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Cook County Unveils 'Transparency, Accountability' Program

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced county departments will set and track goals through the STAR system.

Cook County government, long criticized for operating with inefficiencies, is moving toward becoming more efficient by measuring the quality of its performance. Toni Preckwinkle, who became county board president last December, says it will reduce costs and streamline services. 

On Thursday, Preckwinkle, standing alongside several county elected officials, released the county's first quarterly performance management report. 

The purpose of the Set Targets Achieve Results (STAR) report, Preckwinkle said, is to boost accountability and lower the cost of government by setting and tracking goals for each county agency and department.

"Performance management gives us the opportunity to change the culture of the County and begin a new chapter in county government," Preckwinkle said yesterday at the County Building in Chicago.

A full copy of the first STAR report can be found here. Some of the county-wide goals include lowering jail populations, improving access to healthcare, workforce development, and fair and timely billing and property assessment.

The STAR report said improvements have already been made, such as faster invoice processing, tracking tools within Preckwinkle's own office to decrease employee absences and sick time, and the creation of a manager training program to ensure proper budgeting.

Cook County Clerk David Orr cited specific improvements within his department, such as a new online database of financial disclosure statements.

"We believe this is very helpful, and we'll do our best to continue the efficiencies," Orr said of the STAR program.

The Cook County Clerk's new Statements of Economic Interests site can be viewed here.

The STAR report acknowledges that data for many agency and department goals is missing. However, the report says that since the program is new, updated technology and other ways of measuring progress are still needed.

The STAR report was created after the County Board unanimously passed an ordinance in February requiring that performance management metrics be used to measure county government's productivity and fiscal responsibility.

Last week, as part of her goal for strategic, long-term budgeting across Cook County, Preckwinkle issued an executive order requiring preliminary annual budgets due at the end of every July.

Two business firms, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the Civic Consulting Alliance, gave pro-bono support in developing the metrics used to gauge county performance.

Hal Sirkin of the BCG said the STAR program would create a culture of transparency and accountability, by allowing for interactive feedback. The first quarterly STAR report, Sirkin said, would be the first step in "transforming the county."

Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown said it was "refreshing" to have an administration which actively seeks greater, collaborative accountability. 

"It's something we've wanted for a long time," Brown said. 

The next quarterly report will be released in October. 

Clark Kent July 10, 2011 at 02:46 AM
This is the fourth announcement by the County Prez on "reports" since June 29th. President Preckwinkle's highly touted "Set Targets Achieve Results (STAR)" is a rather disappointing document as it contains nothing which could not be found in a cursory budget audit of line items without dressing up the report with such highfalutin language and hackneyed verbiage: "Performance management gives us the opportunity to change the culture of the County and begin a new chapter in county government." Culture of the County? How about corruption? I admit that I read only about half of the report and it was seemingly a 2011 version of the Zero-based budget (ZBB) notions of the 1970s. While ZBB was widely used in the Carter Administration, I am not sure that it is still employed. Like the County "plan," emphases were placed on effectiveness, efficiency and workload for each decision unit. Nothing new...except new wine in old bottles. Clerk Brown's felicity with this "refreshing" approach is a rather saddening since Ms. Brown (the Clerk-Who-Would-Be-Mayor) is passing the buck AGAIN to "higher" authorities to help her manage what she can't. Sad. Very sad.
Kevin O'Connor July 10, 2011 at 09:28 PM
I agree with Clark Kent's comments. I would add that this approach mirrors some of our COE propaganda concerning transparency and accountability. In Evanston none of our senior aldermen or Mayor Tisdahl (who served 6 years as 7th Ward Aldermen after being appointed by former Mayor Morton) or the previous City Council members have taken any accountability for the bankruptcy of Evanston (bankruptcy defined as: liabilities in excess of ability to pay those liabilities without raising taxes and/or fees). Worse yet is that none of our junior aldermen, who ran on fixing Evanston's fiscal disaster, have said anything about the lack of accountability for those responsible. Naturally, I myself share resposibility for not bringing the heat sooner to our alleged public servants. As for transparency, well it appears that the COE is preparing to shut down any transparency or comments made at Citizen Comment. Fox (Faux) News would be proud! STAR in Evanston = Stop Transparency All Residents.
enza July 12, 2011 at 04:53 PM
Hmmm, it's interesting that when elected officials like President Preckwinkle and Clerk Brown do the right thing by teaming up to make government more efficient, and share their best practices, there are still sour grapes out there. It's great that the electeds work together. Iti s not only refreshing, it's the best thing to do for Cook County.
Kevin O'Connor July 13, 2011 at 12:32 AM
Gee, enza, I didn't know that comments posted on Evanston Patch would end up on Wilmette/Kenilworth Patch. Perhaps things are great in your town, however in Evanston we have serious transparency & accountability issues. I also believe that this is a lot of PR & window dressing by County government. While I respect your right to an opinion, my opinion is not "sour grapes" but an unfortunate reality in my town.

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