In a recent survey of Illinois municipalities the village of Wilmette earned a perfect online transparency score, and was joined by the municipalities of Carbondale, Homer Glen and Huntley, which all earned the Illinois Policy Institute’s coveted “Sunshine Award” for online transparency.
The Institute’s Local Transparency Project recently evaluated 25 towns with populations ranging from 24,080 (Maywood, Illinois) to nearly 28,000 (Alton, Illinois), which make up the 76th- through 100th-largest municipalities in the state.
The towns were graded using the Institute’s 10-Point Transparency Checklist to analyze online transparency standards for local governments.
Wilmette is a fantastic example of a community going above and beyond to promote online transparency for citizens by proactively fighting corruption while encouraging citizens to be educated participants in local government.
While it is encouraging that four Illinois municipalities earned the Sunshine Award, it is disheartening that so many others failed to post basic taxpayer information online.
Multiple local governments failed the audits, including extremely poor transparency scores in East St. Louis, Harvey, Melrose Park and McHenry. Often, the communities with the lowest online transparency scores have a history of government corruption and continue to leave themselves vulnerable to further problems.
Some highlights from the report include:
• With the additions of Wilmette, Carbondale, Homer Glen and Huntley, Algonquin and Mundelein, 71 local government agencies have now earned the Institute’s Sunshine Award.
• The city of Harvey recorded the lowest score out of any of the top 100 municipalities in the state, with a 6.3 percent. Harvey fails to post meeting information, budgets and other public information online as required by state law, among other transparency violations.
• The average score of the 25 agencies was a failing 48.3 percent, though this was still a modest improvement from the four 5.7 percent average score registered earlier this year.
Twenty-five years into the Internet age, every citizen in Illinois should have equal online access to public information.
This survey shows the state of Illinois needs to require comprehensive online government transparency standards of all local governments. This solution would give taxpayers and government officials the tools necessary for an open and honest government, and help fight our state’s public corruption problem.
Brian Costin is Director of Government Reform for the Illinois Policy Institute.