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We’re now posting on the Better Government Association main website.

To view the latest Think Tank posts CLICK HERE or go to http://www.bettergov.org/blogs/think_tank/.

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In The Lyons Of Fire

The Pioneer Press papers in the western suburbs just published two news stories on an agency we’ve been following quite closely – the Lyons Township School Treasurer’s Office, whose top administrator resigned amid allegations of financial improprieties.

The stories are worth a read, although they do slightly mischaracterize a BGA reform recommendation. We haven’t “suggested” that the agency be disbanded – rather we suggested that the idea be discussed.

Regardless, here are links to the articles:

http://lagrange.suntimes.com/16850766-781/clean-up-in-process-for-lyons-township-school-treasurers-office.html

http://lagrange.suntimes.com/16873887-781/treasurers-office-shelves-some-suggestions.html

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BGA Backs New State Disclosure Effort

Improved anti-corruption filing will help keep lawmakers in check

Emily_Miller_BGA_Bio copy

By Emily Miller  
Emily is the BGA’s Policy and Government Affairs Coordinator. Contact her at emiller@bettergov.org. Follow her on Twitter @EJMill.

Having information about potential conflicts of interest held by public officials is vital to ensuring our government is accountable to taxpayers—not to private or personal interests.

But in Illinois, good government groups commonly refer to the current economic disclosure form lawmakers and other government officials are required to file as ”a waste of paper.”

Even though the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act has required elected officials and high-ranking government employees to file economic disclosure forms for over 40 years, the form is so vague and ineffective that 85% of those returning the form in Cook County filled in every question with the phrase “Not Applicable.”

That’s why the Better Government Association is backing a bill that will require Illinois lawmakers and other high-ranking state and county officials to file a revamped economic disclosure form designed to ferret out conflicts of interest.

SB3941, introduced by Senator Dan Kotowski (D-33) with support from Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, requires officials to report potential conflicts of interest by asking specific questions about assets, gifts, and debts. In addition, for the first time, officials will have to report outside sources of income and lobbyists who are family members or with whom they have close economic ties.

The legislation also lays the groundwork for the state to move toward an online filing system that will further improve transparency of potential conflicts of interest held by government officials.

Specifically, the legislation will require officials to report:

  • Assets valued at more than $10,000
  • Additional sources of income in excess of $2,500
  • Debts over $5,000 incurred by or owed to the filer, other than those owed to a financial institution.
  • Lobbyists with whom the filer has an economic relationship
  • Family members of the filer, including a spouse, child, step-child, parent, step-parent or sibling, who are lobbyists registered with any unit of government in Illinois
  • Gifts with a value of $500 or more

The BGA will be working hard alongside reform-minded lawmakers to pass SB3941 in January.

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Filed under Legislative Update, Transparency

Budget Crisis Task Force Examines Illinois’ Debt Woes

The mounting debt piling up at the state and local levels threatens to prolong the nation’s economic problems and delay recovery.

The recently-formed State Budget Crisis Task Force looked at the debt woes of six state, including Illinois, and found the growing list of pension and other debt obligations is overtaking those states’ finances and is a major threat to their stability.

Here is a link to that report:

http://www.statebudgetcrisis.org/wpcms/

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To Cut Costs, Suburbs Eye Police Dept. Merger

The municipalities of Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills are considering a proposed merger of their police departments—a move that would save the villages collectively an estimated $700,000 to $800,000. Earlier this year, the Village of Winfield studied consolidating police services with surrounding villages or contracting with the County Sheriff Department.

Consolidating entities and sharing services are options for municipalities looking to streamline government and more efficiently utilize taxpayer dollars.

Read about the proposed Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills police department merger and residents’ opinions on it in the Tribune article here.

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Filed under Streamlining Government

State’s High Court Hears IG’s Case

The Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments recently in a case that will help determine what power the city of Chicago’s main watchdog has to investigate City Hall. The BGA is closely following the case.

http://progressillinois.com/posts/content/2012/09/21/watchdog-takes-emanuel-state-supreme-court

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Can We Trust The Infrastructure Trust?

The Chicago Infrastructure Trust—a new, city-created non-profit that seeks to make possible private financing of public infrastructure projects—recently passed its bylaws.

Those rules include a provision granting the city Inspector General (IG) the authority to investigate actions of the Trust.

However, the Sun-Times editorial board argues this provision may be more show than substance because the actual city ordinance that created and granted power to the Trust did not grant the IG power to investigate it.

For instance, should a contractor or sister city agency refuse to cooperate with the IG, the ordinance outweighs the bylaws, thereby bringing the ability to enforce the bylaws’ IG provision into question.

In addition to sharing concern about the IG’s role in monitoring the trust, the BGA is also questioning the bylaws’ effectiveness in regards to following the Illinois Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act.

Read the Sun-Times Editorial

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Filed under Mayor Rahm Emanuel