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.