Taking action: Government efficiency and DuPage County - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Taking action: Government efficiency and DuPage County

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The DuPage ACT Initiative seeks to create a more accountable, efficient, and transparent form of government.

Across the country, governments are investing in efficiency. Motivated by budget crunches, scarce resources, service duplication and the desire to spur economic development, public officials are exploring consolidation, collaboration and other means to better serve their constituents. In this series, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) will highlight efforts to improve government efficiency. Our first installment focuses on DuPage County, Ill.’s recent Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency (ACT) Initiative.

In 2011, with the DuPage Water Commission and DuPage Housing Authority in financial crisis, County Chairman Dan Cronin took a holistic tack toward resolution—the county employed an independent contractor to review the financial and operational structures and procurement and ethics policies of 24 of its independent government taxing agencies.

Their report, issued in May of 2012, revealed that the agencies in question accounted for $300 million in public funds and frequent ethical breaches. The county responded with the DuPage ACT Initiative: a comprehensive list of reforms rooted in the principles of accountability, consolidation and transparency (ACT). This move prompted a partnership between the election commission and the county’s information technology department, saving taxpayers an estimated $700,000.

Despite the initial success, the county faced some challenges. Dismantling the Timberlake Estates Sanitary District, an agency whose responsibilities were assumed by the county’s Public Works Department in 1985, required two years of legal wrangling by Chairman Cronin and the State Attorney. Efforts included district resident mailings seeking formal authorization for enactment, a door-to-door campaign, a public published notice and a drafted order finally resulting in the dissolution of the District.

This struggle prompted an undertaking to remove political and legal obstacles to ACT Initiative reforms. Consequently, State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) proposed legislation resulting in Public Act 098-0126, which empowered DuPage County to dissolve outdated or defunct county-appointed agencies while providing the public the opportunity to petition potential eliminations.

To date, successes of the ACT Initiative include:

Accountability: In his Annual State of the County address, Chairman Cronin announced that more than 20 of the targeted county agencies have aligned their ethics rules with the county’s ethics policy.

Consolidation: According to the DuPage County ACT Initiative Progress Report, the ACT Initiative is projected to save taxpayers $82,184,400 via dissolution, partnership and tax reform.

Transparency: In an effort to better inform taxpayers about their local service agencies, DuPage County created the ACT Transparency Portal.

Such results beg the essential question—can other government structures find similar efficiency success? Given our current economic climate and aging infrastructure, Chicagoland residents have a vested interest in finding out. Join us as we explore this question throughout the next year and share our lessons learned.

Curious about other initiatives around the Chicago region and beyond? Take a look at the rest of the Taking Action series.

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