With much of the attention focused recently on the contentious presidential, state and county races in Illinois–some of which still aren’t over–the uncontested ones predictably went largely unnoticed.
The office of Cook County Recorder of Deeds was one of those races. The seat holder is in charge of keeping track of property records, countywide. Traditionally, this race hasn’t grabbed a whole lot of attention, even when it has been hotly sought after.
But it might this time.
Seventh District state Rep. Karen Yarbrough, with the blessing of the Cook County Democratic Party, ran unopposed in this year’s primary; thus far, she faces no Republican opponent in the general election.
What makes this unopposed bid more noteworthy are the politics surrounding the office and the relationship between Yarbrough and longtime recorder, Gene Moore, who is retiring.
A source close to Cook County government said Yarbrough will also probably boot most of Moore’s employees, many of whom, through thick and thin, have been loyal soldiers in his patronage army.
Yarbrough and Moore are longtime political enemies, even though they’re less keen on admitting it publicly these days.
This could have something to do with the whole guilt-by-association approach the source told The Chicago Reporter about.
“Retribution, I’m not about that,” Yarbrough countered, but said this of Moore’s employees, “I’ve heard all kinds of stories about that office, about people not coming to work. I can’t quantify that. What I do know is, the people that want to work will work, and the people who don’t, won’t.”
Yarbrough said she’d implement training programs to maximize employee knowledge and efficiency.
“We’re going to look for new, innovative ways to improve,” Yarbrough said.
John Fritchey, 12th District Cook County Commissioner and a former colleague of Yarbrough’s in the statehouse, tried to do exactly that earlier this month.
Fritchey suggested eliminating the recorder’s office and merging its duties with those of the Cook County Clerk’s, arguing it would save taxpayers $1 million.
The proposal went up for a vote, but died, and Yarbrough commended “nay”-saying commissioners for killing the idea.
Yarbrough said shooting down the plan to eliminate the office, oh, and her job, was the right thing to do. And, au countraire to Fritchey’s pitch, the new ideas she has in store could actually bring in more money.
Furthermore, Yarbrough insists she’s also focused on making the office “an advocate for the average taxpayer.”
She has talked about implementing an anti-fraud unit, which would see all property owners notified by email or paper anytime the status of their mortgage changes.
“With there being a mortgage crisis across the country, I think that the office can be another pair of eyes to make sure that the consumer is protected,” she said.
And Moore’s website has got to go, Yarbrough added. She vowed to “expand” and “update” the ancient site, which many lawyers, real estate agents and reporters consider the bane of their existence when they’re forced to use it.
It’s not exactly clear how hell-bent on reform Yarbrough is.
Both Yarbrough and Moore are cut from very similar political cloth, having risen out of the less-than progressive ranks of Proviso Township politics.
Yarbrough does get plenty of props from progressives for sponsoring the bill that ended capital punishment in Illinois, last year.
As for the recorder’s seat, she said, “You look out for this lean, mean machine we’re going to have.”
© Community Renewal Society 2012