The City Council approval of the Chicago Infrastructure Trust ordinance was a vote to value political interests over the public interest and passed with inadequate public protections despite unanswered questions from aldermen, the public and the city's inspector general. The lack of transparency surrounding the decision-making process was patently unacceptable. Transparency and accountability, particularly in government contracting and spending, are critical tools to prevent corruption, boost public confidence in government and ensure fiscal responsibility.
While generally the city has provided greater accessibility to some government information, how deep the transparency commitment is becomes evident when crucial issues such as the CIT are in play. Reasonable accountability standards such as bringing the CIT under the purview of the inspector general's office, requiring council votes on all taxpayer dollar commitments, detailing enforcement provisions, ensuring compliance with ethics and procurement ordinances, and even declaring the CIT to be a subsidiary city public body to ensure compliance with state transparency laws were ignored. This lack of accountability is also inconsistent with Illinois Nonprofit Principles and Best Practices.
Moving forward, public bodies interested in creating similar entities should embrace that the goals of democracy are broader than those of economic development and implement meaningful public interest safeguards such as those suggested. Our organizations, along with the Donors Forum, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, League of Women Voters of Illinois and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund believe that the people of Chicago deserve better.
— Brian Imus, director, Illinois Public Interest Research Group, and Terry Pastika, executive director, Citizen Advocacy Center, Chicago