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Where a $2,000 rental costs $450

Thursday, May 06, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Editorial

We're not surprised that forest preserve police chased a Sun-Times photographer from taking shots of a spiffy mansion in the Paul Douglas Forest Preserve in Hoffman Estates. If you were paying only $450 a month for a free-standing four-bedroom home like this, as a Cook County Forest Preserve worker is, you wouldn't want attention called to it, either. Ditto for dozens of other homes inhabited by staffers, which go for even less, $225/month, if they're attached to Forest Preserve facilities.

These have been sweet deals, considering the market value for the $450 rental is $2,000. Unfortunately, the Forest Preserve Board refused Wednesday to require the homes to be appraised in the interest of charging more reasonable market-rate rents. That shouldn't be the last word on this issue.

We understand why renters like maintenance supervisor Leonard Dufkis, who has lived for 20 years in a forest preserve home, defend the status quo. He says he makes up for the difference by being on constant call for picnickers on the neighboring grove and serving as a resident watchman. But even taking into account the services he provides, such deals undercut the county by badly underutilizing its assets and squandering the opportunity to raise money that could be used to acquire more land or better maintain existing lands. The time for living on our dime is over.



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