What's on the next secretary of state's agenda
On Jan. 9, a new Illinois secretary of state will take office for the first time in a quarter-century.
Chicago Democrat and former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias will replace the iconic Jesse White, who's been on the job since 1999.
Among his top priorities is eliminating the "time tax" state residents pay to access simple government services, Giannoulias said in an interview last week.
His agenda, which is still under review by a transition team, prioritizes developing digital licenses and state IDs that can be accessed by smartphones to cut costs and wait times.
"This is not a new technology; this already exists and other states are doing it," Giannoulias said, pointing to Arizona, which offers a Mobile ID program. "We know for a fact, having digital IDs and digital driver's licenses will eliminate the lines and the backlog because it allows people's IDs and driver's licenses to be renewed and uploaded virtually."
He also contends it would reduce counterfeiting.
A physical driver's license still would be available for drivers who don't have devices or prefer the status quo.
Another change that could save drivers time is instituting two-year vehicle stickers.
Giannoulias' transition team is "looking at stickers having a longer life span so that people aren't renewing them every single year," he said. "It would help reduce backlog with less paperwork every 12 months."
Another update would be electronic car titles.
"Now if you buy a vehicle, it might take a couple of weeks to get car titles," Giannoulias said.
An electronic option, available in Wisconsin, could be a "game-changer" for consumers and reduce administration costs, Giannoulias said. Residents could still opt for a paper copy.
What about drab driver's license offices that exude an ambience best described as utilitarian chic?
"We want to have a welcoming environment that looks clean and efficient -- keeping in mind the state is struggling financially and you don't want to spend money you don't have," Giannoulias said.
He hopes money saved by technical innovations could be used to spruce up facilities.
Illinois doesn't require helmets for motorcyclists, a safety precaution Giannoulias supported during the campaign and still does. He's turning to advisers to "do a study and talk to every impacted group and come up with a final answer on what should be done."
Giannoulias has recruited a transition team that includes state Rep. Bob Morgan of Deerfield, Streamwood-based auto dealer Bob Loquercio and Lake County Democrats Chair Lauren Beth Gash. Also on board is state Rep. Dan Brady, the Bloomington Republican who ran against him in November.
"I could not be more excited to get in office and make some of these changes," Giannoulias said.
He's asking Illinoisans for suggestions at revupillinois.com.
You should know
The American Civil Liberties Union weighed in on digital driver's licenses in a report, saying they could improve privacy by empowering ID holders to decide what information to share. They're also more convenient and can thwart thieves, the ACLU noted.
But "if not done just right, digital driver's licenses could be disastrous for privacy, increase inequity and lead to pervasive ID checks in American life," analysts said.
The innovation should not give law enforcement carte blanche to search people's devices, hold records of digital ID checks in a database or let DMVs remotely revoke licenses, the ACLU contends.
One more thing
O'Hare International Airport canteens have come a long way from dispensing Old Style to travelers in divey bars.
"Global Traveler" magazine awarded ORD the "Best Airport Dining" title for the third year in a row, the Chicago Department of Aviation reported last week. O'Hare also snagged "Best Airport in North America" honors for the 19th year.
Typically we ask for readers to opine or ask questions about transportation in this column. But this week, there's a twist in aid of a holiday feature. If you've ever experienced a meltdown assembling a Christmas toy or finding a high-demand one, please advise at email@example.com.