Modernization Report Calls for Increased Transparency in Cook County’s Operations

October 27, 2010

On Monday the Civic Federation released the Cook County Modernization Report, which provided leaders of Cook County with ideas for improving and reshaping county government. Cook County government provides three major public services: a comprehensive public health system; a judicial system including law enforcement and the State’s Attorney’s Office; and tax administration and official records including birth, death, and marriage. The County’s ability to continue to provide these services in the future is jeopardized by its inefficient operations and outmoded governance structure.

The Civic Federation embarked on the Cook County Modernization Project because it believes these problems must be addressed immediately, when a new President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners takes office in December 2010. The Modernization Project contains both short-term recommendations that could be instituted in the first 100 days of the new administration, as well as longer-term changes that will require sustained efforts lasting many years.

The Modernization Project’s recommendations are listed in their entirety on page 120 of the complete report or page 12 of the excerpted report. The recommendations are designed to ensure accountability by including specific timelines for implementation and identifying responsible officials. The Civic Federation will publish a brief review of the progress made by the new administration on the Project’s recommendations in the first 100 days after taking office. The Federation also intends to use its blog to provide updates on county government reform efforts. Lastly, future annual analyses of proposed county budgets will highlight efforts to reform the County and will compare those efforts to the recommendations in the Modernization Project.

Particular attention will be paid to improvements in transparency of the County’s operations. Although the County has made several improvements to its website, including the Open County Initiative, there is significant room for progress. The Federation strongly recommends that the County improve on these efforts by publishing financial policies, releasing budget and financial statements in a timely manner, and including all operating expenses of the Health System in the System’s budget. The County should also increase the transparency of its operations by incorporating performance measurement data into the budgeting process and following the best practice recommendations of the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP).

The Civic Federation also emphasizes the need for transparency in the transition from the current administration to that of the soon-to-be elected Cook County Board President.

Please visit this blog for updates on the measures the new Cook County Board President has taken to modernize the County’s operations.