City Beat: An overwhelming case for transparency

The FBI investigation into the Winnebago County Board rages on, and still the best the community can get so far is mere lip service from its leadership.

It seems that stowing away the corruption which allowed these transgressions to go on isn’t as easy as hiding as a sauna. Sadly, hiding behind the tried and true “ongoing investigation” excuse is enough for the Chairman. But wishing it to disappear will not provide the answers the taxpayers need.

Rockford has a transparency issue – our leaders in government seem to all agree. From missing funds to gym equipment to (gasp) New Towne, every foul up is followed by a mea culpa from someone who should’ve known better.

01_27_16+RRT+++_1Only 75 of the nearly 7,000 bodies of government in Illinois have received Sunshine Awards for their efforts toward full transparency, the latest being Wheatland Township in Will County. This comes as no shock for residents of a state identified by its rampant government corruption.

I’ve heard excuses ranging from Local Government Body X is too big/too complex/too overburdened, to the never failed We just can’t afford it. None of those really stand up, though, especially when you consider the whole of the Kane County government, with its 515,000 residents, is capable of achieving a perfect score for its transparency efforts.

So why not now? Why do we need to wait for the next lawsuit, the next federal oversight investigation? Why can’t questions just simply be answered by public officials? Sheriff Gary Caruana’s office uncovered the spending issues running rampant through the Winnebago County government in short order, and only by looking at a single year’s budget and expenditures.

And yet we still are without anything resembling a decent answer from the elected officials on the board. Invariably, the response is to either blame a deposed purchasing director or defer to the ongoing investigation excuse. It’s a game of hurry up and wait for the FBI and the Department of Justice to tell us what has become of the tax money that was meant to improve the community, not stock a political campaign run far too close to official government offices with enough chocolate bars for a small army.

Everyone knows communication is lacking. Fix the communication problem, starting today. Fulfill FOIA requests; don’t default to an “overdue burden” response every time a resident files one. And answer questions before they’re put to you. Your community deserves it, and it deserves it now.

Shane Nicholson | Managing Editor

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