Tax Dollars And Sense

Transparency Discussion

By Celeste Meiffren
Field Director

The article "Opening government, the Chicago way," has a fascinating take on how Chicago can use innovation and technological know-how to make the City more transparent, and encourage more engagement from Chicagoans. Here's an excerpt:

"There's a long road ahead for open government in Chicago — the legacy of corruption, fraud and graft in City Hall there is legendary, after all — but it's safe to say that a new generation of civic coders and city officials are doing what they can to upgrade both the tone and technology that underpins city life.

"There was a lot of catching up to do," allowed [chief technology officer] Tolva. "A lot of it has been the open data publication. We've been getting very high-value datasets out almost every day. We launched an app competition. We got a performance dashboard up."

All of that is only the first step, he said. "It's part of a larger vision for stoking the entrepreneurial fires, where open data is used for much more than transparency. Data is a kind of raw material that the city encourages people to use. We're working on a digital roadmap and thinking more broadly.""

Tolva is saying that doing innovative things with city data will not only make city government more transparent and accessible, but encourage involvement from its citizens. This is an exciting thing to hear from the person in charge of the City website. He should keep in mind that this innovation is especially important when it comes to government spending.

In the past year, states across the nation have made significant progress in reporting and accountability in government spending. From Arizona to New Jersey, states have improved their transparency websites to allow citizens to view checkbook-level data on government expenditures quickly and easily. Mayor Emanuel and his tech team should follow their example and establish a one-stop, one-click searchable website that provides comprehensive information on government expenditures. I'll be excited to see it when it happens.

The ability to see how the government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending checks corruption, bolsters public confidence and promotes fiscal responsibility. With our city facing a budget deficit of over $635 million, this is more important than ever.

Read the full article here.

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