Chicago City Council

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Chicago City Council
Seal of Chicago, Illinois.png
Founded 1837
Lori Lightfoot, Democratic
since May 2019
President Pro Tempore
Brendan Reilly
since May 2019
Anna M. Valencia
since January 2017
Seats 50
Chicago City Council composition
Political groups
Committees See Standing Committees
Length of term
4 years
Two-round system
Last election
Next election
Meeting place
Chicago City Council Chambers.jpg
Council Chambers in Chicago City Hall
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 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.[2][3]

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.


Below is a list of current Chicago aldermen, who were elected in the 2019 Chicago aldermanic elections.[4] The current term began on May 20, 2019.[5] Aldermanic elections are officially nonpartisan; party affiliations below are informational only.

Council members also self-organize into caucuses, or blocs that address particular issues.[6] Active caucuses include the Progressive Reform Caucus, the Black Caucus, the Latino Caucus, the LGBT Caucus, and the Socialist Caucus.[7][6]

Ward Name Took Office Party/political organization[a]
1 Daniel La Spata 2019 Democratic Socialist
2 Brian Hopkins 2015 Democratic
3 Pat Dowell 2007 Democratic
4 Sophia King 2016[b] Democratic
5 Leslie Hairston 1999 Democratic
6 Roderick Sawyer 2011 Democratic
7 Gregory Mitchell 2015 Democratic
8 Michelle A. Harris 2006[b] Democratic
9 Anthony Beale 1999 Democratic
10 Susan Sadlowski Garza 2015 Democratic
11 Patrick Daley Thompson 2015 Democratic
12 George Cardenas 2003 Democratic
13 Marty Quinn 2011 Democratic
14 Edward M. Burke 1969 Democratic
15 Raymond Lopez 2015 Democratic
16 Stephanie Coleman 2019 Democratic
17 David H. Moore 2015 Democratic
18 Derrick Curtis 2015 Democratic
19 Matthew O'Shea 2011 Democratic
20 Jeanette B. Taylor 2019 Democratic Socialist
21 Howard Brookins Jr. 2003 Democratic
22 Michael Rodriguez 2019 Democratic
23 Silvana Tabares 2018[b] Democratic
24 Michael Scott, Jr. 2015 Democratic
25 Byron Sigcho-Lopez 2019 Democratic Socialist
26 Roberto Maldonado 2009[b] Democratic
27 Walter Burnett, Jr. 1995 Democratic
28 Jason Ervin 2011[b] Democratic
29 Chris Taliaferro 2015 Democratic
30 Ariel Reboyras 2003 Democratic
31 Felix Cardona Jr. 2019 Independent
32 Scott Waguespack 2007 Democratic
33 Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez 2019 Democratic Socialist
34 Carrie Austin 1994[b] Democratic
35 Carlos Ramirez-Rosa 2015 Democratic Socialist
36 Gilbert Villegas 2015 Democratic
37 Emma Mitts 2000[b] Democratic
38 Nicholas Sposato 2011 Independent
39 Samantha Nugent 2019 Democratic
40 Andre Vasquez 2019 Democratic Socialist
41 Anthony Napolitano 2015 Republican
42 Brendan Reilly 2007 Democratic
43 Michele Smith 2011 Democratic
44 Thomas M. Tunney 2002[b] Democratic
45 Jim Gardiner 2019 Independent
46 James Cappleman 2011 Democratic
47 Matt Martin 2019 Democratic
48 Harry Osterman 2011 Democratic
49 Maria Hadden 2019 Independent/Democratic
50 Debra Silverstein 2011 Democratic

Standing committees

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.[8]

The committees are created, and their leaders and members are selected, through a resolution passed by the whole council.[9] Historically, mayors have played a central role selected committee chairs.[10][11] As of May 2019, there are 18 standing committees in the council, whose chairmen and vice-chairmen are as follows:[12]

Committee Chair Vice-chair(s)
Aviation Matthew O'Shea Derrick Curtis
Budget and Government Operations Pat Dowell Debra Silverstein
Committees and Rules Michelle A. Harris Anthony Napolitano,
Matthew O'Shea,
Gilbert Villegas
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


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.[13]

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.[14]


Chicago City Council Chambers has long been the center of public corruption in Chicago.[15][16] The first conviction of Chicago aldermen and Cook County Commissioners for accepting bribes to rig a crooked contract occurred in 1869.[15] Between 1972 and 1999, 26 current or former Chicago aldermen were convicted for official corruption.[17][18][19] 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.[15][20]

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.[21] 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.[22]

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.[23]

Over half of elected Chicago aldermen took illegal campaign contributions totalling $282,000 in 2013.[24][25][26]


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.[5]

Authority and roles

Richard M. Daley in Chicago City Council chambers in 2008

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.[27] The Municipal Code of Chicago is the codification of Chicago's local ordinances of a general and permanent nature.[27][28] 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.[29]

Aldermanic privilege

Chicago's aldermen are generally given exceptional deference, called "aldermanic privilege" or "aldermanic prerogative", to control city decisions and services within their ward.[30][31] 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.[32][33] Political scientists have suggested that this facilitates corruption.[32][33] The system has been described as "50 aldermen serving essentially as mayors of 50 wards."[34]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Aldermanic elections are officially nonpartisan; party affiliations are informational only.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Year of appointment, not of first election.


  1. ^ "65 ILCS 20/ Revised Cities and Villages Act of 1941". Illinois General Assembly – Illinois Compiled Statutes. Archived from the original on 17 April 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  2. ^ g.angelo (2015-09-21). "About City Government & the Chicago City Council". City Clerk of Chicago. Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  3. ^ Pratt, John Byrne, Juan Perez Jr , Gregory. "Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot aces first test of her power: City Council overhaul approved". Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  4. ^ Hinton, Rachel (20 May 2019). "MEET THE NEW CITY COUNCIL A new mayor and a dozen new aldermen take their seats Monday. Here's everything you need to know about all 50 wards". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  5. ^ a b "State of Illinois Candidate's Guide 2019" (PDF). State Board of Elections. 6 August 2018. p. 32. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  6. ^ a b "City Council Caucus Chairs on Chicago's Future". WTTW News. 2019-07-03. Retrieved 2019-07-25.
  7. ^ Joravsky, Mick Dumke, Ben. "The real caucuses in the Chicago City Council". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
  8. ^ "Chicago City Council". Better Government Association. 2019-02-12. Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  9. ^ g.angelo (2015-09-21). "About City Government & the Chicago City Council". City Clerk of Chicago. Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  10. ^ Dumke, Mick (2019-05-15). "At Chicago's City Council, Committees Are Used to Reward Political Favors and Fund Patronage". ProPublica. Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  11. ^ Pratt, John Byrne, Juan Perez Jr , Gregory. "Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot aces first test of her power: City Council overhaul approved". Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  12. ^ Office of the City Clerk (2019-05-29). "Appointment of chairmen, vice-chairmen and members of standing committees of City Council for Years 2019-2023". Resolution #R2019-345. Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  13. ^ "Ward System". Archived from the original on 2015-02-23. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
  14. ^ "Why Chicago Has 50 Aldermen". NBC Chicago. Archived from the original on 1 August 2015. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  15. ^ a b c 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. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-12-02. Retrieved 2012-02-15. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. ^ Grossman, Ron (2013-07-31). "Chicago political history rife with nepotism, aldermanic dynasties". Chicago Tribune. Tronc, Inc. Archived from the original on 2014-01-06. Retrieved 2017-07-29.
  17. ^ Reardon, Patrick T. (1999-01-31). "Aldermen Rogues' Gallery Opens '99 Wing; Jones Is 25th City Council Member Convicted Since 1972". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 2013-09-16.
  18. ^ 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. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2009-03-26. Retrieved 2009-02-23. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  19. ^ Bogira, Steve (2012-01-27). "Aldermanic rap sheet". Chicago Reader. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02.
  20. ^ "Chicago's 'hall of shame'". Chicago Tribune. 2012-02-24. Archived from the original on 2012-02-26.
  21. ^ Christoffer, Erica; Schlikerman, Becky (2008-05-19). "Off the Record: Chicago City Council Committees Evade The Law, Experts Say". Chicagotalks. Archived from the original on 2012-02-03.
  22. ^ Christoffer, Erica; Schlikerman, Becky (2008-05-19). "Out of Order: Council Committees Evade The Law". The Beachwood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2012-03-01.
  23. ^ Lipinski, Ann Marie; Baquet, Dean (1987-10-05). "Committees Work A Little And Spend A Lot". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 2013-12-07. Retrieved 2012-10-06.
  24. ^ "FBI seizes files as Chicago aldermen oust oversight". 17 November 2015. Archived from the original on 7 May 2018. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  25. ^ "Report: Aldermen Got $282,000 in Illegal Campaign Contributions in 2013". Archived from the original on 18 November 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  26. ^ "More than half of Chicago aldermen took illegal campaign cash in 2013". Archived from the original on 27 May 2017. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  27. ^ a b Julia Ellis, Chicago City Clerk Legislative Counsel (20 November 2013). The Making of Chicago City Law – How It Works. OpenGov Foundation / YouTube. Archived from the original on 20 January 2014. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  28. ^ Chicago City Council Journal of 27 June 1990 Archived 3 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine, p. 17764
  29. ^ Dumke, Mick (2011-08-30). "New City Council, just about the same as the old City Council". Chicago Reader. Wrapports LLC. Archived from the original on 2017-07-29. Retrieved 2017-07-29.
  30. ^ "Curious City: What duties Chicago alderman are responsible for – WBEZ 91.5 Chicago". Archived from the original on 2015-03-31.
  31. ^ Aldermanic Privilege. Archived 2015-03-17 at the Wayback Machine Christopher Thale, Encyclopedia of Chicago.
  32. ^ a b "Crony chronicles: Aldermanic privilege – Prohibition, prostitution and Chicago's mini-fiefdoms". Illinois Policy – An independent government watchdog. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02.
  33. ^ a b Sisson, Patrick (2019-05-31). "How aldermanic privilege shaped Chicago". Curbed Chicago. Retrieved 2019-06-04.
  34. ^ "Chicago City Council; budget; parking meters". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02.

External links

  • Chicago City Council
  • Chicago City Council legislation from the City Clerk of Chicago
  • Chicago City Council calendar from the City Clerk of Chicago
  • Journal of the Proceedings (c. 1981–present) from the City Clerk of Chicago
  • Journal of the Proceedings (c. 1908) from Google Books
  • Chicago City Council meeting reports from the City Clerk of Chicago
  • Map of Chicago Wards
  • Your City Council: Who's who and what they can do from the Chicago Reader
  • The Untold Stories of Alderman Don Parrillo by Anthony DeBartolo, Hyde Park Media
  • Chicago City Council archive at the Chicago Reader
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