The Local Open Government Directive and Cook County, Illinois
In December of 2010, I helped lead an effort to create model open government policies that any local government could adopt to institutionalize transparency, participation, and collaboration. On January 24th, 2011, this effort resulted in the publication of the Model Local Open Government Directive. The directive is designed to fill a need for open government policies that was expressed at CityCamp Colorado. At the camp, several local IT directors said they needed support from city leaders to truly achieve open government success. The directive was created to fill that need and to give these government leaders the tools they need to implement open government efforts.
In Cook County, Illinois, a community leader, a County Commissioner and the County Board President used the Local Open Government Directive as a template to create the Open Cook County Plan, which called for the release of county data.
Cook County answered the call today with the public launch of the Cook County data catalog at data.cookcountyil.gov. This launch represents a success for both open government and, more importantly, the citizens of the second largest county in the United States. Cook County citizens now have ready access to data and information maintained by their local government. Furthermore, enterprising people can now use the data to improve their community and connect with their neighbors.
The launch is also validation of the Local Open Government Directive and the idea behind the work my colleagues and I started in December of 2010. Our goal was to create a starting point that would level the obstacles and allow local leaders to move forward with enhancing government.
Board President Preckwinkle and Commissioner Fritchey used our work to serve their community. Cook County represents an open government best practice of using what already exists to create significant positive change. Rather than recreating the wheel, Cook County leaders were able to focus on their open government goals. Once those leaders defined their goals, the Local Open Government Directive simply needed to be adapted to their needs.
Today is a good day for open government and the citizens of Cook County because they have a more transparent county government and that transparency will hopefully lead to a more informed citizenry that can hold their government accountable. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”
As I said, today is validation of the work of my colleagues and me, but our work is not done. We will continue to lend aid and support to local governments as we continue to add to the open government toolbox that has grown to include the open government candidate pledge and a declaration of open government principles. So today we raise a glass to the leaders of Cook County and tomorrow we get back to work.