Illinois: Wear your jammies while participating in Tollway meetings

| November 3, 2009

If you want to see where the money is going for more than $6 billion in roadway projects in Illinois, you will now be able to see it online from the comfort of your office or home.

Taking the lead from other public agencies, the Illinois Tollway Authority is providing direct access to its monthly Board of Directors meeting and committee meetings via live Webcasts, the agency announced on Oct. 29.

However, the live Webcasts are limited to the first 100 people who sign on. Live Webcasts of Tollway Board meetings are available through the Tollway Web site, with availability limited to the first 100 people who sign on.

Those who are unable to view the live Webcast will be able to download an audio file of the Webcast three business days following the Board Meeting. Minutes also will be available after the following month’s board meeting, and copies of the Webcast video also will be made available upon request.

The online video broadcast initiative is currently in beta testing, with users encouraged to provide feedback on their experience through the Tollway Web site at www.illinoistollway.com.

“By making Tollway Board of Directors Meetings available to the public online, we are demonstrating our commitment to transparency and accountability to our customers,” said acting Executive Director Michael King in a written statement from the agency. “The Tollway already provides information regarding contracts and expenditures to the public through our Web site in an effort to keep the public informed of how the Tollway conducts business.”

This could be good news for a public agency that’s been riddled with scandal because it lets the public into what otherwise seemed to be very difficult meetings to be included in.

However, Dick Simpson, head of the political science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in a Chicago Tribune newspaper report that the Tollway Authority is not breaking new ground with its Webcasts.

The Chicago City Council and many suburban village board meetings are Webcast, and others are broadcast on cable. Simpson said in the Tribune report that he thinks that the Webcast archive should have video instead of just audio.

“They are making a positive move forward on this,” but, “there’s no reason they shouldn’t do it right,” Simpson said in the newspaper report.

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