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Why Must Government Be Coerced Into Sharing Information?

Hinsdale Suburban Life
Aug 11, 2010
Why must government be coerced into sharing information?
Suburban Life Publications
By Jerry Moore

Western Suburbs – Public bodies in one local township have their work cut out for them after 13 of 14 entities failed a transparency audit.

Earlier this year, the Illinois Policy Institute examined government websites in Hanover Township for information in 10 categories. The group performed two audits spaced apart by six weeks.

After offering a score for the first audit, the IPI reviewed each entity to see if it made any improvements. These were the categories reviewed: elected and administrative official contacts, meetings, freedom of information, budgets, financial audits, expenditures, employee salaries and benefits, contacts, lobbying, and tax information.

The sole body to receive a passing grade was Hanover Township government, and that came on the second audit. The other entities were the village of Bartlett, Bartlett Park District, Bartlett Public Library, city of Elgin, Elgin Community College, Gail Borden Public Library, village of Hanover Park, Hanover Park Library, Hanover Park Park District, Poplar Creek Public Library, School District U-46, village of Streamwood and Streamwood Park District.

Granted, there’s no law mandating that all these items be included on government websites. But making this information readily available can help constituents keep better track of what public bodies are doing.

“Although townships are locally close to the taxpayer, in most cases they are far behind the curve in showing taxpayers public information. However, the Hanover Township example shows that local governments can respond very quickly when asked to open the books. When local pressure was applied, Hanover Township moved from a 12 percent score to a 70 percent score in just a few weeks,” said Adam Andrzejewski of Hinsdale, who runs For the Good of Illinois to promote government transparency. “This has been our experience with school districts, as well. In one year, because citizens asked their schools to post their checkbook, over $1 billion of school district vendor spending was posted online.”

Although the results in Hanover Township were disappointing, this problem is widespread. The lack of genuine transparency throughout our layers of government is truly alarming.

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