WBEZ | transparency http://www.wbez.org/tags/transparency Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Illinois Senate plans vote on tax 'transparency' http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-plans-vote-tax-transparency-104041 <p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; Illinois Senate President John Cullerton plans a vote this week on a measure that would require some corporations to reveal their income-tax bills.</p><p>Cullerton and House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie say two-thirds of corporations in Illinois don&#39;t pay any income tax but state officials don&#39;t know who they are. The Chicago Democrats say the proposal would help lawmakers decide future tax policy and whether corporate tax breaks are working.</p><p>Publicly traded corporations would have to post online the amount of corporate income taxes they paid two years prior to publication.</p><p>Business groups, however, contend tax bills are confidential. They say lawmakers know how much each business tax break they create costs overall and can decide policy based on that.</p></p> Tue, 27 Nov 2012 12:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-plans-vote-tax-transparency-104041 How transparent is Emanuel's city hall? http://www.wbez.org/story/how-transparent-emanuels-city-hall-90772 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-22/RS235_Rham.looking_getty.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>This week, Rahm Emanuel marks his 100th day as Chicago's mayor. This is an artificial milestone - we know - but one Emanuel himself set before taking office, when he laid out some early goals.</p><p>Among the promises: making city hall more transparent than in the past. And there have been changes, but they haven't all been as dramatic as advertised.</p><p><strong>An agenda with a touch of hyperbole</strong></p><p>Emanuel made the promise during the campaign, in December, when he unveiled what he called his "ethics and good government agenda."</p><p>It aimed, Emanuel said, to "bring a level of transparency and accountability to the city government, reestablishing what I think is very important for the public, i.e. the taxpayers, with city government and those who serve in city government, a level of confidence in the way decisions are being made."</p><p>Emanuel was not the only candidate with a transparency agenda. You don't go far in politics by telling voters to "pay no attention" to what's going on behind "the curtain."</p><p>But he reinforced the open government agenda after he was elected, when he released his <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/Chicago%202011%20Transition%20Plan.pdf">transition report</a>, a first-term to-do list. The document said "transparency" seven times, and "transparent" eight times.</p><p>A whole lot of Emanuel's promises relate to making information available online. Information like, as of last week, the city had 3,337 rodent control requests not yet taken care of, or that - on average - residents are waiting 26 days to get new garbage cans.</p><p>These numbers are available on a <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/progs/transparency.html">transparency web page</a> and a "<a href="http://data.cityofchicago.org/">data portal</a>" that Emanuel's been touting, like in this statement, last week:</p><p>"For the first time, we made everybody's salary public. Today we're going to put online everybody's financial disclosure," Emanuel said.</p><p>A bold announcement, to be sure, but not as bold as you might think.</p><p>Salaries - while now on the city's website for the first time - have not been made "public" for the first time. In the past, they could be requested through the Freedom of Information Act. And financial disclosure forms for city employees were already available online; Mayor Daley did that last year.</p><p>Emanuel made his less-than-accurate pronouncement during a discussion hosted by the <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/newsblogsvideo/bga_live.aspx">Better Government Association</a>. It's one of several internet forums he's taken part in. Earlier this summer he participated in a <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxSWhtiQzKU">Facebook town hall</a>, which his administration said allowed him to "engage directly with people across Chicago."</p><p><strong>An at-times tense media relationship</strong></p><p>At least at this point, these new media events don't appear to be replacing the traditional press conferences mayors before him have held. In July, according to his public schedules, Emanuel took questions from reporters at more than a dozen events. And that doesn't include one-on-one interviews he did - though not all went well.</p><p>Emanuel - as I'm sure you know - does not shy from confrontation. Sometimes his responses to reporters’ questions carry more than a hint of condescension, and he will let reporters know when he feels they've crossed the line.</p><p>Last month, Mary Ann Ahern from NBC-5 Chicago pressed Emanuel about where he would send his children to school. With the camera off, <a href="http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/When-Rahms-Temper-Made-a-Comeback-125919838.html">things got tense</a>, Ahern recalled on WBEZ's <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-25/where-political-and-personal-spheres-public-figures-overlap-89582"><em>Eight Forty-Eight</em></a>.</p><p>"The mayor stood up and I stood up, and he stood about a half an inch from my face, and began pointing at me and yelling at me, and telling me to leave his children alone and how dare I," Ahern said.</p><p>Coincidence or not, a reporter from a rival TV station later that day reported a scoop: that Emanuel's kids would be attending the University of Chicago Lab School.</p><p>Emanuel's press operation is savvy, and at times, a bit too Washington, D.C. for Chicago reporters. Both his communications director and press secretary came from jobs in the Obama Administration.</p><p>Earlier this summer, the Emanuel team planned a "background" briefing - something common in Washington, but not so at City Hall - about last winter's blizzard response, in which no officials could be quoted directly. Reporters complained, and ended up getting their questions answered at an on-the-record press conference immediately following the briefing.</p><p><strong>Aldermanic expectations</strong></p><p>Transparency issues do not only arise from the media. Aldermen during the Daley Administration often complained they weren't getting their questions answered on big issues.&nbsp;</p><p>So when Emanuel provided them information about why he picked a certain company to get a concessions contract at O'Hare, "a lot of aldermen had never seen so many documents before that were dumped out there," Ald. Scott Waguespack said on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-04/first-100-searching-transparency-city-hall-90112"><em>Eight Forty-Eight</em></a>.</p><p>Waguespack said the Emanuel Administration has, in general, been more open than the Daley one.</p><p>"I think a lot of aldermen kind of looked at that, and said, 'Well, they've spoken to us, they've given us a lot of documents we've never seen before, more transparency than the last 20 years,'" Waguespack said. "But if you're missing the one page that you need, that's not transparency."</p><p>Waguespack claimed he didn't get all the answers he wanted about the O'Hare deal from that pile of documents, so he voted against it. Most of Waguespack's colleagues didn't agree with him. He was one of just three "no" votes.</p><p><strong>A 'junk drawer' of information</strong></p><p>Piles of government documents cover nearly every inch of Tim Novak's office. An investigative reporter for the <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em>, Novak broke open the Hired Truck scandal in 2004 that led to the convictions of nearly 30 city employees.</p><p>This past year, he's <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/koschman/index.html">written about</a> how the police investigated a fight - involving a nephew of former Mayor Daley - that led to a death. Novak said that after a while, the Daley administration stopped answering his calls and his emails.</p><p>"The only thing they would respond to were [Freedom of Information Act requests]," Novak said.</p><p>He has had better luck with the Emanuel administration. Novak said he's been able to get interviews with police officials he never would've gotten when Daley was in charge.</p><p>"That being said, the police department seems to only respond to us when the mayor's office tells them to," Novak said.</p><p>Novak relies heavily on public documents for his investigations. So I asked him about all the data the Emanuel administration has put in its online "data portal" - lists of city contracts, lobbyist and budget details.</p><p>Novak said he does find the employee information helpful. But, as a whole, he equated the "portal" with "the junk drawer everyone has in their kitchen, where you can open that drawer and Lord knows what you might find in it, but it's not organized in any particular fashion."</p><p>That is not a universal opinion. The Emanuel administration describes the portal as "easy to use." And it is constantly being updated.</p><p>But Novak is a reporter not easily impressed. And here's the underlying issue: Transparency, he said, is a buzz word these days.</p><p>"And governments don't really want to be transparent, in my opinion," Novak said. "If they were transparent, they would put glass on the back room door, so you could see into the back room. They don't really want you to do that."</p><p>And that's one transparency promise Emanuel has not made.</p></p> Mon, 22 Aug 2011 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/how-transparent-emanuels-city-hall-90772 An explosion in Turkmenistan may have killed hundreds http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-28/explosion-turkmenistan-may-have-killed-hundreds-89771 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-28/turkmenistan3.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Truth is hard to come by in the Central Asian country of Turkmenistan. The government is one of the most repressive in the world and rarely allows international journalists or human rights groups into the country. Earlier this month, a munitions depot exploded in the city of Abadan, Turkmenistan. The government says the explosion killed only 15 to 20 people. But observers and political dissidents who receive citizen reports from inside Turkmenistan estimate the death toll could be around 1,400.</p><p>These observers risk their freedom to report honestly on what’s happening in Turkmenistan. Today, we speak with one of them. For his safety we have agreed to alter his voice and to not identify him by his real name.</p></p> Thu, 28 Jul 2011 16:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-28/explosion-turkmenistan-may-have-killed-hundreds-89771 The First 100: A look at how technology can transform Chicago http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-07/first-100-look-how-technology-can-transform-chicago-88825 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-07/3187207970_5e4673af9d_o.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised to create a more open and transparent government by making more data public. But how else can the Emanuel administration use technology to grow access-or even business- in the city? For the latest installment of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/first-100-rahm-emanuels-first-100-days-chicago-mayor"><em>The First 100</em></a>,<em> Eight Forty-Eight</em> looked at the Mayor’s connection to the tech world. <a href="http://www.ascentstage.com/about.html" target="_blank">John Tolva</a>, the city of Chicago’s Chief Technology Officer and<a href="http://www.chicagolandec.org/content/about-us/kevin-willer.asp" target="_blank"> Kevin Willer</a>, President and CEO of Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center spoke to <em>Eight Forty-Eight's </em>Richard Steele about Chicago's tech future.</p><p><em>Music Button: Scooby, "Scooby Riddim"</em></p></p> Thu, 07 Jul 2011 14:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-07/first-100-look-how-technology-can-transform-chicago-88825 Winning a referendum is no silver bullet http://www.wbez.org/story/200-cut-rate-liquors/winning-referendum-no-silver-bullet <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-March/2011-03-13/REFERENDUM_Rea_Woods.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The idea behind a referendum is to give voters a direct voice in making their community better. These ballot questions can cover anything from stem-cell research to the fate of an empty lot. They may be binding or just advisory. Last month, referenda were on ballots in nine Chicago precincts. But it&rsquo;s not clear the voters will get what they had in mind &mdash; even if they were on the winning side. We&rsquo;ll hear now from WBEZ reporters in three parts of the city. We start with Chip Mitchell at our West Side bureau.<br /><br />MITCHELL: Kurt Gippert lives near a building here in Humboldt Park that seemed like a magnet.<br /><br />GIPPERT: Gang banging, loitering, drug sales, some prostitution, tons of urinating.<br /><br />MITCHELL: It was a liquor store.<br /><br />GIPPERT: In 2010, we had at least nine people shot in front of that store.<br /><br />MITCHELL: Under city pressure, the store closed last fall. Gippert and his neighbors wanted it gone for good, so they turned to a 77-year-old Illinois law that lets voters ban selling alcohol in their precinct.<br /><br />GIPPERT: It&rsquo;s the only power we had &mdash; the only surefire, effective thing that was going to last longer than six months or a year.<br /><br />MITCHELL: They petitioned to put the referendum on last month&rsquo;s ballot. And voters passed it about 4-to-1. Starting next week, the precinct will be dry. There&rsquo;s just one problem.<br /><br />SOUND: Car alarm.<br /><br />MITCHELL (on the scene): The place with the gang bangers in front wasn&rsquo;t the precinct&rsquo;s only store selling alcohol. I&rsquo;m outside a CVS a few blocks west. The clerks inside tell me booze accounts for about half their sales. But there&rsquo;s also a stream of customers who rely on this CVS for everything from prescription drugs to shampoo and milk. Without its liquor sales here, some of these folks worry CVS might close this store.<br /><br />CUSTOMER 1: Some of my family members get their prescriptions filled here. And it&rsquo;s really convenient that they can walk here instead of worrying about getting a ride or catching the bus.<br /><br />MITCHELL (on the scene): Do they have cars?<br /><br />CUSTOMER 1: No.<br /><br />CUSTOMER 2: I got three kids, so we need milk. If you get something for them from the corner store, it&rsquo;ll probably be old.<br /><br />CUSTOMER 3: Everybody around here, I guess, is poor. So they need to get to a place that most of them can walk to. Bus fare is high. Cab fare is high. So, yeah, it would hurt them.<br /><br />MITCHELL: CVS isn&rsquo;t answering whether it&rsquo;ll keep the store open once it quits selling alcohol. Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) supported the referendum. But he admits there&rsquo;s collateral damage.<br /><br />MALDONADO: We don&rsquo;t have a lot of retail in the area. And we have never heard complaints about CVS. However, if they depend on liquor to remain viable, then they should not be open.<br /><br />MITCHELL: I ask Maldonado about other precincts in his ward.<br /><br />MITCHELL (on the scene): Businesses that are selling alcohol and doing so responsibly, without a lot of problems out in front, do they have anything to worry about?<br /><br />MALDONADO: No, they don&rsquo;t have to worry as long as they are conscious about their own responsibility [to be] a good business neighbor.<br /><br />MITCHELL: And as long as residents don&rsquo;t vote the precinct dry. Reporting from Chicago&rsquo;s West Side, I&rsquo;m Chip Mitchell.<br /><br />MOORE: And I&rsquo;m Natalie Moore at our Side South bureau. The situation was different in a 3rd Ward precinct along East 47th Street. Voters didn&rsquo;t take aim at all liquor. They had specific targets: Night Train, Wild Irish Rose, Thunderbird &mdash; cheap, fortified wines that some residents say attracted low-end elements to the neighborhood. The referendum was nonbinding, nothing more than an opinion poll. Still, the majority voted to ban fortified wines at two stores. No more malt liquor either. But one of the stores took 22-ounce malt liquor off the shelves in July.<br /><br />MICHELIS: Took a hit on sales, between $20,000-$25,000 a month, but I gained it from the wines I put in the store.<br /><br />MOORE: Steve Michelis owns a store called 200 Cut Rate Liquors. Michelis says voters got what they wanted. He says the loitering and begging in front of his place stopped last year. Still, he didn&rsquo;t mind last month&rsquo;s referendum.<br /><br />MICHELIS: I don&rsquo;t care. I don&rsquo;t have anything to hide.<br /><br />MOORE: Maybe another reason Michelis didn&rsquo;t mind so much was because he was already getting other pressure &mdash; from Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd).<br /><br />DOWELL: You have people who stand outside, they drink it, they throw the can down, they beg for money or they go back in and get some money from somewhere and go back and buy another can.<br /><br />MOORE: Residents targeted Aristo Food and Liquor on the ballot, too. While residents gathered signatures for the nonbinding referendum, Dowell had her own approach. She&rsquo;s been working on getting the owners to sign agreements to stop selling the cheap liquor. She&rsquo;ll then attach them to their liquor licenses with the city. That would make them binding. The owner of Aristo says he plans to comply with Dowell. But the alderman says she&rsquo;s still waiting to hear back from him. Reporting from the city&rsquo;s South Side, I&rsquo;m Natalie Moore.<br /><br />YOUSEF: And I&rsquo;m Odette Yousef. Here on the North Side, one alderman and some voters are not on the same page. And, the issue isn&rsquo;t liquor. It&rsquo;s land use.<br /><br />GLAZIER: There&rsquo;s going to be three large driveways next to each other.<br /><br />YOUSEF: This is Josh Glazier.<br /><br />GLAZIER: Two for trucks coming in and out of the project, and one for several hundred cars that are going to remain inside the building.<br /><br />YOUSEF: Glazier lives behind this unused hospital garage in Lincoln Park. He&rsquo;s not happy about a developer&rsquo;s plan to turn it into a grocery store.<br /><br />GLAZIER: The community really objects to the grocer and the trucks.<br /><br />YOUSEF: Glazier says Ald. Vi Daley (43rd) has heard him out. He and others recall her saying she&rsquo;d stay neutral until the community reached a consensus on the project. But in spite of overwhelming opposition at public meetings. . .<br /><br />GLAZIER: We&rsquo;ve been hearing for quite some time that the alderman had this secret list, with the names of all the project&rsquo;s supporters and opponents. And increasingly she&rsquo;s been telling us the count was very close. And we didn&rsquo;t feel like a secret list should be the basis for any decision on the project.<br /><br />YOUSEF: So Glazier and fellow opponents gathered signatures to put the issue on their precinct&rsquo;s February ballot.<br /><br />YOUSEF (on the scene): So you knew going into this that this would not be a binding result?<br /><br />GLAZIER: Of course it was not going to be a binding result, but it was going to create some transparency.<br /><br />YOUSEF: And that&rsquo;s what Glazier says he got. Most voters opposed the project at the polls. So he was stunned to hear Ald. Daley&rsquo;s official position just days later. In a statement, she wrote, &ldquo;I will not delay this project any longer and I will vote to approve this project at City Council.&rdquo; Daley said only a narrow majority of voters opposed the development. She said she heard from many ward residents who do want it. They live outside the precinct that voted on it. I asked Prof. Christopher Berry of the University of Chicago if that was a legitimate reason to discount the referendum results:<br /><br />BERRY: Well, it&rsquo;s a legitimate tack to take, but the only way we would really know the answer is to have some sort of scientific public opinion poll that was done, that included everyone in the affected geography.<br /><br />YOUSEF: Berry says referenda are anything but scientific. They&rsquo;re often put together by self-selected groups on one side of an issue. And, usually, only a small fraction of voters come out to decide it. Berry says with referenda, the real story often isn&rsquo;t about how the vote came down. It&rsquo;s that an issue came down to a vote at all.<br /><br />BERRY: When you see a referendum, which means citizens have to be directly making this policy, it suggests some sort of failure or breakdown in the process between the citizens and their representatives.<br /><br />YOUSEF: Berry says those breakdowns are rare because politicians usually want to get reelected. But, in Lincoln Park, that&rsquo;s not the case. Ald. Daley retires in May. On Chicago&rsquo;s North Side, I&rsquo;m Odette Yousef, WBEZ.</p></p> Mon, 14 Mar 2011 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/200-cut-rate-liquors/winning-referendum-no-silver-bullet Chicago mayoral candidate Miguel del Valle campaigns as a reformer http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-02-08/chicago-mayoral-candidate-miguel-del-valle-campaigns-reformer-81970 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Picture 005_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The 2011 Chicago municipal election is two weeks away. Tuesday, <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> begins its one-on-one conversations with the candidates for mayor. The show plans to talk with everyone still in the race: Gery Chico, Rahm Emanuel, Carol Mosley Braun, Patricia Van Pelt Watkins and William &quot;Dock&quot; Walls.<br /><br />First up is <a target="_blank" href="http://www.delvalleformayor.com/">Miguel del Valle</a>. Del Valle first entered the political arena in 1982 when he worked on Harold Washington&rsquo;s successful mayoral campaign. In 1986, del Valle was elected to the state senate; he was the first Latino in that chamber. During his 20 years in the office, del Valle served as Assistant Majority Leader and chair of the Senate Education Committee.<br /><br />The current Mayor Daley appointed him <a target="_blank" href="http://www.chicityclerk.com/">City Clerk</a> in 2006. A few months later he was elected to a four-year term. Under del Valle, the office is credited with implementing unprecedented levels of transparency. But Miguel del Valle considers community activism his life&rsquo;s work.<br /><br />Thursday <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> talks with mayoral candidate Carol Mosley Braun.</p><p><em>Music Button: Stanton Moore, &quot;Root Cellar&quot;, from the CD Groove Alchemy, (Telarc) </em></p></p> Tue, 08 Feb 2011 14:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-02-08/chicago-mayoral-candidate-miguel-del-valle-campaigns-reformer-81970 Mayor Monday: How can we deal with corruption? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/mayor-monday-how-can-we-deal-corruption <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Zekman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>To take a long, hard look at corruption <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> wanted to speak to a woman who's made a career exploring the city&rsquo;s underbelly for the last four decades. Pulitzer-prize winning reporter <a target="_blank" href="http://chicago.cbslocal.com/personality/pam-zekman/">Pam Zekman</a> has exposed frauds, corrupt city employees and wasteful spending for CBS 2 Chicago.&nbsp; She <a target="_blank" href="http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/01/12/is-treasurer-maria-pappas-wasting-your-tax-dollars/">recently</a> worked with the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.bettergov.org/">Better Government Association</a> to audit parts of <a target="_blank" href="http://www.cookcountytreasurer.com/">Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas</a>&rsquo; budget.<br /><br />Zekman&rsquo;s investigations have resulted in governmental reforms and criminal indictments. Zekman joined <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> for a <em>Mayor Monday</em> education in the art of Chicago corruption.</p></p> Mon, 31 Jan 2011 14:49:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/mayor-monday-how-can-we-deal-corruption