Misusing facts to gain fans, election

By John Bambanek

Is there anyone out there who would seriously mistake me for a progressive Democrat? Good, because I want to get something clear right now. I am no fan of Champaign City Council Member Giraldo Rosales. I think his insipid claims of racism on the city council do nothing but ensure that actual cases of racism go unnoticed. His politics and policies do nothing to help the poor raise themselves out of poverty.

That aside, yesterday the questions of Rosales’ property taxes and residency were made public on IlliniPundit, a popular Republican blog. An anonymous commenter outed Rosales for failing to pay his property taxes this year. In addition, it is known that Rosales has lived in Urbana, not Champaign, for almost 2 years. I spent the day looking into various public records to see what I could find.

There have been people flogging the property tax and residency issue making note that both issues could disqualify him for office. It appears the News-Gazette has also been investigating. The facts are, it seems, that Republican activists are trying to make news based on half the truth.

In 2005, the Rosales’ 6000 square foot home was damaged by burst pipes. Since that time, they’ve been living in a rented Urbana house. There are currently four active building permits for the house. The estimated cost of work for these permits is substantial. There are no lines for bad debt on the property. In short, there is little reason to live in a much smaller rental house when you are paying for repairs for a far nicer home. While it has been almost 21 months since the Rosales’ have had the original water damage, the delays were outside their control.

In short, the questions of his residency don’t hold water and the people raising them ought to know better. The News-Gazette did a story on this very same issue in May of this year. The only thing that has changed since then is there have been additional building permits, more money spent, and more time lost by the Rosales’. It is clear they are working on the repairs to their home and any reasonable person would not view the situation as an abandonment of their Champaign home as their primary residence. They are even still registered to vote in Champaign.

In regards to Rosales’ unpaid taxes, the issue at first glance looks pretty bad. The first payment was due in June and still remains unpaid. However, there is a process by which tax bills can be reduced because of damage or uninhabitability called an abatement, which the Rosales’ filed by the deadline in early September. As a homeowner, I didn’t know abatements were available for home damage. Rosales’ attorney didn’t know until she took a look at the matter. Even the Champaign County Board of Review admits it is not a very well-known option for people with damaged homes.

Both the County Treasurer’s opinion and the Board of Review’s opinion is that one should pay the tax bill and if the abatement is granted you’d get a refund. The Rosales’ attorney did not think that paying extra property tax only to get a refund made much sense. In this case, the worst that can be said is that Rosales made a bad public relations decision leaving himself open to criticism in an election year.

This episode of running with half-facts is indicative of two things. First, that blogs have a tendency to rush stories to print so they can be the first. However, bloggers as a group don’t tend to do the footwork to make sure they have the whole story. I say this as a fellow blogger.

Second, we live in a state where both parties seem more content to point at flaws in the other and thus neatly avoid talking about any real issues once they get power. Illinois Republicans seem to be running solely on the fact that Blagojevich is corrupt. Of course he’s corrupt, he’s a Chicago Democrat. Yet I recall a certain Republican governor thrown out after one term for corruption. For now, we’re stuck with mud-slinging politics. It would be nice if we could get back to discussing issues, but for now I join most other Americans in asking, “Can’t they both lose?”