The city of Evanston scored the highest of five governmental units in town in the latest leg of the Illinois Policy Institute’s “Local Transparency Project,” which grades governments on the availability to the public of vital community information.

The city of Evanston scored the highest of five governmental units in town in the latest leg of the Illinois Policy Institute’s “Local Transparency Project,” which grades governments on the availability to the public of vital community information.

The city earned a score of 91.7 out of 100 possible points for making information about taxes, Freedom of Information Act requests, contracts and other community matters readily available on the city’s website.

Meanwhile, Evanston Township earned a record low score of 3.125 for making available almost no information about how it spends $1.3 million in taxpayer dollars.

“The city of Evanston has recorded the second highest transparency score ever,” said Brian Costin, director of outreach at the Institute. “But in Evanston Township … that is the absolute worst we’ve ever graded out of the nearly 100 local government entities we’ve graded in Illinois so far.”

Evanston-Skokie District 65, Oakton Community College, Evanston Township High School District 202 and Evanston Township also were included in the audit.

For democracy to work, Costin says, citizens need access to information about what government does. Proactive transparency is the best way to educate society about the actions of government and keep voters informed.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said he’s proud of the new ranking and that the city “is committed to being a leader not only in Illinois, but nationally, in making the workings of our City government transparent.”

“Evanston residents provide us regular feedback on what kinds of information they would like to have available and we have worked to make everything asked for available on our website,” Bobkiewicz said.

The Local Transparency Project grades public agencies on the availability of the following information: elected and administrative officials; public meetings; how to file a Freedom of Information Act request; budgets; expenditures; salaries and benefits; lobbying; and taxing levels.

Government bodies are graded after local residents initiate the audit, and then are informed of their scores. After the first audit, governments have two months to improve their scores by following good government guidelines from the Institute. The agencies are then graded for a second time.

Local government officials said the audit provides a good rubric for what information should be publicly available.

“The Illinois Policy Institute’s project has been helpful to me in identifying what others may see as important information to have available on our website,” said Pat Markham, communications director for Evanston-Skokie District 65.

FINAL SCORES
City of Evanston:  91.7
Evanston-Skokie District 65: 87
Oakton Community College: 82
Evanston Township High School District 202: 77.8
Evanston Township: 3.1

The Illinois Policy Institute describes itself as a nonpartisan research and education organization dedicated to making Illinois a beacon for liberty and prosperity for all citizens.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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