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Toni Preckwinkle Doin' Work

By Chuck Sudo in News on Apr 20, 2011 7:30PM

2010_01_22_preckwinkle.jpg Unlike some politicians who call themselves reformers, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle at least has a track record of acting opposite of the party line. Preckwinkle has been making waves the past couple of days with two notable acts. Yesterday, Preckwinkle and County Commissioner John Fritchey announced the Open Cook County Plan, a major transparency initiative intended to rebuild the public trust in county government by making government data and information available to the public, hopefully allowing better interaction between country residents and their representatives and helping residents have a better understanding of what county government does.

Preckwinkle said in a statement:

“I know that the historic lack of transparency and accountability has eroded the legitimacy of Cook County government in many residents’ eyes. Quite simply, a government that is transparent and accountable to its residents is a more effective government.”

Preckwinkle and Fritchey hope the eventual ease of access to government data will eventually allow residents to determine where country resources can be best utilized. This level of citizen participation in government would be unprecedented in Cook County.

Fritchey sees this happening in a several step process that started by introducing an Open Government ordinance, which would set the foundation for the data to be made public and applications for country residents to better understand what they're reading and interact with county government.

“Simply putting information online or allowing the County’s customers to fill out simple forms online just isn’t enough,” said Fritchey. “This initiative will allow for unprecedented interaction, allowing residents access and use of county data to better understand how county government is operating and to make recommendations on how to improve and use government and services.”

Fritchey's plan calls for the creation of an open data portal, OpenCC.Info, he hopes will be up and running by summer.

Preckwinkle also lifted her own moratorium on big-ticket county spending today. Preckwinkle announced a multi-year, $680 million infrastructure program, half of which are projects related to her plans for the county health system.

Among the projects earmarked are a $126 million redevelopment of Cook County Hospital and a $50.2 million expansion of the parking garage at Stroger Hospital. Preckwinkle imposed the moratorium shortly after taking office, saying that there was no sense of rhyme or reason behind the county's past construction planning.