The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Mayor Daley And The Quest For Government Transparency

By Soyoung Kwak in News on May 16, 2010 2:30PM

Photo of Mayor Daley from the City of Chicago website.
Even though Illinois may not be the most corrupt state in the nation, Chicago is trying really hard to buff up its political image. Two months ago, the City of Chicago's website went through a makeover and became easier to access. Taking one step further this past Thursday on May 13, Mayor Daley announced that the City of Chicago's website now offers additional new information that will give residents better access to Chicago government files. Some of the new access to information that has been added to the website include:

  • Statements of Financial Interest: Chicago is among the first of few cities to fully disclose all 2009 Statements of Financial interests filed by around 11,000 Chicago employees. Neither the state of Illinois nor the federal government makes these statements available online.
  • Freedom of Information Act Requests (FOIA): One of the key information releases on the website. Departments run by the city have perennially kept records of important documents and these records were accessible to the public only through request. Additionally, a new state law requires that departments maintain a log of all FOI requests, a description of the request, and submission and due dates. The City of Chicago has made this information available on its website, which is not required by law, and Mayor Daley has adamantly stated that they are "going above and beyond what's required" to bring transparency to the people.
  • Posting TIF (tax increment financing) district information: Continuing with past ordinances dealing with providing access to TIF information on the City's website, the website will now offer TIF information which includes "three-year estimates of revenue and expenditures on individual projects in each of the 160 TIF districts in the City".
  • Economic Disclosure Statements: These statements hold information regarding "company ownership information required for approval of City contracts". This data will be available online through a search system, whereas past access to this information required specific knowledge of contract information.

While this is a progressive step toward political responsibility, not everyone believes this is a completely positive step. The postings of FOIA informations has roused some discontent, especially among investigative reporters, who don't want others to see the information they've requested (in essence, tipping off everyone else to a story that may be working on). Some also think that posting this kind of information online is too literal, and that citizens could be negatively impacted as well.