Saturday, December 9, 2017

Does Kennedy have right to make same ol’ accusations against Joe Berrios?

I comprehend why Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Chris Kennedy feels compelled to do something to jump-start his campaign this electoral cycle.

KENNEDY: Will he gain from Berrios bashing?
The man who early on was supposed to be the one legitimate challenger to J.B. Pritzker and his millions is fizzling out to the point where he maybe as much a fringe candidate as Daniel Biss – who likely will win the vote in his home suburb of Evanston but will be unknown elsewhere in Illinois.

HE NEEDS TO do something drastic to draw attention to himself, although perhaps not as drastic as 2008 presidential hopeful John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate. That was just politically suicidal.

Although I’m wondering if Kennedy’s attempt at an attention-grabber this week is going to have a similar backfiring effect – did the man who can claim a senator for a father and a president and senator as uncles come across as some out-of-town goof who has the nerve to criticize our local political people?

I wonder if Kennedy’s attempt to call for the resignation of Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios will offend the local types who would figure this Kennedy kid (who has never held elective office before) ought to mind his own business.

Even though, to be honest, the accusations he made against Berrios are the same exact bad things that many local people say about Joe – he operates his office that assesses property tax rates for the benefit of people who make prominent financial donations to Democratic candidates. Oh yeah, he also stocks his government payroll with every relative and political friend he can find.
BERRIOS: Always under fire politically

KENNEDY, AFTER ALL, is a Boston-born type who was raised in the suburbs of the District of Columbia. He’s not native Midwestern by any means, let alone a life-long Chicagoan.

He did eventually get an MBA from Northwestern University, but his local tie is because of the fact the Kennedy family for many years owned the Merchandise Mart property. The family has since sold it, but during the time in the 1990s and 2000s that they owned it, Chris Kennedy was the family member they sent to Chicago to run it for them.

During those years, Chris Kennedy became the Chicago connection to the Kennedy political family and also a fairly solid financial contributor to our local politicos. He often talked about running for higher office himself, but always managed to find excuses for which to drop out.
MADIGAN: Will he back Berrios?

Giving some the impression of a political dreamer who doesn’t actually have the nerve to put his own name on the ballot for voter scrutiny.

HECK, THERE ARE some people who are still convinced he’ll find a reason to drop out of this election cycle – even though by filing nominating petitions, he’s already carried out more of a campaign than he’s ever done previously.

The point is I can envision local politically-interested types who will agree with Kennedy’s comments about Berrios running a “racket” in the way property values are assessed in Cook County. But perhaps by being a candidate for governor, it is questionable whether he’s the one who should be saying such things.

For the record, Kennedy responded to a report by the study of the assessor’s office (which the Chicago Tribune says it will publish in the Sunday paper whose early editions will be for sale come Saturday) by issuing a critical statement.

“Berrios has used the property tax system that is defunding our public schools, defunding our social safety net, and defunding efforts to end gun violence as means to keep the political machine in power and enrich the entitled, politically connected few at everyone’s expense,” Kennedy said.

THOSE ARE FIGHTIN’ words, to some. Particularly to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who in his day job as a tax attorney downtown often gets his name dragged into any criticism of Berrios.
BISS: Has he become stronger fringe candidate?

After all, it is likely that Madigan’s support is the reason Berrios has been able to survive years of similar criticisms from local people. Now instead of inspiring Berrios critics to support him, Kennedy may have merely offended the powers-that-be (most of whom already are lining up behind Pritzker’s campaign) to make a special point of defeating him come the March 20 primary.

That is, if they don’t get all politically vindictive and try to have him knocked off the ballot before that date.

Because in the end, Chris Kennedy may well have a legitimate point to make. But he may not be strong-enough politically to be the one to make it.


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