Anyone can read it and comment, only the invited few can edit. If you would like to make some edits, ask for an invitation.
The primary election is on March 20, but early voting in Cook County has begun. Anyone registered in Cook County can vote early at multiple sites, including the downtown hub at 16 W Adams. Voting here is quick because they have so many voting booths.
Over on my website Chicago Cityscape I’ve assembled a map of maps: There are 20,432 maps in 36 layers. You might say there are 36 maps, and each of those maps has an arbitrary number of boundaries within. I say there are 20,000+ maps because there’s a unique webpage for each of them that can tell you even more information about that map.
This post is to throw out some analysis of these maps, in addition to the simple counts above.
The data comes from the City of Chicago, Cook County, and the U.S. Census Bureau. Some layers have come from bespoke sources, including the entrances of CTA and Metra stations drawn by Yonah Freemark and me for Transit Explorer. The sections of the Chicago River were divided and sliced by the Metropolitan Planning Council. The neighborhood and business organizations layers were drawn by me, by interpreting textual descriptions of the organizations’ boundaries, or by visually copying an organization’s own map.
There are 6,879 unique words longer than 2 characters, in the metadata of this map of maps. The most common word is “annexation”, which makes sense, given that the layer with the most maps shows the 10,668 Cook County annexation actions since 1830 – the first known plat was incorporated in the City of Chicago.
The GeoJSON file, an open source, human readable GIS format, comes out to 30 MB, and it make break your browser when you try to display this layer.
The next group of words are also generic, like “planned” and “development”, related to the Planned Development kind of zoning process in Chicago – called Planned Unit Development in other jurisdictions.
After that, some names of municipalities that traded back and forth between unincorporated Cook County and incorporated municipalities are on the list.
Working down the list, however, it gets really boring and I’m going to stop. I bet if you’re a smarter data science person you can find more interesting patterns in the words, but I’ve also increased the number of generic words (like planned development) by adding these as keywords to each map’s “full text search” index, to ensure that they would respond to a variety of search phrases from users.
A “house” in Bridgeport at 3302 S Normal Avenue. The photographer, Eric Allix Rogers, noted in the caption that he saw on the Recorder of Deeds website that it was in foreclosure (in 2010).
When you vote in Cook County the general election this fall, which has already started here, you’ll find a question on the ballot asking you if the Recorder of Deeds office should be folded into the Clerk’s office.
The referendum is binding, and would take effect in 2020, the year of an election for a county recorder. There’s an election this year for county recorder and incumbent Karen Yarbrough is the only candidate.
The move will save taxpayer money, according to the Civic Federation, but which Yarbrough doubts. The consolidation is one step towards having a single office manage all of the county’s property records.
Currently four offices – all of which are elected – manage information about property: The recorder keeps track of property ownership and transaction; the assessor determines property value; the treasurer collects property taxes; and the clerk sets the tax rates.
Yarbrough deserves credit for the electronic record keeping innovation she brought to the office. A consolation is a further innovation. Yarbrough is correct that the recorder and clerk offices don’t have overlap, but there are efficiencies that can be devised and implemented as these two offices – along with the other two offices – exist for the same purpose: to collect property taxes.
Chicago Cityscape also advocates that the four property tax offices adopt open data policies that make property ownership, value, and tax rate info accessible.
There are several hundred condo units in the building at 235 W Van Buren Street, and each unit is associated with multiple Property Index Numbers (PIN). Photo by Jeff Zoline.
Several people have used Chicago Cityscape to try and find who owns a property. Since I’ve got property tax data for 2,013,563 individually billed pieces of property in Cook County I can help them research that answer.
The problem, though, is that the data, from the Cook County combined property tax website, only shows who receives the property tax bills – the recipient – who isn’t always the property’s owner.
The combined website is a great tool. Property value info comes from the Assessor’s office. Sales data comes from the Recorder of Deeds, which is another, separately elected, Cook County government agency. Finally, the Treasurer’s office, a third agency, also with a separately elected leader, sends the bills and collects the tax.
The following is a list of the top 100 (or so) “property tax bill recipients” in Cook County for the tax years 2010 to 2014, ranked by the number of associated Property Index Numbers.
Many PINs have changed recipients after being sold or divided, and the data only lists the recipient at its final tax year. A tax bill for Unit 1401 at 235 W Van Buren St was at one time sent to “235 VAN BUREN, CORP” (along with 934 other bills), but in 2011 the PIN was divided after the condo unit was sold.
The actual number is closer to 90, arrived at by combining 5 names that seem to be the same (using OpenRefine’s clustering function) and removing 5 “to the current taxpayer” and empty names. You’ll notice “Altus” listed four times (they’re based in Phoenix) and Chicago Title Land Trust, which can help property owners remain private, listed twice (associated with 643 PINs).
Wrigley Field is an old baseball stadium in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Photo by Dan X. O’Neil
1. Licensed Chicago Contractors, my website that tracks what developers and the city are proposing to build or demolish in your neighborhood, is now called Chicago Cityscape.
2. I’m grateful to Ian Dees who helped me get property tax data for 2009-2013 for over 1.4 million PINs (property identification numbers) in Cook County.
I’m going through various parts of the property tax data and figuring out how to integrate it with Chicago Cityscape. The first time Ian got the data I found out I didn’t tell him to get the right PINs. I think I’ve fixed that now.
As part of this process I’m checking properties somewhat randomly, based on the permits I’m browsing. I most recently viewed a Wrigley Field building permit at 1060 W Addison Street – for a Zac Brown concert – so I searched its PIN and how much the property is “worth”. Here goes:
Notice how the assessed value dropped over $2 million from 2009 to 2010. And even though it had three unique assessed values, the annually changing tax rate adjusted the amount billed. You can see this information on the Cook County Property Info portal.