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Increased Transparency Has Benefits for Metra and Public

(April 11, 2012) - 
Metra has taken another step towards transparency, announcing today that all documents relating to upcoming meetings of the Board of Directors are being posted online in advance of the monthly meetings.
The posting of board meeting documents begins with the April meeting. Board agendas and minutes and have been posted for several years on Metra’s website. Today, for the first time, all supporting documents relating to agenda items were made available in advance on the website.
Those documents include regular monthly reports on Metra’s on-time performance, ridership, procurements, finances and website activity. They also include supporting documents for monthly consent agenda items covering proposed contracts for professional services, real estate and other matters. Documents relating to other one-time agenda items also will be available.
The change is just one of several that have been made at the agency under new CEO Alex Clifford, who came to Metra a little more than a year ago with a reform agenda. Increasing transparency was one of his priorities.
“Providing board materials prior to each board meeting allows the public time to view and comment on important strategic and operational issues under consideration at the agency,” Clifford said.
Metra also has added a hotline to the website for instructions and questions about filing Freedom of Information Act requests. The number is 312-663-FOIA (3642).
“Providing access to meeting documents prior to our monthly board meetings is another step in this agency’s journey toward greater transparency and accessibility,” said Acting Chairman Larry A. Huggins.  “Today’s announcement to publish board documents online provides opportunities for citizens, legislators and other interested parties to engage with Metra as we make policy decisions and guide the agency toward operational excellence.” 
Prior to today’s announcement, other changes to increase transparency and accessibility include:
  • Board members are being provided more information about agency activities and being asked for more guidance on major policy decisions.
  • The 2012 budget was reached in a lengthy, open and transparent process that gave riders and other stakeholders the time and opportunity to provide valuable input.
  • Metra created a website portal called “Obtaining Records from Metra,” which lists ways to file a Freedom of Information Act request or obtain various records.
  • Metra changed the way it calculates on-time performance so that the information is more accurate and meaningful to riders. It also began posting monthly on-time performance reports on its website.
  • Metra’s organizational chart was reconfigured, and the new chart was posted on our website so Metra workers, riders and the public could see how Metra is organized.
  • Metra has taken steps to make sure all employees are hired through a competitive and transparent process.
In addition to being good public policy, providing a wealth of information online means Metra can more easily and cost-effectively refer many FOIA requests to the website, rather than utilizing staff time and resources. It also means that citizens won’t have to file as many FOIA requests because the information already is publicly available. 
“Transparency increases public engagement with the agency, enhances the agency’s accountability and creates opportunities for citizens to participate in policymaking,” said Clifford.
Metra will continue to identify other opportunities to increase transparency, and use technology to make information about operations and decisions more transparent and accessible in the coming months.
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