Tag Archives: Infrastructure Trust

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

Check Out Chicago’s New Infrastructure Trust Bylaws

The Chicago Infrastructure Trust–a newly-created, city-backed program that aims to find private and public funding for Chicago and related public agency projects–recently held its first meeting.

As a non-profit entity, the Trust will have to file articles of incorporation and bylaws with the state that explain the Trusts purpose and the basic rules it intends to adhere to.

A copy of the proposed bylaws, which the BGA requested, is available below, or by clicking here.

The Infrastructure Trust Board, which governs the trust, plans to vote on the proposed bylaws at its next meeting, scheduled for 10 am on August 28th at the Chicago Cultural Center.

The BGA will evaluate the bylaws but also wants to know what you think about them and invites your comments.

Bylaws of Chicago Infrastructure Trust (PDF)

Bylaws of Chicago Infrastructure Trust (Text)

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Filed under Mayor Rahm Emanuel

BGA to Chicago City Council: Delay Infrastructure Trust Plan

An open letter to aldermen says the Mayor’s blueprint needs greater scrutiny and more public accountability. It urges the City Council to vote no, or to delay and review, the controversial ordinance.

April 17, 2012

Dear Aldermen:

It is the position of the Better Government Association that the ordinance creating the Infrastructure Trust lacks measures to ensure the transparency, oversight and accountability necessary to protect taxpayers and to properly inform the public about the Trust’s motivations and actions.

The BGA urges you to vote “no” on the ordinance creating the Infrastructure Trust or to defer and publish it, which would postpone its passage long enough to allow further review and possible revisions. Here’s why:

More time is needed to understand the scope and scale of the Infrastructure Trust.

The fast-tracking advocated by the Mayor’s office leaves too little time for Aldermen and public interest groups to fully examine and evaluate the ordinance. The revised ordinance from the Mayor’s office—the one you will be called to vote on tomorrow—has only been public since Friday. An ordinance to create a multi-billion dollar trust with taxpayer money deserves a longer period of time between introduction and passage, and public hearings would help Aldermen and citizens understand the merits and pitfalls of the Mayor’s proposal.

The Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act do not apply to the Infrastructure Trust, a non-profit agency.

The Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Open Meetings Act (OMA) are state statutes that apply only to public bodies. The Illinois Attorney General has jurisdiction over public bodies that fail to comply with the requirements of FOIA and OMA, and a special office (the Public Access Counselor) to assist citizens who are unable to obtain documents via FOIA.

Unlike public bodies, non-profits like the Trust are not subject to Illinois FOIA or OMA. A city ordinance cannot unilaterally extend the authority of the Illinois Attorney General over a non-profit. That means that if the Trust fails to comply with FOIA or OMA, the only recourse is litigation in the courts. Citizens and members of the press submitting FOIA requests to the Trust will not have the protections and assistance offered by the Public Access Counselor, who ensures that public entities comply with FOIA.

The Chicago Inspector General does not have jurisdiction over the Infrastructure Trust.

The Chicago Inspector General does not have jurisdiction over the Trust because the Trust is a separate entity from the city. To the extent that the Trust enters agreements with the City, the IG could potentially examine those specific agreements. However, the IG’s authority does not extend to deals with related agencies, some of which do not have their own Inspector General. As you know, related city agencies include the Chicago Public Schools, the Housing Authority and the Park District, taxpayer-supported agencies that have great impact on residents’ lives.

For these reasons and more we urge you to vote “no” or move to delay a vote. This is not to denigrate the mayor’s plan but to improve it by adding enough transparency, accountability and oversight measures to avoid another fiasco like the privatization of the parking meters. Let’s go slow and get this one right.

If you have any additional questions, do not hesitate to email or call Emily Miller, BGA Policy and Government Affairs Coordinator, at emiller@bettergov.org or 773-203-9654; or Robert Reed, BGA Director of Investigations and Programming, at 312-203-5722 or rreed@bettergov.org.

Thank you.

Andy Shaw
President and CEO

Emily Miller
Policy and Government Affairs Coordinator

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Filed under Andy Shaw, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Transparency