IT’S SUNSHINE WEEK! In addition to engaging in dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information, this is a time to get acquainted with government data sets! Government bodies are releasing millions of data sets that are available at our fingertips and easily searchable. For starters, check out data about your state, county, city, your ZIP code, your school district or even your specific school. Here is a list of websites to get you started.
GOVERNMENT DATA AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
Find federal datasets concerning specific municipalities. Search by topic, also.
Search and browse hundreds of city datasets. Search by category or topic.
Find federal datasets concerning specific counties. Search by topic, also.
Find birth, marriage, & death records; delinquent property tax search; Cook County ordinances; election results; polling locations; directory of elected officials; maps; lobbyist reports; TIF property searches, reports, and maps; and ethics filings.
Search for federal datasets concerning states. Search by topic, also.
Search and browse thousands of state datasets. Search by municipality, category, or topic.
Illinois Sex Offender Information
Illinois Department of Transportation
Find project information and maps
Illinois Report Card
Find facts about individual schools, including ISAT scores, PSAE scores, total enrollment, number of schools, number of teachers, student mobility, graduation rates, college readiness rates, instructional average spending per student, and average operational spending per student. Also, view indicators of academic progress, district environment, student characteristics. Compare your school to others.
Portal to search for federal datasets for cities, counties, and states.
Search for federal contracts by agency, department, vendor, or fiscal year.
U.S. Census Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics
View combined federal, state, and Census Bureau data on employers and employees. Statistics on employment, earnings, and job flows at detailed levels of geography and industry and for different demographic groups.
Toxics Release Inventory Program
Enter an address for maps locating toxic chemicals in your community.
Access reports and downloadable files tracking the management of more than 650 toxic chemicals used at U.S. industrial facilities.
Information on millions of companies worldwide. Search by name, filter by jurisdiction.
Offshore Leaks Database
Search for offshore companies and trusts, by country.
Search through 450 online databases across 120 countries for information on shareholders, directors, and financial reports of companies worldwide.
Thanks to reporter Jeff Lowenstein for compiling this list and for his fantastic presentation at the Chicago Headline Club sponsored FOIA Fest 2014 hosted at Loyola University to kickoff Sunshine Week.
CAC Constitution Week Forum Monday September 16th at 6:30 pm at the Center
To commemorate Constitution Day, Celebrate First Amendment Freedoms, and Inspire Civic Participation!
Constitution Day commemorates the formation and signing of the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787. Celebrating Constitution Day provides an opportunity for the public to remember the importance of a document held in esteem worldwide for empowering “We the People” with the rights and responsibilities to engage in the democratic process. The First Amendment Freedoms, (freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to petition our government, freedom to assemble, and freedom of religion) are essential components that ensure a healthy democracy and the capacity to hold government accountable.
“Constitution Week recognizes the importance of our founding document by introducing students and adults to constitutional issues through dynamic speakers with first-hand knowledge of what it means to fight for
freedom. Ms. Hayes’ experiences illustrate the tensions in our democracy while sharing a remarkable journey in
First Amendment advocacy, ” said Maryam Judar, community lawyer at the Citizen Advocacy Center.
In collaboration with area high schools, and made possible with support from the McCormick Foundation, the focus of this year’s Constitution Week is the constitutional right to peaceful assembly in protesting government activity. As with previous Constitution Week speakers, the Citizen Advocacy Center is highlighting the importance of a robust legal infrastructure for public participation and is not endorsing any particular position on the specific issues Ms. Hayes is passionate about.
Ms. Hayes is a youth organizer who has participated in several community organizing initiatives. These include planning of the Chicago NATO protest in the Spring of 2012; Chicago Occupy Protests; and opposition to the City of Chicago’s ordinance curtailing First Amendment rights, dubbed by the press as the “Sit Down and Shut Up Ordinance.” She is also a Non Violent Direct Action (NVDA) trainer. Her advocacy has focused on combating austerity measures by government as well as advocating for social justice issues. She is presently involved in the battle for public education in Chicago and in the creation of a city wide series of NVDA trainings for student activists.
While in the western suburbs, Ms. Hayes will speak to hundreds of high school students, including those at York High School in Elmhurst and Glenbard South in Glen Ellyn, about utilizing her First Amendment freedoms to peaceably assemble and petition the government. Students will hear her first-hand accounts and have the opportunity to ask questions. Community lawyer Maryam Judar will accompany Ms. Hayes to provide the constitutional context for her participation in the government decision making process.
The Citizen Advocacy Center is a non-profit, non-partisan community based legal organization dedicated to building democracy for the 21st Century by increasing the citizenry’s capacities, resources, and institutions for self-governance. The Citizen Advocacy Center is funded entirely through contributions from individuals and foundations. We do not accept corporate or government funding. This allows us to maintain our independence and provide unbiased advice, analysis, and commentary.
New rule to attend CPS meetings draws complaints
By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah Tribune reporter 8:11 p.m. CDT, August 28, 2013
A new requirement that participants sign up online to attend the monthly Chicago Board of Education meeting drew complaints Wednesday and claims the district is violating the Open Meetings Act.
Ronald Jackson, a regular at CPS board meetings, said he had signed up before the meeting but was turned away by security guards who couldn’t find his name on a list. Jackson asked to see the district’s legal department. Eventually, he was allowed into the meeting.
Jackson said many others who tried to attend the meeting Wednesday where CPS was voting on its budget for fiscal year 2014 ended up leaving after being denied entry.
“I shouldn’t have to be harassed,” Jackson said. “District policy doesn’t override state and federal laws.”
Maryam Judar, executive director of the Citizen Advocacy Center in Elmhurst, said government agencies can ask for people to sign up to speak at public meetings, or even require people to sign up to get a count on attendance. But they cannot deny someone entry into a public meeting because they have not signed up beforehand.
“The purpose of the Open Meetings Act is that deliberations take place in public, and the public may attend the meeting as an observer, Judar said. “It would be in contravention of the Open Meetings Act to limit that availability to a select few. They shouldn’t be turning people away for lack of signing up.”
The district’s guidelines stated people who wanted to speak or even observe board meetings “must register in advance of the day of the meeting.”
CPS officials said later Wednesday they will be amending their guidelines to make it clear that the public is not required to sign up in advance in order to attend the board meeting.
“Our goal is to ensure the safety and accommodate the needs of all attending our monthly Board of Education meetings,” said CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. “That is why we are requesting, but not requiring, that members of the public planning to attend these meetings to register in advance so we can best prepare to accommodate all visitors on those days. Any member of the public who wishes to attend the Board meeting can do so without registering in advance given that there is adequate space in Board chambers and its overflow room."
Read the article at the chicagotribune.com here
Lack of transparency
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