Chicago City Council

Chicago City Council Chambers in 2012
The Chicago City Council Chambers are located in Chicago City Hall. (postcard from 1914)

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.[1] 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.


Map of city of Chicago ward system in 1904. Wards with lower populations have larger boundaries. External link: current map of Chicago wards

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.[2]

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.[3]


Chicago City Council Chambers has long been the center of public corruption in Chicago.[4][5] The first conviction of Chicago aldermen and Cook County Commissioners for accepting bribes to rig a crooked contract occurred in 1869.[4] Between 1972 and 1999, 26 current or former Chicago aldermen were convicted for official corruption.[6][7][8] 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.[4][9]

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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12]

Over half of elected Chicago aldermen took illegal campaign contributions totalling $282,000 in 2013.[13][14][15]


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.

Chicago's aldermen are generally given exceptional deference, called "aldermanic privilege," to control city decisions and services within their ward.[16][17] Aldermanic privilege includes "zoning, licenses, permits, property-tax reductions, city contracts and patronage jobs"; political scientists have suggested that this facilitates corruption.[18] The system has been described as "50 aldermen serving essentially as mayors of 50 wards."[19]


Further information: Law of Illinois

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.[20] The Municipal Code of Chicago is the codification of Chicago's local ordinances of a general and permanent nature.[20][21] 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.[22]

Chicago aldermen

  Democratic: 48 seats
  Republican: 1 seat
  Vacant: 1 seat

Below is a list of current Chicago aldermen.[23] The last election was held on February 24, 2015.

Aldermanic elections are officially nonpartisan; party affiliations below are informational only.

Ward Name Took Office Party
1 Proco Joe Moreno 2010* Dem
2 Brian Hopkins 2015 Dem
3 Pat Dowell 2007 Dem
4 Sophia King 2016* Dem
5 Leslie Hairston 1999 Dem
6 Roderick Sawyer 2011 Dem
7 Gregory Mitchell 2015 Dem
8 Michelle A. Harris 2006* Dem
9 Anthony Beale 1999 Dem
10 Susie Sadlowski Garza 2015 Dem
11 Patrick Daley Thompson 2015 Dem
12 George Cardenas 2003 Dem
13 Marty Quinn 2011 Dem
14 Edward M. Burke 1969 Dem
15 Raymond Lopez 2015 Dem
16 Toni Foulkes 2007 Dem
17 David Moore 2015 Dem
18 Derrick Curtis 2015 Dem
19 Matthew O'Shea 2011 Dem
20 Willie Cochran 2007 Dem
21 Howard Brookins Jr. 2003 Dem
22 Ricardo Muñoz 1993* Dem
23 Michael Zalewski 1995 Dem
24 Michael Scott, Jr. 2015 Dem
25 Daniel Solis 1996* Dem
26 Roberto Maldonado 2009* Dem
27 Walter Burnett, Jr. 1995 Dem
28 Jason Ervin 2011* Dem
29 Chris Taliaferro 2015 Dem
30 Ariel Reboyras 2003 Dem
31 Milly Santiago 2015 Dem
32 Scott Waguespack 2007 Dem
33 Deb Mell 2013* Dem
34 Carrie Austin 1994* Dem
35 Carlos Ramirez-Rosa 2015 Dem
36 Gilbert Villegas 2015 Dem
37 Emma Mitts 2000* Dem
38 Nicholas Sposato 2011 Dem
39 Margaret Laurino 1994* Dem
40 Patrick J. O'Connor 1983 Dem
41 Anthony Napolitano 2015 Rep
42 Brendan Reilly 2007 Dem
43 Michele Smith 2011 Dem
44 Thomas M. Tunney 2002* Dem
45 John Arena 2011 Dem
46 James Cappleman 2011 Dem
47 Ameya Pawar 2011 Dem
48 Harry Osterman 2011 Dem
49 Joe Moore 1991 Dem
50 Debra Silverstein 2011 Dem

* Year of appointment, not first election

See also


  1. "65 ILCS 20/ Revised Cities and Villages Act of 1941.". Illinois General Assembly – Illinois Compiled Statutes. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  2. "Ward System". Retrieved 2015-04-13.
  3. "Why Chicago Has 50 Aldermen". NBC Chicago. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 Simpson, Dick; Nowlan, James; Gradel, Thomas J.; Mouritsen Zmuda, Melissa; Sterrett, David; Cantor, Douglas (2012-02-15). "Chicago and Illinois, Leading the Pack in Corruption; Anti-Corruption Report Number 5" (PDF). University of Illinois at Chicago Department of Political Science. Retrieved 2012-02-15.
  5. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. Reardon, Patrick T. (1999-01-31). "Aldermen Rogues' Gallery Opens '99 Wing; Jones Is 25th City Council Member Convicted Since 1972". Chicago Tribune.
  7. Gradel, Thomas J.; Simpson, Dick; Zimelis, Andris (2009-02-03). "Curing Corruption In Illinois: Anti-Corruption Report #1" (PDF). University of Illinois at Chicago Department of Political Science. Retrieved 2009-02-23.
  8. Bogira, Steve (2012-01-27). "Aldermanic rap sheet". Chicago Reader.
  9. "Chicago's 'hall of shame'". Chicago Tribune. 2012-02-24.
  10. Christoffer, Erica; Schlikerman, Becky (2008-05-19). "Off the Record: Chicago City Council Committees Evade The Law, Experts Say". Chicagotalks.
  11. Christoffer, Erica; Schlikerman, Becky (2008-05-19). "Out of Order: Council Committees Evade The Law". The Beachwood Reporter.
  12. Lipinski, Ann Marie; Baquet, Dean (1987-10-05). "Committees Work A Little And Spend A Lot". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-10-06.
  16. "Curious City: What duties Chicago alderman are responsible for – WBEZ 91.5 Chicago".
  17. Aldermanic Privilege. Christopher Thale, Encyclopedia of Chicago.
  18. "Crony chronicles: Aldermanic privilege – Prohibition, prostitution and Chicago's mini-fiefdoms". Illinois Policy – An independent government watchdog.
  19. "Chicago City Council; budget; parking meters". tribunedigital-chicagotribune.
  20. 1 2 Julia Ellis, Chicago City Clerk Legislative Counsel (20 November 2013). The Making of Chicago City Law – How It Works. OpenGov Foundation / YouTube. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  21. Chicago City Council Journal of 27 June 1990, p. 17764
  22. Dumke, Mick (2011-08-30). "New City Council, just about the same as the old City Council". Retrieved 2-12-10-08. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)

External links

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