Chicago City Council
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 Chicago City Council is gaveled into session regularly (usually monthly) to consider ordinances, orders, and resolutions whose subject matter includes traffic code changes, utilities, taxes, and many other issues. The presiding officer of the Chicago City Council is the Mayor of Chicago. The secretary is the City Clerk of Chicago. Both positions are popularly elected offices.
The Chicago City Council Chambers are located in Chicago City Hall. Also located in the building are the downtown offices of the individual aldermen and staff.
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 19 committees routinely violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act over a four-month period, 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 $5.3M in 1986.
Chicago's aldermen are generally given exceptional deference, called "aldermanic privilege," to control city decisions and services within their ward. Aldermanic privilege includes "zoning, licenses, permits, property-tax reductions, city contracts and patronage jobs"; political scientists have suggested that this facilitates corruption. The system has been described as "50 aldermen serving essentially as mayors of 50 wards."
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, 2012, the first 100 days of the first term of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, 2,845 ordinances and orders were introduced to the Council.
Aldermanic elections are nonpartisan; party affiliations below are informational only.
* Year of appointment, not first election
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- Chicago City Council
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