, dedicated people for his own personal political benefit," Carlson said.
The rest of Carlson's statement focused on flaws in the Local Government Reduction Bill, SB 2544, which would allow voters to decide in November how Lake County's assessment officer is hired. SB 2544 cleared the General Assembly late last month and awaits Rauner's signature. If the governor signs the bill, the binding question would appear on the November ballots in Lake County.
"This will not result in lower taxes," Carlson's statement said. "The only way to materially affect property tax reduction is a reform of the way schools are funded in this failing state. If, as this measure implies, the Assessor could affect your taxes, and this position is made into a countywide office which is very expensive to campaign for and win. What could go wrong? As you have pointed out, this is special legislation that targets Lake County specifically. This has been tried twice before and failed both times. It will fail again, but by that time the political advantage will have been gained. Last point, I find it somewhat ironic that the legislature of the worst run state in the nation continues to interfere in the affairs of a county government that actually does its job."
Carlson, a Waukegan resident who represents District 7, has been on the Lake County board since 2002, according to his biography on the county's website. Carlson is chair of the board's Health and Community Services Committee, and he is also a member of the Stormwater Management Commission and the Lake County Board of Health.
District 7 is made up of portions of Gurnee and Third Lake.
In his separate telephone interview with the Lake County Gazette, Carlson was adamant in his opinion that the entire motivation for the legislation is to benefit Yingling.
"I get a little bit contentious about this, so bear with me," he said.
Yingling's characterization of an elected Lake County assessor as a property tax arbiter is wrong, Carlson said.
"For him to imply that a countywide property assessor would affect your property taxes in any respect whatsoever is just not true," Carlson said.
"He's taking advantage of many good and dedicated people whose honest concern with property tax is well-intended but he's taking advantage of them to make himself look good, for his own political benefit. That's the sole motivation for this bill."
Yingling is leading those well-intended and honest people astray, Carlson said.
"I think it's disingenuous and unfortunate to present this to the people of Lake County in the form of a referendum because they can't possibly have the information they need to make a valid decision," he said.
"The standard response would be, 'let's elect them'. But there's just much more to it than that. And, again, it's just unfortunate that this one state representative is taking advantage of the common and laudable sentiment of electing those who represent us."
An elected assessor would be bad for Lake County, Carlson said.
"There are roughly 400,000 voters in Lake County," he said. "In order to put out one countywide mailer at about 50 cents each to a little under 200,000 households, you're talking about $100,000. My point is that it would be very expensive to be elected to this position. If, as the proponents of this bill claim, the assessor could have a material impact on taxes collectively and/or individually, why would you want an elected office with a person with that responsibility who needed to be beholden to people who are funding his office. What could go wrong?"
And just because other collar counties have elected assessors doesn't mean it's a good idea for Lake County.
"There are 60 counties in this state that do it our way," Carlson said. "The other collar counties don't, and that's something that keeps getting pointed out to us. But I would submit to you that we're the only collar county with a balanced budget and an AAA bond rating. The other collar counties should be doing things our way instead of the other way around."