With an estimated 5,287,037 residents, Cook County is the most populous county in the State of Illinois and the second most populous county in the United States, coming only after Los Angeles County in California. The County is 946 square miles in size – of that only 15% is unincorporated by the City of Chicago or other municipalities. The role of Cook County government is to provide healthcare, court, and public safety services, as well as administer vital records and assess and collect property taxes.
County government touches each and every one of its 5.3 million residents, either through its collection of tax and fee revenue or in providing judicial, public health, public safety, and other services.
People who care about the following issues should care about making Cook County a more efficient, modern, and transparent unit of government:
Whether you and your family or friends require its services on a daily basis or not, the County’s inefficient operations and outmoded governance structure will continue to hit you in the wallet if major changes to County operations are not made.
Q: Why has the Civic Federation produced the Modernization Report?
A: Cook County’s ability to continue to provide to the public health services, law enforcement and judicial services, tax administration, and official records-keeping is jeopardized by its inefficient operations and outmoded governance structure.
The Illinois International Port District was created by the Illinois General Assembly in 1951 to promote commerce at the Port of Chicago. Since the early 1980s, however, the District appears to have functioned primarily as the manager of a recreational facility: Harborside International Golf Center. While Harborside is a productive use of a former landfill site and appears to be a successful operation, the Civic Federation believes that management of a golf course should not be the primary activity of a port authority.
The Civic Federation and Friends of the Forest Preserves support the creation of a separate elected Board of Commissioners to govern the Forest Preserve District of Cook County as detailed in this 2008 report. Due to an organizational structure that creates an inherent conflict of interest and inhibits proper oversight, the District suffers from numerous problems that would be improved by creating a separate governing body to oversee the Forest Preserve system.
On June 30, 2009 the Chicago City Council passed a resolution asking the Civic Federation to conduct a review of the financial projections made by Chicago 2016 for the City’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Specifically, the resolution asked the Federation to deliver a report and recommendations to the City Council on Chicago’s financing of the 2016 games and any financial impact on taxpayers. Click here to download a copy of the resolution.
In 1894 a group led by several of Chicago’s most prominent citizens, including Jane Addams, Bertha Palmer and Lyman J. Gage, coalesced around a serious issue: the need to address deep concerns about the city’s economic, political and moral climate at the end of the 19th century. The resulting organization, called the Civic Federation, evolved during the 20th century to become a leading advocate for governmental fiscal responsibility and an effective champion of rational tax policy.
The Civic Federation researches and provides commentary on a wide range of issues affecting local governments in Northeast Illinois. Click on one of the categories below to read about our latest research, information, and action on topics ranging from pensions to property taxes.