WBEZ | Chicago City Hall http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-city-hall Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Ferguson to stay on as City Hall watchdog http://www.wbez.org/news/ferguson-stay-city-hall-watchdog-110291 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/joe_ferguson_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It looks like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will be stuck with City Hall&rsquo;s corruption-fighting inspector general for longer than he anticipated.</p><p>Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson said Wednesday he will stay in his job beyond the end-of-summer departure date he discussed with the mayor last year.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now, there&rsquo;s work to do and I think there&rsquo;s a general sense that the office of Inspector General is doing a pretty good job of advancing it, so we keep on keepin&rsquo; on,&rdquo; Ferguson told WBEZ Wednesday.</p><p>News that Ferguson will stay on as the city government watchdog comes weeks after the City Hall finally <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-seeks-end-federal-hiring-oversight-110188">struck an agreement</a> to emerge from years of federal hiring oversight. With the end of monitoring under the so-called &ldquo;Shakman decrees&rdquo; - which aim to stomp out political patronage - the role of hiring oversight will now shift to Ferguson&rsquo;s office</p><p>The inspector general has had a frosty relationship with Emanuel&rsquo;s administration at times, which initially cast doubt on whether the mayor would reappoint Ferguson to the job. Emanuel initially wanted to make Ferguson reapply for his post, but the mayor reversed course and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-disagreements-emanuel-reappoint-city-hall-watchdog-108590">reappointed </a>him last year, following complaints from some aldermen.</p><p>In a statement released by the mayor&rsquo;s office announcing the reappointment in September 2013, Ferguson was quoted as saying he would &ldquo;move on to other things&rdquo; by the end of this summer, after the city emerged from the federal hiring oversight.</p><p>But on Wednesday, Ferguson told WBEZ he now plans to stay on longer than that. Under city ordinance, Ferguson is free to fill out the rest of his four-year term, though he declined to say whether he would.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m gonna answer the question by telling you I&rsquo;m not gonna answer the question, and I&rsquo;m not gonna answer the question because that&rsquo;s just not how I look at things,&rdquo; Ferguson said. He continues to take a day-by-day approach to his job because &ldquo;any other approach puts me and the office at risk of taking our eye off the ball.&rdquo;</p><p>In an interview Wednesday night with WTTW&rsquo;s &ldquo;Chicago Tonight,&rdquo; Emanuel said Ferguson was key in helping City Hall reach an agreement to end court hiring oversight under the Shakman case, but said he asked the inspector to stay on the job to help during the transition.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, we have a very good working relationship,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;Joe has been a partner, his office has been a partner, every report he has - he issues, we don&rsquo;t let it sit on the shelf and gather dust.&rdquo;</p><p>A federal judge must still give final approval to end the court hiring oversight, which could happen at a hearing on June 16.</p><p>Ferguson credited the Emanuel administration for making strides in coming out from under the Shakman heel, which has cost the city millions of dollars over the years. But he said there&rsquo;s still work to be done in order to come into &ldquo;full compliance&rdquo; with the court orders, particularly with police and fire departments.</p><p>The inspector general&rsquo;s office is also looking into whether police followed the proper protocol when they investigated the 2004 case of <a href="http://projects.suntimes.com/koschman/latest-news/vanecko-koschman-mom-in-court-for-hearing/">David Koschman</a>, who died after being punched by R.J. Vanecko, a nephew of long-time Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Vanecko was charged with manslaughter and pleaded guilty only years after the assault, following an investigation by the Chicago Sun-Times.</p><p>Additionally, Ferguson said his office is still working on implementing the city&rsquo;s new <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/ethics/supp_info/governmental_ethicsordinance.html">ethics ordinance</a>, as well as other investigations he wouldn&rsquo;t disclose.</p><p>&ldquo;One thing I do know, there&rsquo;s four years&rsquo; worth of work out there to do,&rdquo; Ferguson said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s probably a lifetime of work out there to do. And right now, my intention is to keep on doing it.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 05 Jun 2014 13:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ferguson-stay-city-hall-watchdog-110291 Emanuel to raise cable TV tax to balance budget http://www.wbez.org/sections/media/emanuel-raise-cable-tv-tax-balance-budget-108984 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/artworks-000048217955-envwyq-crop.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cable TV customers could end up paying more as part of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s plan to help balance a nearly $339 million budget deficit next year.</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s administration hopes to bring in $9 million in 2014 by raising the city&rsquo;s amusement tax by two percentage points on cable television providers, from four percent to six percent, according to mayoral spokeswoman Kelley Quinn.</p><p>Concertgoers and sports fans would see no change in the nine percent amusement tax tacked on to those ticket prices, or the 5 percent tax on mid-sized venues, Quinn said.</p><p>The city had granted cable television companies a five percent exemption from the amusement tax in order to let them compete against satellite TV providers, which aren&rsquo;t subject to the tax. Emanuel wants to cut that exemption down to three percent, effectively hitting cable TV companies a two percent tax hike.</p><p>It&rsquo;s unclear how much that might cost the average customer, Quinn said, if cable companies decide to pass on the cost to consumers.</p><p>About $2 million of the amusement tax money next year will go toward expanding the city&rsquo;s &ldquo;Night Out in the Park Program,&rdquo; for which the city puts on concerts and screens movies in parks around Chicago.</p><p><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">@akeefe</a></em></p></p> Tue, 22 Oct 2013 13:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/media/emanuel-raise-cable-tv-tax-balance-budget-108984 Take a peek at Mayor Emanuel’s tax returns http://www.wbez.org/news/take-peek-mayor-emanuel%E2%80%99s-tax-returns-107527 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/screencap_taxes.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>His liberal critics may label him as &ldquo;Mayor One Percent.&rdquo;</p><p>But Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in fact, more likely ranked in the <a href="http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/numbers/Content/PDF/T13-0035.pdf" target="_blank">top two or three percent</a> of American income earners in 2012, according to his <a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/145684308/Mayor-Rahm-Emanuel-s-2012-tax-returns" target="_blank">federal tax return</a>.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s first family had an adjusted gross income of $373,478 last year, and paid $77,740 in federal taxes, according to a copy of the return released first to WBEZ. That&rsquo;s an effective federal tax rate of nearly 21 percent. The mayor also paid $17,583 in state taxes.</p><p>The Emanuels took in nearly eight times more money last year than the median household income for Chicagoans, which was <a href="http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_11_5YR_DP03" target="_blank">$47,371 in 2011</a>.</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s $204,726 City Hall salary was the primary source of income for his wife, Amy Rule, and the couple&rsquo;s three children. That makes the mayor the <a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Administration-Finance/Current-Employee-Names-Salaries-and-Position-Title/xzkq-xp2w" target="_blank">second-highest paid city employee</a>, following Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who makes about $260,000 a year.</p><p>But the investment banker-turned-mayor also raked in $158,823 in stock dividends from investments with JPMorgan Chase &amp; Co. and Golub Capital Partners VII, LP, an investment firm with offices in Chicago and New York City.</p><p>Emanuel made an additional $9,546 off of his stake in Golub, and also invests in two of its offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands, the records show. Golub&rsquo;s CEO, Lawrence E. Golub, was an early supporter of Emanuel&rsquo;s 2011 mayoral bid, donating $50,000, according to state campaign finance filings.</p><p>The Emanuel clan also <a href="http://www.elections.il.gov/CampaignDisclosure/ContributionsSearchByAllContributions.aspx?ddlContributionType=All+Types&amp;ddlLastOnlyNameSearchType=Starts+with&amp;txtLastOnlyName=&amp;ddlFirstNameSearchType=Starts+with&amp;txtFirstName=&amp;ddlAddressSearchType=Starts+with&amp;txtAddress=&amp;ddlCitySearchType=Starts+with&amp;txtCity=&amp;ddlState=&amp;txtZip=&amp;txtZipThru=&amp;ddlOccupationSearchType=Starts+with&amp;txtOccupation=&amp;ddlEmployerSearchType=Contains&amp;txtEmployer=Golub+capital&amp;txtAmount=&amp;txtAmountThru=&amp;txtRcvDate=&amp;txtRcvDateThru=&amp;ddlOrderBy=Last+or+Only+Name+-+A+to+Z&amp;ddlVendorLastOnlyName=Starts+with&amp;txtVendorLastOnlyName=&amp;ddlVendorFirstName=Starts+with&amp;txtVendorFirstName=&amp;ddlVendorAddress=Starts+with&amp;txtVendorAddress=&amp;ddlVendorCity=Starts+with&amp;txtVendorCity=&amp;ddlVendorState=&amp;txtVendorZip=&amp;txtVendorZipThru=&amp;ddlPurpose=Starts+with&amp;txtPurpose=" target="_blank">donated</a> $16,240 to charity, including $6,660 worth of contributions from a family trust.</p><p>The release of the mayor&#39;s returns, following WBEZ&#39;s request in late April, mark Emanuel&#39;s first disclosure of tax records since he took office in May 2011.</p><p>The documents also offer a small glimpse into the life of Chicago&rsquo;s famously private first family.</p><p>The Emanuels reported paying $10,080 in cash last year to &ldquo;a family friend who helps on an as-needed basis with things like redecorating, design, [and] landscaping,&rdquo; Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said in an email.</p><p>They also paid $9,696 in property taxes for their family&rsquo;s 2,700-square foot ranch vacation home in Union Pier, Mich., near the Lake.</p><p><em>Alex Keefe is a political reporter for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">@akeefe</a>.</em></p><h2><strong>Mayor Rahm Emanuel&#39;s tax returns</strong></h2><p style=" margin: 12px auto 6px auto; font-family: Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; font-size: 14px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; -x-system-font: none; display: block;"><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/145684308/Mayor-Rahm-Emanuel-s-2012-tax-returns" style="text-decoration: underline;" title="View Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2012 tax returns on Scribd">Mayor Rahm Emanuel&#39;s 2012 tax returns</a> by <a href="http://www.scribd.com/WBEZ915" style="text-decoration: underline;" title="View Chicago Public Media's profile on Scribd">Chicago Public Media</a></p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="0.772922022279349" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="826" id="doc_67893" scrolling="no" src="http://www.scribd.com/embeds/145684308/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;access_key=key-29tixxnpr8420qn04pq0&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="620"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 04 Jun 2013 12:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/take-peek-mayor-emanuel%E2%80%99s-tax-returns-107527 Watchdog: Emanuel hamstrings probes of waste, fraud http://www.wbez.org/news/watchdog-emanuel-hamstrings-probes-waste-fraud-106705 <p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s City Hall watchdog on Wednesday threatened to publicly call out Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration whenever it refuses to cooperate with investigations, suggesting the mayor is reinforcing &ldquo;deep-seated doubts&rdquo; about a city with a long history of public corruption.</p><p>The comments from Inspector General Joe Ferguson, written in his latest quarterly report, is the latest chapter in his struggle with the Emanuel administration over whether the watchdog agency can enforce its own subpoenas on city officials.</p><p>Last month, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Ferguson must rely on Emanuel&rsquo;s administration to enforce subpoenas during inspector general investigations &ndash; even if the mayor or his cabinet members are the targets of those probes.</p><p>In Wednesday&rsquo;s letter, Ferguson accused the mayor of hampering his investigations by refusing to back changes to the law that could give him greater independence and authority.</p><p>&ldquo;[T]he Mayor and his Corporation Counsel can cut off access to the evidence needed to definitively determine who, or what, is responsible for possible waste, fraud, and abuse in City government,&rdquo; Ferguson wrote. &ldquo;That is true whether the transgressor is at the ground level, in middle management, or ensconced in the corridors of real power in City Hall.&rdquo;</p><p>Ferguson has been asking for changes in city law that would protect his office from the political budget-making process, and would let him take investigation subjects to court for ignoring subpoenas, instead of relying on City Hall. But Emanuel, for his part, gave no indication on Wednesday that he would support broader powers for the city watchdog, as Ferguson has requested.</p><p>&ldquo;The IG has the same power and capability [as] the state IG and the federal IGs have,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;Now, I don&rsquo;t think that they&rsquo;re not capable of doing their jobs, and I think he&rsquo;s a good IG, so therefore I think he can do his job.&rdquo;</p><p>In his letter, Ferguson complained that Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has previously refused to enforce the inspector general&rsquo;s subpoenas, and sometimes simply doesn&rsquo;t respond to its requests. From now on, Ferguson said he plans to let the public know whenever the mayor&rsquo;s office isn&rsquo;t cooperating.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s the mayor who calls the shots at the end of the day, when &ndash; when things reach, uh, places that he does not want them to reach,&rdquo; Ferguson told WBEZ in an interview Wednesday.</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s top lawyers have backed the inspector general during previous subpoena fights, Ferguson said. But he stressed the need for his office to be independent in cases like the one that ended up before the Illinois Supreme Court, after former Mayor Richard M. Daley&rsquo;s administration refused to enforce a subpoena on one of Daley&rsquo;s former top advisers.</p></p> Wed, 17 Apr 2013 19:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/watchdog-emanuel-hamstrings-probes-waste-fraud-106705 City tech wonks add toys to Emanuel’s utility belt http://www.wbez.org/news/city-tech-wonks-add-toys-emanuel%E2%80%99s-utility-belt-106460 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/960-BATMAN_0.jpg" style="height: 329px; width: 620px;" title="Google Earth is shown in EVL's CAVE2™ Hybrid Reality Environment. CAVE2 is a trademark of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. The system is being used by the city of Chicago to better help visualize massive amounts of data in a project dubbed Project Batman. (Image courtesy of the Electronic Visualization Laboratory EVL at the University of Illinois at Chicago)" /></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F86385542" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Chicago and Google increasingly have something in common. It&rsquo;s not that the two share equal prowess in search engine design, or that they outdo one another in swapping cute logos on their core websites. No, the similarity is more philosophical, and it has to do with how they use data.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s archiving and storing data at a breakneck pace and utilizing mapping software to tie disparate city records into new applications. Like Google, which seeks to change how we make personal decisions, the city&rsquo;s tech trust is seeking to change how officials govern Chicago.</p><p>Brett Goldstein, the chief data officer for Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Innovation and Technology, spoke at the kick-off event for the Urban Sciences Research Coordination Network. This new group includes the city of Chicago, the University of Chicago, the Urban Center for Computation and Data, the Computation Institute and others who seek to use &ldquo;Big Data&rdquo; to address social problems ranging from juvenile corrections to energy-use and employment.</p><p>Held in February at the hall at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the room was packed with tables of data analysts, urban planners, sociologists and developers who sought to use city data to decrypt social problems.</p><p>While there, Goldstein touted several projects his department has initiated. Many were in testing stages, amounting to Chicago&rsquo;s own version of Google Labs.</p><p>Within the the walls of the Daley Center, Goldstein&rsquo;s department creates tools, utilizing the mountains of data to inform city managers about the inner workings of the city &mdash; sometimes in real time.</p><p>The project names are whimsical, but their use could very well alter the way city departments respond with services, perhaps pre-emptively.</p><p>Among the tools: <em>Project Unicorn</em>, which was recently renamed <em>Chirp</em>, on<a href="https://www.newschallenge.org/open/open-government/submission/chirp/"> a submission to the Knight News Challenge</a>. The city seeks to use that program &ldquo;to act on city service issues identified via social media &mdash; eliminating the need to visit City Hall, call 311, or download special applications,&rdquo; according to the project submission.</p><p>The tool, currently being tested by Goldstein&rsquo;s department, would allow the city to monitor location-based Tweets and then respond to requests such as street-light outages or graffiti removal.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s also testing <em>Project Falcon</em>, renamed on another submission to<a href="https://www.newschallenge.org/open/open-government/submission/scout/"> the Knight News Challenge as <em>Scout</em></a>.</p><p>About the grant submission, Goldstein said Scout would &ldquo;aggregate data sources based on location ... Applications built using this interface will enable residents to interact with data in a way that&rsquo;s structured around their day-to-day lives.&rdquo;</p><p>This is above and beyond the SmartData Platform, a separate program developed with funds from the Bloomberg Mayors&rsquo; Challenge, according to a spokesperson from Goldstein&rsquo;s department. The platform&rsquo;s purpose is allow City Hall to analyze millions of lines of data in real-time and, according to the city, make &ldquo;smarter, earlier decisions to address a wide range of urban challenges.&rdquo; The city won $1-million prize from Bloomberg Philanthropies to spend on the project.</p><p>Another effort aims to better visualize data using unconventional techniques. This one, dubbed <em>Project Batman</em>, will utilize an immersive, multi-display system called &ldquo;The Cave.&rdquo;</p><p>The Cave, housed at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has already been<a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/future-science-using-3d-worlds-visualize-data"> used by researchers to visualize environments or biological models</a>.</p><p>The display is reminiscent of the computer used by Tom Cruise&rsquo;s character Chief John Anderton in<a href="http://youtu.be/xMtUVcOHPtw?t=26s"> the 2002 movie Minority Report</a>. That movie is often cited for its near prescience in predicting<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/how-apples-new-iphone-brings-minority-report-a-step-closer-to-reality-1940723.html"> the touch-and-swipe interfaces common to iPhones and iPads</a>.</p><p><strong>Going on the &lsquo;Grid&rsquo;</strong></p><p>Goldstein cited a need for city officials to get information on an area for planning purposes &mdash; or need a handle on what&rsquo;s happening in real time such as updates during the NATO protests.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ChicagoData6_0.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Brett Goldstein, the commissioner and chief data officer for the Department of Innovation and Technology, addresses a group of academics, developers and urban planners in February. Behind him, is a picture of a program dubbed WindyGrid. (Lloyd DeGrane)" />Goldstein said he reached out to a group with experience in handling large, location-based databases: Foursquare.</p><p>Foursquare handles massive archives of location-based data when its users check in to venues. The system that powers it,<a href="http://www.mongodb.org/"> MongoDB</a>, is used by the likes of Craigslist and bit.ly to maintain &ldquo;scaleable&rdquo; databases.</p><p>After some creative programming, Goldstein created an in-house system that would tie together incoming information to a defined area like a street block or neighborhood. The resulting project was dubbed: <em>WindyGrid</em>.</p><p>&ldquo;It tells me what is happening now,&rdquo; Goldstein explained. &ldquo;I create my polygon over an area and say this is what I want to know about this point in time going forward. So, say I want to watch 911 priority-1 calls and Tweets ... If [you] were to call to 911, it would should up [on the grid] within 30 seconds.</p><p>&ldquo;The design of WindyGrid is to allow you to have historical deep dive. So when the COO or chief of staff tells you that we have something popping off at 121 N. LaSalle, here&rsquo;s a history. It&rsquo;s there.&rdquo;</p><p>The Department of Innovation and Technology did not comment on which city departments, if any, were currently using WindyGrid.</p><p>&ldquo;You can create conditions to watch, and what we&rsquo;re rolling out now is automatic notifications,&rdquo; Goldstein said.</p><p>He cited an example of power lines being downed, which a 911 call would result in a cop staying on the scene until staff from the department of streets and sanitation arrive.</p><p>&ldquo;Now, the system accelerates information distribution. This is not complicated. This is just thinking outside of the box.&rdquo;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Follow Elliott Ramos on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/ChicagoEl">@ChicagoEl</a>&nbsp;email:<a href="mailto:eramos@wbez.org">eramos@wbez.org</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 03 Apr 2013 20:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/city-tech-wonks-add-toys-emanuel%E2%80%99s-utility-belt-106460 The ‘hoodies’, the ‘suits’ and others behind Chicago Government 2.0 http://www.wbez.org/news/%E2%80%98hoodies%E2%80%99-%E2%80%98suits%E2%80%99-and-others-behind-chicago-government-20-106458 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ChicagoData2.jpg" title="Tom Schenk, the director of analytics for Chicago's Department of Innovation and Technology, addresses a group of civic-minded residents, including students, developers, urban planners and others at the Merchandise Mart's 1871 work space. (WBEZ/Elliott Ramos)" /></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F86385542" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>If you&rsquo;re the type bent toward more sunlight on governmental decision-making, you&rsquo;ve probably been smiling a bit lately.</p><p>Over the past two years, the city&rsquo;s released names of lobbyists, government contracts and receipts by the millions.</p><p>If you&rsquo;re so inclined, you can now peer into the inner-workings of government exchanges, including gifts, which would be as seemingly insignificant as <a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Ethics/Cookies/ydnk-nznf">cookies </a>or <a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Ethics/bathsalts/eyy2-ncvc">bath salts</a>. Or, you can peruse the following: <a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Health-Human-Services/Food-Inspections-Map/cnfp-tsxc">food inspections</a>, <a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Administration-Finance/Employee-Overtime-and-Supplemental-Earnings/92xk-4rg9">overtime expenditures</a>, <a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Administration-Finance/Current-Employee-Names-Salaries-and-Position-Title/xzkq-xp2w">salaries of every city employee</a>, <a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Buildings/Building-Permits/ydr8-5enu">building permits</a>, <a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Buildings/Building-Violations/22u3-xenr">building violations</a>, and <a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Transportation/CTA-Ridership-L-Station-Entries-Daily-Totals/5neh-572f">ridership numbers for trains</a> and <a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Transportation/CTA-Ridership-Bus-Routes-Daily-Totals-by-Route/jyb9-n7fm">buses</a>, among other things.</p><p>And headlines confirm the trend&rsquo;s continuing. Last month, Chicago won a $1-million prize from Bloomberg Philanthropies to help build a &ldquo;real-time analytics platform.&rdquo;</p><p>According to a statement released by the city, the project will create the &ldquo;SmartData Platform,&rdquo; a tool that aims to provide City Hall the ability to analyze millions of lines of data in real-time, to make &ldquo;smarter, earlier decisions to address a wide range of urban challenges.&rdquo;</p><p>All this indicates a city deepening its commitment to what&rsquo;s called &ldquo;Big Data,&rdquo; as well as another term that&rsquo;s bandied about: <a href="http://radar.oreilly.com/gov2">Gov. 2.0</a>.</p><p>The movement&rsquo;s got friends in Mayor Rahm Emanuel and some aldermen, but &mdash; as with nearly all Chicago political trends &mdash; there are community groups pushing the agenda, too. And you can meet these folks yourself, at least if you don&rsquo;t mind sitting through tech banter and jazzed-up Power Point slides.</p><p><strong>The &lsquo;hoodies&rsquo; in Chicago&rsquo;s volunteer data army</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ChicagoData3.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Chicago residents gather weekly for 'Hack Nights' on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart. (WBEZ/Elliott Ramos)" /></p><p>At the close of a recent event known as a &ldquo;hack night,&rdquo; someone asked Tom Schenk &ldquo;Who&rsquo;s deciding how to spend the million?&rdquo;</p><p>Schenk&rsquo;s in as good a position as anyone to say who should spend the $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies purse, but as director of analytics for Chicago Department of Technology and Innovation, he came to this coders&rsquo; meet-up to hear suggestions.</p><p>This is the kind of informal work that goes on at weekly hack nights hosted by Open City, a group of volunteers that creates apps with publicly accessible data to &ldquo;improve transparency and citizen understanding of our government,&rdquo; according to the group&rsquo;s website. This particular event, held on the 12th floor of the city&rsquo;s Merchandise Mart building, doubled as a potluck, so Schenk could talk directly to coders, hackers and civic groups over wine and beer &mdash; and the occasional dip of pita into hummus.</p><p>Other attendees included: urban planners, computer scientists, web developers, transportation experts, economists, Ph.D. students, analysts, physicists, engineers, musicians and health-care workers. An astronomer from the Adler Planetarium even came by &mdash;as did reps from the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Rayid Ghani, the chief data scientist for President Barack Obama&rsquo;s 2012 campaign presented how he analyzed the networks and interactions between the president&rsquo;s supporters.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ChicagoData4.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Rayid Ghani, the chief data scientist for President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign gave a presentation to the hack group. (WBEZ/Elliott Ramos)" />Open City sets the stage for these events, and then allows participants to chat each other up and present updates on new data sources, digital maps or Web applications.</p><p>Schenk&rsquo;s presence reveals how close the ties are between City Hall and the local open government movement; before he was hired by the city, Schenk was a regular hack night attendee himself. And identifying talent &mdash; for City Hall and beyond &mdash; is still a priority.</p><p>&ldquo;Who else do we need to be able to change Chicago that is not in this room?&rdquo; he asked people. &ldquo;What other skill? Who else?&rdquo;</p><p>Walking through the hack night crowd, you could start putting faces to some of the digitally-driven trends in Chicago government; some of these folks &mdash; sometimes collectively, sometimes on their own &mdash; built software that made it easy to <a href="http://www.chicagolobbyists.org/">look up lobbyists</a> or <a href="http://secondcityzoning.org/">interpret zoning maps</a>. Those apps were made possible by Open City&rsquo;s Paul Baker, Derek Eder, Chad Pry Nick Rougeux and Juan-Pablo Velez.</p><p>Eder, Velez and University of Chicago student &nbsp;Forest Gregg also built a site that allows parents to determine which <a href="http://cpstiers.opencityapps.org/">school they should register a child</a>.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CHicagoData5.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Many of the hack night attendees will develop applications for the public — at no cost. The group attracts all kinds from academia to the private sector. (WBEZ/Elliott Ramos)" />Hack night attendee Jeanne Marie Olson takes a particular interest in school data. She runs a blog called <a href="http://cpsapples2apples.wordpress.com/">CPSapples2apples, </a>and (with help from <a href="http://kalov.net/author/jkalov/">Josh Kalov</a>) she co-developed <a href="http://www.schoolcuts.org/">schoolcuts.org</a>, a website meant to help parents determine if their school was one of the 54 that were recently slated for closure.</p><p>Many of these attendees did this work for free.</p><p>It&rsquo;s little wonder, then, that the group followed Schenk closely through the night and laughed after he closed another speaker&rsquo;s presentation. Projected behind him, a wild-eyed cartoon peered at the crowd and exclaimed &lsquo;RELEASE ALL THE DATA.&rsquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Chicago has the best, the best, open government community in the world,&rdquo; Schenk beamed. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no doubt about it, there&rsquo;s no evidence I&rsquo;ve seen that says otherwise.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>The &ldquo;suits&rdquo; in Chicago&rsquo;s volunteer data army </strong></p><p>The SmartData Platform is just one project initiated by the Department of Innovation and Technology, which was formed after Emanuel <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-emanuel-touts-expansion-chicago%E2%80%99s-open-data-effort-and-why-you-should-care-104344">issued an executive order</a> mandating city agencies release public records in a manner decided by that department.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ChicagoData6.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Brett Goldstein, the commissioner and chief data officer for the Department of Innovation and Technology, addresses a group of academics, developers and urban planners in February. The event was held by the Urban Sciences Research Coordination Network, which seeks to use civic data to address urban problems. (Lloyd DeGrane) " /> Emanuel assigned Brett Goldstein as leader. Before making his way into the mayor&rsquo;s office, Goldstein had <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diqACQPvSNQ&amp;noredirect=1">helped ramp up CPD&rsquo;s electronic records</a>. Before that, he was a street cop. And before that, he was a programmer.</p><p>In February, Goldstein addressed an event held at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The hall was filled with a crowd not unlike that of hack night, but with fewer hoodies and more suits-and-ties.</p><p>&ldquo;What we&rsquo;ve done over the past 20 months is probably turned [the <a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/">data portal</a>] into the biggest open data program that exists,&rdquo; Goldstein said.</p><p>Goldstein delivered his hour-long speech to a packed crowded, which included analysts, developers, officials, academics and scientists.</p><p>He outlined how his office streamlined workflow processes to ease the public&rsquo;s access to information. At the same time, he said, those efforts made departments&rsquo; own communication more efficient.</p><p>While <em>open data </em>has increased government transparency, the city&rsquo;s taking this path for another reason: time and money.</p><p>Goldstein touted the city&rsquo;s use of open-source software, which can be cheaper than high-end business solutions peddled by the likes of IBM and Hewlett Packard. The latter, he said, can run in the millions. Streamlining databases allows city employees to quickly search and cross-check records for day-to-day functions.</p><p>Goldstein told the crowd that city departments sometimes request information from other departments, only to experience delays thrown up by nondisclosure agreements, among other things.</p><p>&ldquo;How do we deal with this?&rdquo; said Goldstein. &ldquo;I can just release data via the portal. It&#39;s then classified as &#39;public&#39; and it&#39;s released.&rdquo;</p><p>This, Goldstein told the crowd, is a &ldquo;whole different Chicago as it pertains to Daley,&rdquo; referring to Emanuel&rsquo;s predecessor.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ChicagoData7.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Gathered at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Urban Sciences Research Coordination Network gathered experts, data scientists, sociologists, crime specialists and developers to tackle some of Chicago's deepest social problems using data. (Lloyd DeGrane)" />Compared to the hack night, the SAIC event was very heavy with the suits-and-ties crowd. It served to kick-off the Urban Sciences Research Coordination Network, a group that includes the city of Chicago, the University of Chicago, the Urban Center for Computation and Data, the Computation Institute and others who seek to use Big Data to address social problems ranging from juvenile corrections to energy-use and employment.</p><p>&ldquo;There are some pretty impressive sets in here,&rdquo; Goldstein said referring to the data portal site. &ldquo;One of the ones I&rsquo;m most proud of is the crimes data set.&rdquo;</p><p>The <a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Public-Safety/Crimes-2001-to-present/ijzp-q8t2">Chicago crime set</a> Goldstein touted was the only known set of records that lists nearly every reported crime in a major U.S. city, going as far back as 2001 until present.</p><p>&ldquo;So far as I know, this is unprecedented,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Most municipalities, such as New York, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/nyregion/mayor-bloombergs-geek-squad.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0">recently profiled by the New York Times for its dive into Big Data</a>, release those records one at a time through a PDF file. This basically holds the data in place. In Chicago, data are released in &ldquo;machine-readable&rdquo; formats, so websites, mobile apps and other tools can sip from the sources.</p><p>Dan O&rsquo;Neil, executive director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative and a co-founder of the now-shuttered EveryBlock website, praised Chicago&rsquo;s crime reporting and didn&rsquo;t mince words when describing New York&rsquo;s reporting method &mdash; something he contended with while at EveryBlock.</p><p>&ldquo;New York is horrible,&rdquo; O&rsquo;Neil said. &ldquo;They get a lot of credit for broken windows and data-oriented policing, but [not] when publishing information.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ChicagoData8.jpg" style="float: left;" title="After Goldstein's speech, attendees broke off into groups specializing on topics ranging from environment and transportation issues to crime and public health. (Lloyd DeGrane)" />&ldquo;They publish by precinct, a PDF of [only] seven different crime types. <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/crime_prevention/crime_statistics.shtml">They overwrite the file every week</a>. ...[EveryBlock] was the only canonical source of historical crime information in the city of New York because they overwrote the file with the precinct name.&rdquo;</p><p><em>(Editors&rsquo; note: WBEZ is a media collaborator with the Smart Chicago Collaborative.)</em></p><p>Over the past year Chicago media organizations and researchers used city data to scrutinize violent crime trends and compare them across all sections of the city. The dataset includes crime categorizations, descriptions, dates, times and location coordinates and more, which is a dramatic contrast to that of New York or<a href="http://www.crimemapping.com/DetailedReport.aspx?db=3/22/2013+00:00:00&amp;de=3/28/2013+23:59:00&amp;ccs=AR,AS,BU,DP,DR,DU,FR,HO,VT,RO,SX,TH,VA,VB,WE&amp;xmin=-13178043.13234986&amp;ymin=4027533.6736640343&amp;xmax=-13153583.283298638&amp;ymax=4042094.9275523406"> Los Angeles, which list recent crimes</a>, but not older ones.</p><p>Goldstein&#39;s department stated that it&rsquo;s striving to automate the process of issuing records from city agencies via a <a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/">public data portal.</a></p><p>&ldquo;We put all the data into one place,&rdquo; Goldstein said, listing off the methods Chicago employed to fulfill Emanuel&#39;s campaign of transparency. &ldquo;People are surprised when I tell them that the data is not vetted before it goes out the door.&rdquo;</p><p>He got a rise out of the crowd, with an aside: &ldquo;... And I&rsquo;m not from Chicago, so I can make these types of jokes. They expect that there&#39;s a little dude in the basement of city hall who sits there and checks it line by line and is like, &lsquo;Oh ... we got to redact that one. That&rsquo;s naughty.&rsquo; It isn&rsquo;t. It&rsquo;s automated.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Open Data vs. transparency </strong></p><p>City Hall is quick to tout the benefits of a new, data-driven approach to governance. The &ldquo;City that Works,&rdquo; as they say, can work even better &mdash; and good data will be the lynchpin.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ChicagoData10.jpg" style="float: left;" title="While criticized for his handling of Chicago's violent crime and a plan to shutter an unprecedented number of the public schools, some have given Mayor Rahm Emanuel high marks for his commitment to opening up the city's once-private data stores. (File/AP)" />In a recent statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Innovation and Technology wrote, &ldquo;Data is an integral piece to two priorities outlined by Mayor Emanuel since day one: making government more accessible, transparent, and accountable to taxpayers and making government smarter, in how it operates and how it delivers services to residents.&rdquo;</p><p>But Mayor Emanuel has detractors when it comes to the issue. They don&rsquo;t criticize open data, per se, but they challenge whether the city&rsquo;s only talking a good game when it comes to &ldquo;Open Gov&rdquo; or &ldquo;Gov 2.0.&rdquo; The gist is that there&rsquo;s a difference between a government that uses open data and a government that acts transparently.</p><p>Mick Dumke, a senior writer for <em>The Chicago Reader</em>, often uses data in his investigative work. He grabs whatever open data he can, but he&rsquo;s also had to wrangle information from a clinched fist. In one story, he <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/who-has-access-to-mayor-rahm-emanuels/Content?oid=4887900">detailed how hard he worked to follow the trail of whom Mayor Emanuel met with after he arrived at City Hall</a>. Dumke&rsquo;s often resorted to making requests through the state&rsquo;s Freedom of Information Act, a route that can be tedious, expensive and unfruitful.</p><p>&ldquo;If you want anything that really zooms in on a particular issue, you have to FOIA , you have to go through the research and development department of the police,&rdquo; he said referring to the crime dataset.</p><p>&ldquo;As great as it is that the city is doing it [issuing open data] ... It&rsquo;s a limited snapshot. It doesn&rsquo;t tell you anything that&rsquo;s official.&rdquo;</p><p>According to the data portal&rsquo;s own disclosure, &ldquo;The Chicago Police Department does not guarantee (either expressed or implied) the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, or correct sequencing of the information and the information should not be used for comparison purposes over time.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I think it has incredible limitations,&rdquo; Dumke said. &ldquo;Some of the financial stuff they have is helpful, but there&rsquo;s a lot of lag time and some of the stuff is out of date.&rdquo;.</p><p>The bottom line?</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ChicagoData9.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Andy Shaw, the Executive Director of the Better Government Association, gives Emanuel high marks for his commitment to open data, but says more needs to be done on government transparency. (WBEZ/Bill Healy)" />&ldquo;It is by no means the case we have a completely open government in Chicago,&rdquo; Dumke said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not even close.&rdquo;</p><p>Other seasoned journalists and watchdog groups are considering City Hall&rsquo;s data rhetoric, too.</p><p>Andy Shaw, the current Executive Director of the Better Government Association, is a tad more measured, giving high marks on posting of contracts, bidding documents and the like.</p><p>&ldquo;Let&rsquo;s give Mayor Emanuel a lot of credit for making more government data available than almost any public official in the country,&rdquo; Shaw said. &ldquo;He made this a top priority and they have put up millions of documents online which here therefore were unavailable in an easy manner. To that extent, he gets high marks.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, Shaw said, there&rsquo;s a surprising amount of tech work left to be done on the city&rsquo;s website and other tools. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s fair to say there needs to be an effort to make it [data] easier to find it, even when it&rsquo;s there,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But even Shaw says there&rsquo;s a distinction between access to data and transparency, and it applies to the mayor&rsquo;s office as much as anywhere else.</p><p>&ldquo;The criticism that still remains about transparency is that we don&rsquo;t have any way of knowing how decisions are made,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s very hard to figure out what the mayor does on a day to day basis. It takes FOIAs and a lot of time to get his schedule.&rdquo;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BMO.jpg" style="float: left;" title="" /><em>Follow Elliott Ramos on Twitter <a href="http://www.twitter.com/ChicagoEl">@ChicagoEl</a>&nbsp;email:<a href="mailto:eramos@wbez.org">eramos@wbez.org</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 03 Apr 2013 17:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/%E2%80%98hoodies%E2%80%99-%E2%80%98suits%E2%80%99-and-others-behind-chicago-government-20-106458