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Revamped Chicago City Clerk Web Site Aims for Better Access and Governmental Transparency

by Becky Schlikerman.

Sept. 9, 2008 — An updated version of Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle‘s Web site is up and running — making it easier to track legislation in the city.

The Web site, updated Sept. 8, now has vast searchable databases of the City Council’s Journal of Proceedings going back to 1981 and city budgets and executive orders going back more than 25 years. This creates 700,000 searchable pages, del Valle said.

The Web site also has more detailed committee information, such as notices and agendas, so city residents can keep track of important issues and participate, he added.

“We want to make it easy,” del Valle said.

Del Valle said he’s been working to modernize the office, which he said was “antiquated” and still utilized typewriters when he took office less than two years ago.

When he was a member of the Illinois General Assembly, del Valle used the Springfield bill tracking system , which allows users to easily search and download information about state legislative activities, such as amendments and roll call votes, within hours of being filed.

“I was spoiled; I thought this is the way it is everywhere,” del Valle said of the system in Springfield. He hopes to implement a similar database for the City of Chicago soon.

The office is awaiting approval of $600,000 from the Information Technology Governance Board. That money will be used to create the document management system, said Deputy Director of the City Clerk’s office Jay Rowell. This system would mimic the legislative tracker in Springfield that follows bills as they move throughout the law-making process.

Rowell said the changes so far have been internally funded.

In the coming months, there will also be an interactive map that will help people determine whether their location requires a parking permit, Rowell said. They also hope to produce a version of the site for cell phones and other mobile devices, he added.

Other plans in the works include an archival database for committee agendas and notices, as well as more detailed aldermanic information — each alderman will get a page on the City Clerk’s site, said Erick Alvarez, the Web site’s designer.

Alvarez, a student at DeVry University, is one of the Clerk’s Web authors, a new position in that office. He designed the Web site and said the information available is meant to make government more transparent.

He added the design of the site was important. He said the blue and green colors make the Web site look “fresh.”

Alvarez said making this information easy to access is important because it affects everyone. “You should be aware of what is happening in your neighborhood,” he said.

That’s exactly what del Valle said he hopes his Web site does for Chicagoans. The Clerk said he wants the site to be the primary source for legislative information in Chicago. Myles Berman, an attorney in Chicago, said that’s been accomplished.

“If it has to do with City of Chicago government activities, I start at the City Clerk’s Web site. It’s that good, and it seems to be getting better,” Berman said.

Other aspects of the office modernization have been implemented already. For example, city stickers are now available for purchase online.

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