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Bottom of the Ballot Fri Nov 02 2012
While "Dogcatcher" isn't on the ballot in Chicago, there are several positions that may leave you wondering, "What exactly do these people do?" In particular, the heads of several county-wide agencies that will be up for a vote next week. While some of these positions may seem obscure, they actually do play a major role in the day-to-day life of Chicagoans, especially when it comes to legal or property-related issues. Here's an explanation of what they do and who the candidates are.
Cook County States Attorney
The Job: The State's Attorney heads up the office that prosecutes crimes committed in Cook County and serves as legal counsel for county agencies and officials.
The Incumbent: Democrat Anita Alvarez (website, funds raised)
Alvarez was elected to the post in 2008. Highlights from her tenure include winning a case before the Supreme Court establishing a Conviction Integrity Unit, and taking steps to combat corruption and human trafficking in Chicago. Alvarez is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police (the police union), the Chicago Tribune, the Daily Herald, and the Chicago Citizen.
The Challenger: Republican Lori S. Yokoyama (website, funds raised)
Yokoyama is a civil litigator based in Chicago with an MBA from Northwestern and a law degree from DePaul. In her opposition, Yokoyama claims that Alvarez is too influenced by politics and participated in a cover up of the 2004 death of David Koschman, who died as the result of an altercation involving the nephew of then-mayor Daley (details in the Sun-Times). She is endorsed by the Gazette.
Clerk of the Circuit Court
The Job: The Circuit Court Clerk is responsible for managing court records, including recording court decisions, making them accessible to the public, and handling fines and other transactions.
The Incumbent: Democrat Dorothy Brown (website, funds raised)
Brown was first elected to the post back in 2000. Her main task has been moving the paper-based clerk's office into the digital age, trying to make court information available electronically [PDF] and implementing online payments of traffic tickets. Some observers, including the Tribune, are decidedly unimpressed by her progress. She is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the Gazette, and the Chicago Citizen.
The Challenger: Republican Diane S. Shapiro (website, funds raised)
Shapiro is running for the position again after her failed 2008 attempt. The current 46th Ward GOP committeeman, she has decades of experience in the courts system, including as an adult probation officer. Shapiro says Brown uses her office to raise campaign donations and is calling for an audit of the clerk's office in order to reduce spending without curtailing services. She is endorsed by the Daily Herald.
Recorder of Deeds
The Job: The Recorder of Deeds manages a publicly-accessible database of property deeds, mortgages, liens and other records. This election is an open seat because the current Recorder, Euguene Moore, is retiring.
The Democrat: Karen A. Yarbrough (website, funds raised)
Yarbrough has served as a state representative since 2000, where she was the chief sponsor of bills to combat smoking and abolish the death penalty. In addition to modernizing the office, Yarbrough says she would aggressively investigate and verify records following the robo-signing scandal where banks falsified mortgage documents on a massive scale. She is endorsed by the Chicago Tribune, the Gazette, the Daily Herald, and the Chicago Citizen.
The Republican: Sherri Griffith (website, funds raised)
Griffith is a sales and marketing professional. In running for the office, she aims to set a positive example for young people and combat waste.
Cook County Board of Review: District 1
The Job: The Board of Review is a three-member board that hears and rules on complaints filed by taxpayers regarding the assessed value (and level of taxes) of their property.
The Incumbent: Republican Dan Patlak (website, funds raised)
Patlak was elected to the post in 2010 after working for the board and as the assessor of Wheeling Township for several years. As the only Republican on the board, he has positioned himself as a balancing influence on their decisions. In addition to his personal experience, Patlak is running on the impact of improvements made since he took office, which according to the Daily Herald, resulted in "tax bills getting out on time this year for the first time in 34 years." He is endorsed by the Chicago Tribune and the Daily Herald.
The Challenger: Democrat Casey Griffin (website, funds raised)
Griffin has served as deputy Cook County recorder of deeds since 1999. In his campaign he is pushing for modernizing the board's infrastructure and increasing transparency, including posting all of its decisions, and supporting evidence, online. He is endorsed by the Chicago Citizen.