Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hello Court Building, my old friend

Shockingly enough, I did NOT get stuck in the Denver Airport for the duration, and so even though I missed the stellar US-Canada hockey game, I also didn’t get stuck with a bunch of guys drooling over women’s curling. Yes, apparently curling is a big draw for the male contingent, something about the “girl next door” appeal of the curlers. So many people living in Russian mining camps – who knew?

Anyway, one of the reasons I needed to get back on Monday was so that I could file an appeal of my new HIGHER assessment for my property taxes. Because of course, in the Alterna-Universe that is Chicago, property values here have gone up, according to our government, even though they’ve tanked, oh, everywhere else in the country.

Of course, Monday was the last day I could file. Now, surely you’re thinking “Miss Tasha, is this another example of you being a total dumbass?” To which I would say, only in part. Because this was actually the third time I’d be filing an appeal – the first one was denied, the second one got me a slight decrease, and so this’ll be my third one, where I get to go to court to state my case. The hardest part of which will be maintaining civil language when I ask why the hell my yuppie neighbors, with their $1.3M dollar home, are assessed at a lower value than me and my falling-apart abode.

So, third appeal. And we all know how things work in Chicago, i.e. that the people who get reductions are those who hire lawyers to file their appeals – the same lawyers that contribute mightily to the Assessor’s campaign funds. Shocking, I know. Because of that, I debated as to whether or not I should bother. The idea of going downtown, trying to find parking, then paying $12 or whatever for the privilege of parking on the street for 2 hours wasn’t too appealing. Not to mention going to the Court Building and getting into another shouting match and tussle with the assclown security guy over my so-called “illegal” keychain. You know, the one with the can opener on it.

So I dithered. Mulled. Dithered some more. Then after figuring out that instead of going downtown I could just head over to the Skokie Courthouse, I leapt into action. Let’s see – hassle of downtown and ridiculous parking meters vs. easy drive to Skokie and a parking garage. Hmm.

I get to the Skokie Courthouse about 1:20, and am prepared for the mad crush of people all filing appeals on the last day. Elbows out, I look for a long line, irate security, an angry mob of people with pitchforks yelling “let us in! let us in!” Nothing. Odd. Am I at the right place? I go in anyway, past the perfectly pleasant security people, then wander down the basically empty hallway to room 155. Where again, I expect to see mass confusion, a lone “Office”-type person barking at people, no clear directions as to where one should go, etc. In other words, the usual scene downtown.

Again, confusion, because as soon as I get to Room 155, there’s a big sign that says “Board of Appeals” in front, and then as soon as I walk into the outer lobby part, which is under construction, there’s a series of signs taped to the wall that say “Board of Appeals” with an arrow. Sign after sign after sign. Then I step into the office, and I brace myself for the typical conversation:

Office Guy: Why are you here??!
Me: I..
OG: YES or NO?!

But that too is not what happens. Instead….

Office Guy: Can I help you? Are you looking for Board of Appeals or Property Transfers?
Me: Board of Appeals.
OG: Right that way, following the signs.

The signs continue, one after the other, with their cheerful little arrows like beacons lighting the way.

Now, here is where the Skokie Courthouse begins to recall the good ol’ days in Soviet Union. Because I get to the right counter…but the lone woman there is on her lunch break from 1-2. And it’s only about 1:30 now. And of course I can’t piss her off by grumbling about this, because who knows whose sister or relative she might be? Sigh.

So I wait, thinking aha, maybe that’s it, maybe the hordes of people coming in today know that they need to wait until 2PM. Tick. Tock. Finally, 2 PM! Umm, I’m still the only person. I go in, get my form and am filling it out, when – aha! – 2 women come in, also to fill out the forms. But they have no clue what they’re doing, as I hear them asking each other how to fill it out in something resembling Russian/Polish, and so I proceed to “help” them fill it out totally wrong, because I figure – every other homeowner’s reduction equals less of a chance that I’ll get one, you know? This city has just so much money to spread around.

Okay, I don’t really do that. I help them fill it out, and then Lunchbreak Woman and I wind up giving them tips on how to make their case for an appeal, because they really have no idea.

Woman 1: Een my country, houses are not so much money! This ees my case!
Woman 2: When I buy house 20 year ago, I pay $2,000 in taxes. And look now for how much! This ees what I tell them!

At least now they have a tiny bit more of a clue – and at least they have a lot of time. Because the appeal deadline for their township isn’t for….another month. Welcome to the Life of Tasha, dumbass party of one.

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