In a huge step forward in our effort to bring reform and transparency to Chicago’s government, the Chicago City Council yesterday voted unanimously to create an independent budget office within the City Council.
Known as the City Council Office of Financial Analysis (COFA), and modeled after the Congressional Budget Office and other similar legislative budget offices, COFA will provide the City Council with an independent analysis of financial and budgetary proposals submitted by the Mayor. For a copy of the ordinance creating the new office, CLICK HERE.
The effort to create the office was spearheaded by the Paul Douglas Alliance, a coalition of progressive aldermen, of which I am a founding member. Yesterday, I joined other Alliance members at a press conference calling upon our colleagues to support the measure (photo courtesy of Progress Illinois).
For the first time, the City Council will have tools to identify cost saving measures and independently analyze the Mayor’s proposed budget, tax increment financing proposals, public-private partnership agreements and asset leases. Up until now, the members of the City Council have been solely reliant on information provided by the Mayor’s office and occasional reports by outside watchdog groups.
I first proposed the creation of an independent budget office years ago. However, the proposal met with stiff opposition from then-Mayor Daley and it never went anywhere. To his credit, Mayor Rahm Emanuelembraced the concept and his office was instrumental in convincing a number of my City Council colleagues to support the measure.
Paul Douglas Alliance members Pat Dowell (3rd Ward), Michele Smith (43rd Ward) and Ameya Pawar (47th Ward) were the chief sponsors of the ordinance creating COFA, which was co-sponsored by the other members of the Alliance, including me. The ordinance establishing COFA marked the second major legislative achievement of the Alliance, which was formed earlier this year.
The Alliance also successfully sponsored the TIF Accountability Ordinance, which created an online and searchable database that allows people to learn important information on tax increment financing districts, including details on job creation promises from developers and a breakdown on how much tax revenue is funneled into individual TIF districts. And last month, I joined other Paul Douglas Alliance members in sponsoring the Chicago Corporate Tax Disclosure Ordinance, which requires Chicago corporations to disclose how much they pay in taxes each year.
In addition to Aldermen Dowell, Smith, Pawar and myself, Paul Douglas Alliance members include Joe Moreno (1st Ward), Will Burns (4th Ward), Rey Colon (35th Ward), Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward), James Cappleman (46th Ward), and Harry Osterman (48th Ward).