Independent political consultant Mike Fourcher and attorney Jay Paul Deratany actually think the relationships and decisions of local politicians should be open and clear for the public to see.
“We’d like to bring some light to the back room deals,” says Deratany, who last winter lost an insurgent bid for the Cook County Board of Review. “So many times people don't have the information they need—they just have the spin put on by a politician or advocacy group.”
Sounds like the pleasant dreams of reformer types—except that these guys are serious enough about it to have logged hundreds of hours producing cloutwiki.org, a new reference site that offers political bios and connecting links for dozens of local politicians.
The two put together a team of journalists and political activists who over the last few months compiled an assortment of facts about Chicago aldermen, Cook County board commissioners, and area congressmen. The site, just launched, is still “a work in progress,” by Deratany’s own admission (or a “labor of masochism,” by Fourcher’s). Only a handful of the entries about county board members are complete, for instance, but Fourcher and Deratany say they’re planning to fill in the blanks—and expand the site’s reach—with input from readers. “We can’t wait for people to start checking our facts,” Fourcher says. But unlike, say, wikipedia, the content on the site will be controlled pretty carefully. Submissions and suggestions are welcome, but the entries won’t be open for public editing.
For critics of Machine politics, the writing on the site is pretty matter-of-fact and free of spin. Fourcher and Deratany say that at some point they may create a related “reformist” site that’s got a more overt political message, but they say they want the information on cloutwiki.org to speak for itself.
That doesn’t mean they gloss over any bullshit. The entry on 12th Ward alderman George Cardenas, for example, bluntly notes that he’s “earned a reputation as a quiet and regular vote for Mayor Daley” and points out that while his own Web site claims he has experience working for Fortune 500 companies, “the nature of that experience is unclear.” Tom Tunney, the Daley loyalist who represents an independent-minded 44th Ward, "has worked to make few waves and to split the difference whenever he can." County board president Todd Stroger, meanwhile, "is the beneficiary of a carefully crafted political legacy created by his father, the late 8th Ward boss and Cook County Board President, John Stroger."