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Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 04:17 pm

CLEAR AS MUD

Macoupin County good, everyone else bad. That’s the assessment of the Illinois Policy Institute when it comes to government transparency in counties in western and central Illinois. The institute this week issued failing grades to 16 out of 17 counties, including Sangamon, proclaiming that they don’t put enough stuff like salaries and tax rates and meeting agendas on the Internet. Macoupin, the only county that got a passing grade, led the pack with a grade of 76.4 out of a possible 100.

One sure way to avoid a failing a grade is to not have a website at all. That’s how Calhoun, Cass, Greene, Henderson, McDonough, Pike and Schuyler counties managed to escape the stain of failure in the institute’s ongoing transparency audit, in which staffers comb websites of governmental entities to see how much information is online.

Count us less than impressed. The measure of transparency isn’t what a government posts on its website, it is how that government reacts when asked for police reports or the mayor’s emails. But the institute didn’t send out record requests to determine which counties stonewall. It is difficult to imagine how the institute could give a passing grade to a county that puts nary a court record online, while slamming a county like Sangamon, where court records are available for free to anyone who wants to actually do something useful with documents, such as checking to see if a prospective business partner has a criminal record or owes money.

If the institute is interested in transparency, it should start with itself and reveal who has been providing nearly $1.8 million a year to an organization that never seems to have a bad thing to say about Republicans but can’t find anything to like about Democrats. That, the Illinois Policy Institute has always said, is none of the public’s business.
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