Paul’s Plan for Accountable and Transparent Government
Chicago’s chronic challenges – violent crime, burdensome taxes, structural deficits, crushing debt, underfunded pensions, inequitable development practices, empty community engagement and participation mechanisms, lack of transparency, lack of accountability, poor policy decision-making and poor public administration in the implementation of policy – are connected to its system of government.
Chicago is the only major city in the United States to operate without a municipal charter – an enforceable citizen-approved constitution that sets out the functions, components, standards and processes of government.
Without it, we are governed by an assortment of historical procedures, practices, and customs. And a political and institutional culture from another century.
Chicago’s history of institutional reform is spotty at best for three reasons – the structure is archaic, reform efforts are reactive and marginal rather than proactive and holistic and, as the saying goes, culture eats policy for breakfast every day. Based on the historical record, there is little question that Chicago’s political culture is a riptide that is forever drowning equitable opportunity and hope.
A Vallas Administration will begin changing that on Day One.
First by executive order and ordinances that address the power imbalances and entrenched inequities with the goal of improving standards, accountability mechanisms and processes transparency, and citizen participatory access. While implementing system reforms to fundamentally change governance, I will use the power of the Office of the Mayor, working collaboratively with city and state officials, to create a citizen-led Charter Commission. That Commission will be charged, through public process, with evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of our existing governance structure and making recommendations for approval by mandatory citizen referendum to once and for all lift it from its past and situate Chicago to meet the future. Some of the reforms I will pursue are listed below and some of those that I believe should be elevated to constitutional (or charter) standard to prevent them from being changed or avoided are indicated with a [CC]
Election System Reform
Enact Small Donor Campaign Financing [CC] to all city and sister agency elected offices. The ordinance recently introduced into the City Council by Ald. Matt Martin should serve as the foundation for legislative deliberations
Create a citizen-involved, transparent Independent Ward Map Redistricting Commission [CC] to end the backroom, self-serving, non-transparent, non-inclusive gerrymandering produced by the current system
Close the corporate employee campaign finance loophole [CC] to the $1500 annual limit for any entity doing business with the city
Enact Rank Choice Voting [CC] for all elected city offices
Independent Oversight and Evaluation
Consolidation of the inspector general functions of all of the Sister Agencies (except CPS-OIG) into the City Office of Inspector General [CC] for independent investigative, audit and Information Portal data transparency oversight citywide. The Park District is not not duly independent, empowered, resourced, or protected as evidenced by the cover-up of the lifeguard sexual abuse scandal of 2021. City Colleges is under-resourced and would benefit from the IT and audit capacities of the City IG. And the CTA reflect oversight that is too limited in jurisdictional scope and authority as evidenced by the absence of independent review of its numerous performance failures
Route Chicago Fire Department Bureau of Internal Affairs matters through the City Inspector General as a tracking and accountability clearing house and to assure serious matters are handled appropriately
Create an Independent Budget Office [CC] akin to the Congressional Budget Office and as operated under the New York City charter, with the expertise and mandate to score major legislation and the annual budget - including budgetary, and fiscal and debt impact statements and cost estimates for fully funding any mandates reported out to the City Council and the public before legislative hearings
City Council Independence and Procedural Integrity
An independent City Council that is duly empowered, resourced and operated with transparency and accountability benefits us all by engaging in rigorous legislative oversight of city affairs. In doing so, the City Council can provide the institutionalized legislative subject matter expertise and improve the quality of policy-making through critical engagement with the Mayor. To do so, a Vallas Administration will work with the City Council to consider and implement the following reform measures:
Create Ordinance-based Administrative Office of the City Council [CC] led by a Chief Administrative Officer to provide standards-based professional support and guidance for the ward, City Hall and Council Committee Offices. Moreover, it will serve as the Council liaison with City Departments for the support and assistance of the members and the body as a whole
Create Ordinance-based Office of Legislative Counsel headed by the position of Chief Legislative Counsel to provide independent legal counsel to the City Council, its members and its committees for all matters relating to the operation of the Council, under which would be housed a duly resourced Legal Research Bureau and professional, independent, .e., non-partisan) Parliamentarian, and preserving litigative representation to the Corporation Counsel
Create a standing and special committee system that mirrors executive agency functions [CC] and the priorities of the residents we represent - develops subject matter expertise in important evolving policy and operations areas
Empower Council to select its own committee chairs [CC]
Strengthen rules and penalties banning the use of Council committee resources for non-Committee purposes [CC] to end the customary but legally inappropriate diversion of committee resources to individual aldermanic ward and constituent services
Empower Council to exercise control over Committee calendars and agendas [CC]
Empower Council with express legislative investigative authority, including enforceable administrative subpoena power [CC]
Mandate Department of Human Resource-approved professional job descriptions for all non-ward Council Administrative and Committee staff positions [CC] setting duties and minimum qualifications to end the adverse impact of patronage appointments to professional functions
Convert Council Professional and Administrative positions from Shakman-exempt to Senior Manager status (maintaining Shakman exemption for aldermanic and ward-level staff)
Empower Council with control of meeting documentation, livestream and recording facilities through the Council Administrative Office - City Clerk coordination
Empower Council-origination of the City Council and committee budgets [CC]
Simplify and support citizen-introduction of legislative proposal [CC] through the Office of the City Clerk
Operational Integrity and Accountability
Mandate Department of Human Resources-approved job descriptions with minimum qualifications for all executive branch Shakman-exempt positions
Speed time to hire and by minimizing involvement of the Budget Office for vacancies in appropriated positions
Strengthen and enforce existing ordinance requiring an annual performance evaluation for all non-Shakman exempts (Employees cannot grow professionally or improve performance with best in class performance evaluations and supporting mentoring and continuing education.)
Revamp the City Budget Process to Comport with National Best Practices for transparency, citizen input and participation, independent analysis and budgeting and budget transparency standards [CC]
Elevate to and Council-confirmed and independent (of the Mayor) status the Chief Risk Officer [CC] with its own budget-appropriated staff, resources and access to all information regarding City operations under the control of the Mayor – including public safety departments and functions – and with the mandatory responsibility to issue public reports to the City Council, the Mayor and the Inspector General findings and recommendations regarding exposure to and mitigation of on risk
End the Automatic Elected Official Pay Escalator thus requiring all increases to be the subject of a public vote
End the Automatic Property Tax Escalator
Create an independent Office of Public Information Advocate [CC] to establish and update categories of public information, establish criteria for disclosure (or non-disclosure), serve as an independent public-facing appeal body for denied request, and be responsible for publicly reporting annual evaluations of the transparency and FOIA practices of all City Departments. This office might be operated as an independent component of the Board of Ethics.
Implement a Citywide Transparency and Public Record Disclosure Policy that makes proactive transparency an operational principle and ends the practice of invoking exemptions for purely political reasons. This mandates searchable format public posting of all materials disclosed pursuant to Freedom of Information Act requests to end the need for repetition of requests for the same information and publishes a periodically updated public FOIA request and response log that is managed and audited by the Public Information Advocate
Amend the Inspector General investigative report disclosure provisions to require Inspector General determination of the legal eligibility of IG investigative reports for public disclosure
Bring public reporting of Inspector General Police disciplinary investigative reports into parity with the disclosure requirements for Civilian Office of Police Accountability investigative reports