Who’s Really Behind Renew Cook County?

By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDude)

From the onset of this post, full disclosure: We pay property taxes on our modest two-flat in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood, and over the past two decades the amount has skyrocketed. Soared. Catapulted.

How high have property taxes soared on our modest Avondale home? Let’s just say “a lot” over the past 20 years.

And, over the years we’ve worked with a law firm to appeal our taxes with the Cook County Assessor.  Sometimes, our taxes were lowered; sometimes they were not.

So, when I learned about Renew Cook County, a non-profit that bills itself as “the voice for property tax fairness,” I wanted to learn more.

Renew Cook County came to my attention through a June 22 Crain’s Daily Gist podcast. The organization maintains a modern website with sections on how property taxes are formulated, the impact of property taxes on the economy, video perspectives on property taxes from small business owners, links to relevant news reports, a profile on the organization’s mission and contact info.

Based on an analysis of the site content, it’s clear that Renew Cook County is an initiative to take on Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi.  In recent weeks, Kaegi’s office has reassessed north suburban residential properties higher than commercial properties.  This recent Chicago Sun-Times editorial offers details.

What’s missing from the site? Information on the non-profit status of Renew Cook County that would indicate the specific sources behind the the organization’s funding.

The About section states Renew Cook County is “funded by business organizations and commercial and industrial property owners” and “managed by Resolute Public Affairs, a public affairs consulting firm headquartered in Chicago.” That’s a rather broad and decidedly vague roster of who is putting up the money; furthermore, the site does not list officers, staff or a mailing address.

On Sunday, I requested information on the organization’s non-profit status via this email address — info@renewcookcounty.com — and received a reply containing the two-paragraph About content repurposed.  No specifics, no explanation for failing to provide the information requested.  A follow up message has gone unanswered.

A google search did not yield results on Renew Cook County’s non-profit status; but as noted on the Corporation Service Company website, all non-profits must file articles of incorporation in order to operate.

This leads to the question: Why does Renew Cook County keep its officers, address and funding sources secretive? I’ll not speculate, but will share this: Open disclosure of information is a component of the PRSA Code of Ethics — which I adhere to — and a fundamental practice desperately needed in a world too often driven by innuendo, half-truths and speculation.

As noted in the Core Principle on Disclosure of Information: “Open communication fosters informed decision making in a democratic society.” Going further, one of the guidelines of this principle is to “Reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented.”

The Second Installment of 2019 Cook County Property Taxes should arrive in our mailbox next week. No, I won’t disclose the amount; I don’t have to.

But I hope those behind Renew Cook County will disclose just who they are.









What to Get for the Public Relations Professional This Holiday Season

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

These days, there’s many options to find that perfect gift for everyone on your holiday shopping list.

No doubt that some PR professionals have mustaches and imbibe in spirits. But the Whisker Dam may not be the right gift this holiday season.

No doubt that some PR professionals have mustaches and imbibe in spirits. But the Whisker Dam may not be the right gift this holiday season.

For example, the Redeye tabloid published here in Chicago recently featured a Holiday Gift Guide that included:

  • Handmade copper mustache guard: As described, this so-called Whisker Dam “fits over a pint glass, highball or mug to keep facial hair dry.” Since I no longer have a mustache, it’s not an item I expect to find under the Christmas tree this year.
  • LuMee case: A lighting device for your cell phone to “help your selfie-loving friend make like a Kardashian.” Well, my utilitarian Samsung Avant works just fine as is and I don’t know what it means to “make like a Kardashian,” nor do I care to learn.
  • Mobil Foodie Survival Kit: What gourmand wouldn’t love “this stack of 13 portable spices including sea salt, cayenne, curry and dill.” Personally, I prefer to have the chef season my meal when dining out.

But this blog is about public relations (well, most of the time) and I maintain that public relations professionals are perhaps better suited to more practical stuff, especially in these times of “false news” reports that lead to bad stuff happening to innocent people.

So in the spirit of giving, the PRDude offers these directives to fellow communicators. Think of the following as “holiday gifts” of sort.

Commitment. Stay committed to the public relations profession and make that known to the world. Proactively share accomplishments to demonstrate the value public relations has in today’s increasingly complex world.

Inspire. Help nurture the next generation of communicators by adhering to the highest standards of professionalism and conduct, like those noted in the PRSA Code of Ethics. Volunteer to serve on a PRSA or other industry organization.

Contest. Challenge and call out instances where the profession is bashed, demeaned unnecessarily or misinterpreted. Need an example? Here’s one: Make it clear that terrorist organizations practice propaganda, not public relations, in their communications.

Believe. Well, in Santa Claus, of course. But believe in the power of public relations to help contribute to the national dialogue, build relationships and improve society through honest, effective communications.

Hope these prove valuable “holiday gifts.”

If not, perhaps that Whisker Dam ain’t such a bad gift after all.