May 24, 2023
🐌 Happy Wednesday! Today is National Escargot Day. So let's all move (or eat) at a snail's pace.
- Today's weather: Cooler today. High of 68°.
Today's newsletter is 938 words — a 3.5-minute read.
1 big thing: Who's on the outs with Johnson
The City Council convenes today for the first time under Mayor Brandon Johnson, with several new alders recently sworn in.
Why it matters: As the council gets ready to launch a new chapter, some council vets appear to have been pushed aside.
The intrigue: Last week, the Johnson administration released a list of chairs for the various council committees, despite the previous council having voted in March to be independent and choose their own committee chairs.
- Because a huge swath of that council is no longer seated after the election, this administration and the new council appear to be ignoring the independence vote.
- Meanwhile, Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), architect of the vote, was abruptly stripped of his finance committee duties last week, replaced by Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd).
Of note: Johnson didn't respond to Axios' request for comment.
Here are some alderpeople who appear to be on the outs with the Johnson administration:
Waguespack may be a council vet, but many remember him as the plucky newcomer who pushed back on then-Mayor Richard M. Daley's parking meter deal.
- For years he offered one of the rare progressive voices on the council, before taking over as finance chair from Ald. Ed Burke in 2019 and ushering in a new day of transparency.
- But the staunch Lightfoot ally recently stopped attending Progressive Caucus meetings, telling Axios it was getting too "toxic" amid concerns over some staffers not being paid. This month other progressives in that caucus took on plum committee assignments, while Waguespack lost his chair, allegedly after a heated phone conversation with Johnson.
Reilly supported Johnson's opponent Paul Vallas, so it's not a surprise that the business-friendly downtown alderperson isn't a big part of the new administration.
- To be fair, Reilly hasn't really been in anyone's administration, although he was somewhat friendly to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Reality check: Reilly represents downtown business, including big events like the NASCAR street race, Lollapalooza and the temporary casino.
- It'll be interesting to see how critical he is from his outside perch, especially since Johnson put Democratic socialist Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa in charge of zoning.
2. Hiring a tax appeal lawyer vs. going it alone
Editor's note: This story is the third in a series about navigating Cook County's tax appeals system.
Every three years, when new property tax assessments hit our mailboxes, so do letters from tax appeal lawyers offering to help lower them — for a portion of the potential reduction.
- But does a lawyer really improve your chance of getting money back? Maybe not.
The intrigue: Appeals filed by individuals actually do as well or better than those filed by lawyers, according to the latest data from the Cook County Assessor's Office and the Cook County Board of Review.
By the numbers: In 2021, the success rate for appeals to the CCAO was 37% with lawyers and 38% without.
- Individual filers do even better when they appeal to the Board of Review. In 2021, the success rate for non-condo residential property owners appealing to the board was 41% with attorneys and 51% without.
What they're saying: Officials at the CCAO and the board tell Axios a strong appeal presents proof that similar nearby properties called "comps" were sold for, or were assessed at, less than than the property in question.
- "Homeowners have a pretty good sense of their home in comparison to others in the area," CCAO chief of staff Scott Smith tells Axios.
- "So they have a better idea [than a lawyer would] of what comps to include."
3. Tips and hot links
⛪️ The Illinois Attorney General's Office released a scathing report saying Catholic clerics have abused "hundreds more" children than has been previously reported. (New York Times)
🛒 The Washington Park Save A Lot store has closed due to multiple break-ins. The owners are directing customers to the new controversial Englewood store. (Block Club)
🦊 Move over, "Chonk." A family of foxes living in Millennium Park is the latest viral sensation. (Sun-Times)
4. Chicago's best festival: Final Four
Are we ready for the Final Four street festivals in our quest to name the best in Chicago?
- The last round wasn't as close as the first, as our readers have chosen cultural festivals over the "cover band and a beer" classic events.
What happened: The Old Town Art Fair needed little time to oust Wicker Park Fest, while Sheffield Garden Walk pulled out the win over the Pilsen stalwart Fiesta del Sol.
- The other side of the bracket had the Printers Row Lit Fest easily handling the 57th Street Art Fair, while the Andersonville Midsommarfest moved on, defeating Do Division.
Next round: That leaves us with: Old Town Art Fair vs. Sheffield Garden Walk and The Printers Row Lit Fest vs. Andersonville Midsommarfest.
- Vote here! We'll keep it open until 4pm.
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5. Where's Justin? The (erstwhile) Spindle
Hi, it's Justin. Many of you guessed yesterday that I was in Berwyn, but only a handful of readers went back in time to reference the famed Spindle in the Cermak Road Plaza.
The stacked car sculpture served as a wacky local landmark from 1989 until its removal in 2008.
- The Cermak Road Plaza has kept its mid-century modern signage, even after removing the Spindle and other sculptures.
Reality check: A Walgreens now stands where the Spindle once jutted into the sky.
- You can still enjoy a miniature version of the sculpture in the parking lot of a nearby pizza spot on Ogden and, of course, the original in the opening scene of "Wayne's World."
Congrats to Bob M. and Simone M. for correctly guessing. We pulled their names from an old carburetor.
You can pick up your swag at our next Axios Office Hours event — sometime this summer.
Edited by Alexa Mencia and copy edited by Rob Reinalda and Keely Bastow.
🍺 Monica is excited about the summer lineup of Wednesday trivia nights at the Radio Room. She expects to do well on "Succession" and "New Girl" nights but probably not much else.
🦉 Justin had several people ask about The Owl at our Hideout bash last week. The owl hasn't been spotted lately, so it's possible the nice weather — and the uptick in humans enjoying said weather — have him on the move.
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