Chicago City Council
Chicago City Council
President Pro Tempore
since May 2019
Anna M. Valencia
since January 2017
|Committees||See Standing Committees|
Length of term
|Council Chambers in Chicago City Hall|
The Chicago City Council is the legislative branch of the government of the City of Chicago in Illinois. It consists of 50 aldermen elected from 50 wards to serve four-year terms. The council is gaveled into session regularly, usually monthly, to consider ordinances, orders, and resolutions whose subject matter includes code changes, utilities, taxes, and many other issues. The Chicago City Council Chambers are located in Chicago City Hall, as are the downtown offices of the individual aldermen and staff.
The presiding officer of the council is the Mayor of Chicago. The secretary is the City Clerk of Chicago. Both positions are city-wide elected offices. In the absence of the mayor, an alderman elected to the position of President Pro Tempore serves as the presiding officer.
Established in 1837 as the Common Council and renamed to the "City Council" in 1876, it assumed its modern form of 50 wards electing one alderman each in 1923.
Aldermanic elections are officially nonpartisan; party affiliations below are informational only. Council members also self-organize into caucuses, or blocs that address particular issues. Active caucuses include the Progressive Reform Caucus, the Black Caucus, the Latino Caucus, the LGBT Caucus, and the Socialist Caucus.
The city council is internally organized into subject-specific standing committees. Once proposed legislation is drafted, it is assigned to a specific standing committee. After a heading and deliberation process, the committee votes on whether to report the proposed legislation to the full council, along with recommendations.
The committees are created, and their leaders and members are selected, through a resolution passed by the whole council. Historically, mayors have played a central role selected committee chairs. As of May 2019, there are 18 standing committees in the council, whose chairmen and vice-chairmen are as follows:
|Aviation||Matthew O'Shea||Derrick Curtis|
|Budget and Government Operations||Pat Dowell||Debra Silverstein|
|Committees and Rules||Michelle A. Harris||Anthony Napolitano, |
|Contract Oversight and Equity||Carrie Austin||David H. Moore|
|Economic, Capital, and Technology Development||Gilbert Villegas||Gregory Mitchell|
|Education and Child Development||Michael Scott Jr.||Sophia King|
|Ethics and Government Oversight||Michele Smith||Matt Martin|
|Environmental Protection and Energy||George Cardenas||Samantha Nugent|
|Finance||Scott Waguespack||Leslie Hairston|
|Housing and Real Estate||Harry Osterman||Walter Burnett Jr.|
|Human Relations and Health||Roderick Sawyer||James Cappleman|
|License and Consumer Protection||Emma Mitts||Brian Hopkins|
|Public Safety||Chris Taliaferro||Harry Osterman|
|Special Events, Cultural Affairs, and Recreation||Nicholas Sposato||Andre Vasquez|
|Pedestrian and Traffic Safety||Walter Burnett Jr.||Roberto Maldonado|
|Transportation and Public Way||Howard Brookins||Michael Rodriguez|
|Workforce Development||Susan Sadlowski Garza||Jason Ervin|
|Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards||Tom Tunney||Ariel Reboyras|
Chicago has been divided into wards since 1837, beginning with 6 wards. Until 1923, each ward elected two members to the city council. In 1923, the system that exists today was adopted with 50 wards, each with one council member elected by the ward. In accordance with Illinois state law, ward borders must be shifted after every federal census. This law is intended to give the population of the ward equal representation based by the size of the population of Chicago.
Chicago is unusual among major United States cities in the number of wards and representative aldermen that it maintains. It has been noted that the current ward system promotes diverse ethnic and cultural representation on the city council.
Chicago City Council Chambers has long been the center of public corruption in Chicago. The first conviction of Chicago aldermen and Cook County Commissioners for accepting bribes to rig a crooked contract occurred in 1869. Between 1972 and 1999, 26 current or former Chicago aldermen were convicted for official corruption. Between 1973 and 2012, 31 aldermen were convicted of corruption. Approximately 100 aldermen served in that period, which is a conviction rate of about one-third.
Fourteen of the Chicago's City Council's nineteen committees routinely violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act during the last four months of 2007 by not keeping adequate written records of their meetings. Chicago City Council committees violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act and their own rules by meeting and taking actions without a quorum at least four times over the same four-month span.
Less than half of the Council's 28 committees met more than six times in 1986. The budget for Council committees was $5.3 million in 1986.
Chicago aldermen are elected by popular vote every four years, on the last Tuesday in February. A run-off election, in the event that no candidate garners more than fifty percent of the vote, is held on the first Tuesday in April. The election is held on a non-partisan basis. New terms begin at noon on the third Monday in May following the election.
Authority and roles
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The council, in conjunction with the Mayor of Chicago, hears recommendations from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and then may grant individual properties Chicago Landmark status. The Council also has the power to redraw ward boundaries, resulting in the heavily gerrymandered map seen today.
The Journal of the Proceedings of the City Council of the City of Chicago is the official publication of the acts of the City Council. The Municipal Code of Chicago is the codification of Chicago's local ordinances of a general and permanent nature. Between May 18, 2011 and August, 2011, the first 100 days of the first term of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, 2,845 ordinances and orders were introduced to the Council.
Chicago's aldermen are generally given exceptional deference, called "aldermanic privilege" or "aldermanic prerogative", to control city decisions and services within their ward. This is an unwritten and informal practice that emerged in the early 20th century and gives alderman control over "zoning, licenses, permits, property-tax reductions, city contracts and patronage jobs" in their wards. Political scientists have suggested that this facilitates corruption. The system has been described as "50 aldermen serving essentially as mayors of 50 wards."
- Council Wars, a period of conflict within the City Council
- Cook County Board of Commissioners
- Workingmen's Party of Illinois
- 11th Ward, Chicago
- Aldermanic elections in Chicago
- List of Chicago aldermen since 1923
- Aldermanic elections are officially nonpartisan; party affiliations are informational only.
- Main community areas overlapping with the ward. Only community areas that make up 20% of the area of the ward or more are listed.
- Year of appointment, not of first election.
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- Chicago City Council
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- Chicago City Council calendar from the City Clerk of Chicago
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- Journal of the Proceedings (c. 1908) from Google Books
- Chicago City Council meeting reports from the City Clerk of Chicago
- Map of Chicago Wards
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