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Report: Chicago, New York and San Francisco lead the nation in online transparency

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Three of America's largest cities – Chicago, New York and San Francisco – stand out as leaders in online transparency, earning "A" grades, according to a report (.pdf) from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. These cities "lead the pack in delivering easy-to-access, encompassing information on government spending,"  states the report, which examines online spending transparency for 30 of the most populous metropolitan areas in the United States.

Twelve scoring criteria from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund measure the breadth of information each city provides online and the information's searchability. These criteria include how well cities enable residents to make and track service requests on-line. Based on these findings, each city receives a number grade from zero to 100 and a corresponding letter grade.

Currently, 17 of America's 30 most populous cities provide online databases of government expenditures with "checkbook-level" detail that are searchable, making it easier for residents to follow the money and monitor government spending. However, the report finds that two cities – Chicago and New York – are "models for how cities should make spending data accessible to the public."

While San Francisco is the third city earning an "A" range grade by providing its residents with a broad range of government spending data, the report concludes that the City by the Bay "needs to centralize all spending information and deepen its commitment to providing information on tax expenditures." Nevertheless, all three cities allow residents to monitor their city's responses to all service requests submitted online and to access service request data through a download feature or application programming interface.

Five cities – Baltimore, Cincinnati, Denver, San Antonio and Washington, D.C. – earn "B" grades from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund by making government spending information available online. However, the report states that the data are either slightly more limited or more difficult to access than the spending data that Chicago, New York and San Francisco provide.

At the other end of the grading range, five cities in the report receive "F" grades – Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Sacramento and St. Louis – and provide very little information beyond the data on the budget and Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, a document that reports on a city's actual spending and financial solvency. These failing cities also do not provide on-line checkbooks of their city's expenses "keeping citizens in the dark on which companies and non-profits receive taxpayer funds," the report states.

For more:
-read the report, "Transparency in City Spending" (.pdf)

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