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.
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 — firstname.lastname@example.org — 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.