Updates

Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Transparency in City Spending

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending checks corruption, bolsters public confidence, improves responsiveness, and promotes greater effectiveness and fiscal responsibility.

Cities across the country have been moving toward making their checkbooks transparent by creating transparency portals and posting recipient-specific spending data online. Currently, 17 of America’s 30 most populous cities provide online databases of government expenditures with “checkbook-level” detail.  Online checkbooks in most cities are searchable, making it easier for residents to follow the money and monitor government spending.
 

News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Chicago Receives a Grade of “A” for Spending Transparency

Chicago received a grade of “A” for conventional budgetary transparency, according to a new report released today by Illinois PIRG, but more work remains to be done to make TIF and privatization initiatives more transparent. The report reviews Chicago’s progress toward comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility.

Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund and People for the American Way Foundation | Democracy

Outsized Spending, Outsized Influence

The 2012 elections were by far the most expensive in history thanks primarily to the tidal wave of outside, special interest money triggered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The federal House races in Illinois, where outside groups spent nearly $24.7 million, were no exception. This fact sheet looks at the source of that money.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund & Center for Media and Democracy | Democracy

Elections Confidential

Elections Confidential describes how secret donors poured hundreds of millions into the 2012 election through “social welfare” non-profits that are really political vehicles and via shell corporations formed as conduits to hide a funder’s identity.

Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund & Demos | Democracy

Billion-Dollar Democracy

The first presidential election since Citizens United lived up to its hype, with unprecedented outside spending from new sources making headlines. This is Demos' and Illinois PIRG Education Fund's analysis of reports from campaigns, parties, and outside spenders to the Federal Election Commission to find our big money system distorts democracy and creates clear winners and losers.

End-of-year Traditions

By

After the disaster of a deal that privatized Chicago’s parking meters, there was a lot of talk of ensuring transparency and protections to make sure taxpayers never got ripped off again. Unfortunately, it looks as though the City Council is at it again — taking a short-term cash advance at the long-term expense of taxpayers and the public interest.

Report | Illinois PIRG | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

The 2012 Trouble in Toyland report is the 27th annual Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. In this report, Illinois PIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

Over the past twenty-seven years, the Illinois PIRG report has identified hazards in toys and children’s products that could cause acute injuries, from small parts that pose a choking hazard, to strangulation hazards from cords on pull toys, to laceration hazards from edges that are too sharp, to toxic hazards posed by chemicals in toys.  Our report has led to at least 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years, and has helped us educate the public and policymakers on the need for stronger public health and consumer safety standards and for stronger federal laws to protect children from unsafe products. This report continues to be an important endeavor in keeping children - particularly babies and toddlers - safe, as the majority of all injuries happen to children in the 0-2 age range.

News Release | Illinois PIRG | Tax

Study Finds Only 52% of TIF-Related Job Creation Confirmed in Chicago

A new report released today found little tracking or enforcement of taxpayer subsidized private development projects that had promised job creation.  The analysis by the watchdog group Illinois PIRG comes one year after Mayor Emanuel’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Reform Panel released recommendations for how to fix the wasteful economic development program and underscores the need to implement reform to protect taxpayers.

Report | Illinois PIRG | Tax

Jobs and TIF

Illinois PIRG’s report “Jobs and TIF: An Analysis of Job Creation and Tax Increment Financing” analyzes the records of 21 TIF-funded projects from the last decade with the biggest number of promised jobs – each project examined was required to create at least 200 jobs. The report checked to see whether the city is making sure developers are living up to their promises. 

Since TIF projects are typically justified byusing their purported job-creation benefits, and because the number of jobs created is relatively easy for the city to track, we obtained and examined records on projects with job-creations requirements above 200 from in the years 2000 through 2010. These projects should ought to be the most scrutinized TIF projects in the city. The results suggest, however, that Chicago’s TIF programs remain largely impervious to scrutiny and unaccountable to the public.  The findings show that among projects that promised to create the most jobs, there are unacceptably low levels of tracking and enforcement:

• The city could demonstrate consistent tracking of job-creation for only three (14 percent%) of these major TIF projects

• Out of 21 projects with some kind of jobs goal, 15 (71 percent%) did not provide annual evidence that the jobs goals were being met, but the city only asked only two2 of the projects to give money back.

• Not a single project complies with existing the 2009 “Sunshine Ordinance” that requires posting of five5 major documents online; most projects provide less than half.

• A significant number of projects (19 percent%) did not even have specific job-creation goals in their official agreements with the city.

To show the relative degree of overall transparency and accountability for each project, we created a scorecard to assign each a letter grade from “A” to “F” based on four criteria: whether enforceable standards were created, whether the developers hit their jobs goals and reported it to the city, whether the city reclaimed the TIF funds in instances where developers failed to hit their jobs goals, and whether all the information required to be available to the public is accessible.        

 

 

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