Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Forrest Claypool to the Rescue?

Editorial boards and earnest columnists have exhorted readers to sign those petitions for Forrest Claypool—the one man, in their words, standing between fair property tax bills and Joseph Berrios, a machine pol who won the Democratic nomination for assessor in February.

The signatures are flowing in, and the 52-year-old Cook County commissioner will almost certainly claim a spot on the November…

Forrest Claypool for Cook County Assessor?
Forrest Claypool
Editorial boards and earnest columnists have exhorted readers to sign those petitions for Forrest Claypool—the one man, in their words, standing between fair property tax bills and Joseph Berrios, a machine pol who won the Democratic nomination for assessor in February. 

The signatures are flowing in, and the 52-year-old Cook County commissioner will almost certainly claim a spot on the November ballot as the independent candidate for assessor.

A backlash was inevitable. The Tribune’s John Kass led the way, dubbing Claypool “Sir Forrest,” and ridiculing his reformist cred.

So who is Forrest Claypool? 

A native of Southern Illinois (St. Elmo, population 1,300) and son of a man in the oil-drilling business, he graduated from Southern Illinois University and then the University of Illinois Law School. He lives in Ravenswood and has three children, all of whom were educated in private schools.

Claypool twice served as chief of staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley and ran the Chicago Park District in the ’90s. Like politicians at every level, he’s a mix of reformer and—Kass had it right—conventional party loyalist.

He’s in good company, as the record shows.

Claypool’s loyalist side comes out in the race for Barack Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat. I interviewed him just hours after the feds took over Broadway Bank. He told me that he backs Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias, Broadway’s former VP and senior loan officer, and has done so from the start—even after the squeaky-clean Inspector General David Hoffman entered the primary.   

In the Democratic primary for county board president, Claypool did not endorse Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, the candidate with whom the good-government types were most comfortable. He offers a lofty explanation: he was not persuaded that Preckwinkle or any of her opponents would repeal “the hated [Todd] Stroger sales tax.” (Claypool didn’t endorse any candidate in that race.) He now says that he’ll support her in the general election.

Preckwinkle has said publicly that she’s supporting Berrios, a man Claypool describes as “exhibit A of how the insider culture works, where the people who have clout make out and the rest of us get higher taxes.” Claypool told me that he made his decision to run after the primary, when Berrios defeated Raymond Figueroa—a former alderman “who has independent ties that go back to Harold Washington.” When asked if he considered supporting the Republican candidate, former Evanston assessor Sharon Storbeck-Eckersall, he said, “No, no. I don’t really know enough about her, but I do think [Cook County assessor] is a very, very big job.” 

Claypool has known Rahm Emanuel for 30 years and is close friends with David Axelrod, and he has visited the White House several times—most recently on March 28, according to visitor logs. He also claims a friendship with the President—he was chairman of then-Senator Obama’s transition committee in 2004-05—and, during those White House visits, he “chatted” with the President in the Oval Office.

In 2006, Claypool lost in the primary for county board president to incumbent Democrat John Stroger—after Stroger had already suffered a debilitating stroke. Obama—then a senator—didn’t endorse Claypool. “Why?” I asked. “You’ll have to ask [the President],” Claypool said. I already knew the answer: Obama, for all his idealism, is a politician.

Kass speculates that Claypool’s “buddies in the Obama White House” might try to slide Giannoulias out of the Senate race and slip Claypool in. Won’t happen, says Claypool, adding that when Obama’s people asked him informally, early on, if had an interest in going to Washington, he said no.

Claypool’s name is in the mix of those mentioned as possible successors to Rich Daley. “No, no, nope,” Claypool said. Besides, he thinks Daley will run again: “The mayor as a person and the mayor as mayor are so intertwined that it’s hard for me to see him walking away voluntarily.” 

When I asked if his old boss would support Claypool’s independent run for assessor, the Cook County commissioner laughed and said “no.” Daley will support Berrios, obviously, because Daley, too, is a politician.

 

Photograph: Chicago Tribune

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4 years ago
Posted by carol f

Vicent Kamin emailed me this comment and asked me to post it:

Mr. Claypools credentials vary from those of other Chief of Staffs of Mayor Daley. Unlike those that lined their pockets--(you know who you
are). His direction was clean and swift. Parks, County Board, etc. Changes occurred for the better rather than for the betterment of self.
Quid pro quo is the Chicago Way. At least Mr. Claypool is running, otherwise, the same rift of ethics will endure. At least, voting ballots will
not resemble rap sheets with his name on them. Instead of taking from the poor to benefit the rich, ( more campaign funds in that) Mr.
Claypool will ensure that the "Bungalow Belt" receives a fair shake with home assessments instead of the current, chosen clouted format.

4 years ago
Posted by Still Here

We have to learn to stop taking the political endorsements of politicians by politicians seriously. We know that in making endorsements they do not have our agendas in mind. They far somewhere below3 the political endorsements by celebreties in their credibility.

That said, I certainly hope Claypool can beat Berrios, who will take the Assessor's office back about 40 years.

4 years ago
Posted by Truth

Does anyone remember the hired truck scandal that the papers exposed a few years back? Guess who was the mayors Cheif of Staff? Forrest Claypool. What happen to Forrest right after that he got sent to the Park Dist. so it would look like action was taken. Talk about the right guy for the right job. Oh and who is the one responsible for a tax bill that is going to blow your minds this november Forrest. Look up the 10/25 tax change the county board passed plenty of smoke and mirros there. You will be getting Taxed at a lower rate but they are going to increase every homeowners property value in the entire county. I mean i thought property value decreased across the board in cook county i guess Forrest doesnt think so or the current Assessor who had Forrest pass the 10/25 property tax change

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