Chicago, Illinois

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Chicago is the largest city in the state of Illinois. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, Chicago's population was 2,695,598.[1]


The 2011 projected budget was $2,731,796,000.[2] The projected shortfall in 2011 is $654.7 million due to decreased revenues since 2004 and lost $1.15 billion in tax revenues since 2007.

Chicago has also posted 90,000 city contracts online, dating back to 1993.[3]

Healthcare costs

A mayoral commission confirmed that taxpayers cannot afford to subsidize retiree health care at existing levels. The Retiree Healthcare Commission’s report cites a series of factors that demand a solution to the $108.7 million-a-year burden on Chicago taxpayers. The report does not recommend any specific option, but simply describes an escalating burden for Chicago taxpayers. The number of city retirees is expected to rise from 36,712 currently to 47,345 by 2023.[4]

The report shows how much more money retirees would have to pay under different funding scenarios. Examples include:[5]

  • A single employee eligible for Medicare now paying $73 per month under the current 55% city support level would see monthly premiums rise to $193 if taxpayer support were reduced to 16%.
  • Single employees not eligible for Medicare would go from paying $295 to $632 a month.
  • A retiree and spouse, both ineligible for Medicare, would see their monthly costs rise from $1,147 currently to $1,484 if city support were reduced to 16%.


Chicago received $1,360,904,875 of federal stimulus money.[6]

Bond rating

In November 2013, Fitch Ratings lowered $8 billion of Chicago's unlimiated tax general obligation (ULTGO) bonds from "AA-" to "A-." Another $497.3 million in sales tax bonds were also decreased from AA- to A, while $200 million in commercial paper notes were downgraded from A to BBB. According to the Fitch report, its ratings outlook for the city's securities is "negative."[7]

Elected officials

  • In addition to the mayor, the city-wide elected officials are the city clerk and the city treasurer.[8]
  • The Office of the Mayor includes contact information and news announcements.[9]
  • The Office of the City Clerk includes contact information, press releases and council news.[10]
  • The Office of the City Treasurer includes contact information and tabs for small business, personal finances and FAQs.[11]

Public employee salaries

Main article: Chicago employee salaries
Name Position Salary[12]
Rahm Emanuel Mayor $216,210
Stephanie Neely City Clerk $133,545
Susan Mendoza City Treasurer $133,545
Joe Moreno Alderman $ 106,644
Pat Dowell Alderman $110,556
William Burns Alderman $108,086
Robert Fioretti Alderman $104,101
Leslie Hairston Alderman $110,556
Roderick Sawyer Alderman $108,086
Sandi Jackson Alderman $110,556
Michelle Harris Alderman $110,556
Anthony Beale Alderman $110,556
John Pope Alderman $ 106,644
James Balcer Alderman $104,101
George Cardenas Alderman $110,556
Marty Quinn Alderman $108,086
Ed Burke Alderman $108,086
Toni Foulkes Alderman $110,556
JoAnn Thompson Alderman $110,556
Latasha Thomas Alderman $110,556
Lona Lane Alderman $110,556
Matthew O’Shea Alderman $108,086
Willie Cochran Alderman $110,556
Howard Brookins Jr. Alderman $110,556
Ricardo Munoz Alderman $108,086
Michael Zalewski Alderman $110,556
Michael Chandler Alderman $108,086
Daniel Solis Alderman $108,086
Roberto Maldonado Alderman $110,556
Walter Burnett, Jr. Alderman $108,086
Jason Ervin Alderman $108,086
Deborah Graham Alderman $108,086
Ariel E. Reboyras Alderman $110,556
Ray Suarez Alderman $110,556
Scott Waguespack Alderman $104,101
Richard Mell Alderman $110,556
Carrie Austin Alderman $110,556
Rey Colon Alderman $110,556
Nicholas Sposato Alderman $108,086
Emma Mitts Alderman $110,556
Timothy Cullerton Alderman $108,086
Margaret Laurino Alderman $110,556
Patrick O’Connor Alderman $110,556
Mary O’Connor Alderman $108,086
Brendan Reilly Alderman $104,101
Michele Smith Alderman $108,086
Thomas Tunney Alderman $104,101
John Arena Alderman $108,086
James Cappleman Alderman $108,086
Ameya Pawar Alderman $108,086
Harry Osterman Alderman $108,086
Joseph Moore Alderman $110,556
Debra Silverstein Alderman $108,086

Full employee information and salaries

Salary information is included for specific positions and is broken down by department, although the name of the person holding the position is not included.[13]

Police sergeants reject contract

The sergeants' union voted 876-134 against a contract that would have given the sergeants a 9% raise over four years and upped their pension payouts, but the retirement age would have been raised, pension contributions upped and they would have been required to start paying a portion of retirement health care costs. A state law requires the city to pay more for police and fire pensions in 2016, which could cost the city approximately $600 million. Pensions payments are also expected to increase for Chicago teachers.[14][15]

Police union officials said the plan would reduce retirees' incomes too much and the compromise could damage other contract negotiations with the city.[16]


Main article: Illinois public pensions

According to a 2010 report published at Northwestern University, Chicago is one of the ten municipalities with the largest amount of unfunded pension liabilities. Nationwide there is $574 billion in unfunded pension liabilities for local pension plans, and this is in addition to the $3 trillion in debt facing state-sponsored pension plans. According to the report, the pension plans could be out of money as early at 2025. The Chicago Civic Federation reported unfunded liabilities for ten city and county pension funds grew sixfold during the last decade, with shortfalls nearing $27.4 billion. Coupled with state pensions, which have a shortfall of $83 billion, this would cost every Chicago resident $15,000 to fund the pensions.[17][18][19]

Chief Financial Officer Gene Saffold has said it would take $650 million a year for the next 40 years to run a healthy pension fund. He has also stated that currently only about 42% of the pension is funded, compared to past rates of 62% in 2008 and 80 percent in 1996.[20]

In 2010, then-mayor Richard M. Daley had expressed opposition to Governor Pat Quinn's planned tax increase and pension reform, saying it would lead to the biggest tax increase in Chicago history. Quinn's plan would have required municipalities to fund police and fire pensions up to 90% by 2040 or the state would be allowed to withhold sales tax and income tax from the cities. Daley said the plan would require a $550 million property tax hike in the city.[21]

Number of plans Liabilities, Stated Basis, June ’09 ($B) Liabilities (ABO), Treasury Rate Net Pension Assets ($B) Unfunded Liability ($B) Unfunded Liability / Revenue Unfunded Liability per Household ($)
7 46.3 66.6 21.8 44.8 763% 41,966

Aldermen's pensions

A 2012 analysis of a pension plan available to Chicago aldermen revealed that 21 aldermen who retired under the plan were in line to receive nearly $58 million during their expected lifetimes, though contributions and assumed investment returns were predicted to cover just $19 million, a third of that sum.[22]

Under the plan, aldermen and other elected city officials become eligible to receive up to 80% of the salaries they earned during their last month of work. All other employees in the municipal pension plan — including top managers — receive 70% of their average monthly salary over the previous four years. Aldermen can also reach the maximum benefit with just 20 years of service, compared with nearly 30 years for everyone else in the municipal pension plan.[23]

The Tribune/ WGN analysis showed the average payout to those aldermen was $81,000 a year. However, because they can retire at 55 and their pensions grow by 3% compounded annually, the average amount will eventually reach $165,000 a year.[24]

Proposed COLA change

Speaking before the Illinois legislature in 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called for implementing a pause on cost-of-living increases for ten years to allow the six systems "to catch [their] breath." He called for boosting employee contributions 1% each year for five years and offering employees a more limited choice of retirement plans. Emanuel said the cost-of-living pause is necessary because retirees are getting increases while current employees are unable to get similar increases. For example, a retiree making a $60,000 pension in 1995 is now receiving $100,000. After ten years, Emanuel said the plan would go to a simplified cost-of-living adjustment rather than annual compounded increases.[25]

Emanuel's reforms

Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott reminded council members in 2012 that absent significant changes to pension plans, the city would be forced to drastically cut services, raise taxes or do both to close a funding gap that could reach $700 million in just a few years, aldermen said. Absent a city pension overhaul, the fund for retired city firefighters would become insolvent in nine years, according to a city report issued two years ago. The police pension would go broke four years later. Funds for city laborers and municipal workers would be broke by 2030.[26]


An October 2011 report on the state of Illinois's economy compiled for Sen. Mark Kirk stated that, dividing state, city and county debt for every family in Chicago, the average family owes $78,000.[27]

Blagojevich Scandal

After more than two years, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was convicted of 17 of 20 public corruption charges on June 27, 2011 relating to his attempt to sell then-Senator Barack Obama's senate seat before he resigned to become President. The House Ethics Committee investigated another Illinois politician, U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. regarding allegations that he offered to raise campaign funds for Blagojevich in exchange for his appointment to the senator's seat.[28]


A 2010 audit of the Chicago Fire Department placed 80 out of 108 firefighters under internal investigation for falsifying their mileage reimbursement forms for their personal vehicles. The Inspector General has said the abuse could potentially have cost taxpayers "hundreds of thousands of dollars."[29]

Public records lawsuits and Open Chicago transparency initiative

  • Inspector General announced “Open Chicago” in March 2011 to enhance transparency in Chicago and Cook County.[30]
  • The “Crooked Code” initiative helps investigate the performance of government employees to ensure total transparency and reduce corruption. Phase One of the program resulted in the arrest of five Chicago employees for federal bribery charges.[31]
  • In July 2011, the Department of Justice joined Illinois public universities in defense of a ruling issued by the Seventh Circuit court in Chicago holding that federal privacy laws do not prohibit the release of identifiable educational records about students and their families, a case that originated from a Chicago Tribune FOIA request demanding parents’ names and addresses of students enrolled at an Illinois public university.[32]
  • In April 2011, a reporter filed suit against Chicago, Mayor Daley and two FOIA officers when the Chicago Police Department rejected his legitimate request for information.[33]
  • In January 2011, the Better Government Association filed suit against the Chicago Police Department for their refusal to release FOIA requests relating to the size and cost of the police security detail for one Chicago alderman, available to him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.[34]
  • Chicago State University’s former senior legal counsel, James Crowley, accused President Wayne Watson of withholding information sought under FOIA. Crowley was fired for releasing information to the press that Watson wanted to withhold. The information released questioned whether Watson was working and not volunteering when he sent contracts to friends in violation of SURS rules. Retribution for whistleblowing on Watson is hardly new. In 2009, Maria Moore, former manager of the PBS station at City Colleges of Chicago sued City Colleges alleging that Wayne Watson fired her in 2007 after she voiced concerns about the station being used for political purposes.[35].
  • In 2008, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request calling for Blagojevich to release details about a $2 billion lump-sum member initiative fund for vague projects that benefit lawmakers’ districts.[36]


Main article: Illinois government sector lobbying

The City of Chicago reported spending $84,000 with one lobbying firm in 2009.[37][38]

Website evaluation

Main article: Evaluation of Illinois city websites
Budget Y
600px-Yes check.png
Elected Officials Y
600px-Yes check.png
Administrative Officials P
Permits, zoning Y
600px-Yes check.png
Audits Y
600px-Yes check.png
Contracts Y
600px-Yes check.png
Lobbying P
Public Records Y
600px-Yes check.png
Local Taxes Y
600px-Yes check.png

School district websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process

The good

  • Budget
    • The most current budget is listed.
    • Budgets are archived for 30 years.[39]
  • Administrative officials
    • Department heads are listed for each department.[40]
    • Phone numbers can be found in the employee directory.[41]
  • Elected officials
    • Elected officials are listed with a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.[42]
  • Meetings
    • Meeting video or podcasts are available.[43]
    • Meeting agendas and minutes are posted and archived to 2010.
    • A meeting calendar is available and names the times and locations of public meetings.
  • Audits
    • The most recent audit is posted.
    • Audits dating back to 2005 are available.[44]
  • Contracts
    • Bids and RFPs are posted online.[45]
    • Approved contract statements are provided for vendors.[46]
  • Public records
    • The public information officer is identified and maintained by the FOIA Officer position. This person provides a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.
    • A public records form is provided.[47]
    • A fee schedule for documents is provided.
  • Taxes
    • Tax revenues are broken down by federal, state and local funding in the budget.
    • Local taxes, like property taxes, are available online.[48]
    • Residents are able to pay taxes online.
  • Permits and zoning
    • Zoning ordinances are posted online.[49]
    • Permit applications can be downloaded on the site, along with information on how to apply for the permits.[50]
  • Lobbying
    • A list of lobbyists who lobby city government is posted.[51]

The bad

  • Administrative officials
    • Personalized emails are not provided for administrative officials on department pages.
  • Lobbying
    • Whether the city engaged in lobbying actives or is a member of government lobbying associations are not disclosed, nor is the total cost of lobbying activities or membership dues for associations available.

See also

External links


  1. U.S. Census Chicago population
  2. Budget Projections
  3. Chicagoist, Emanuel Puts City Contracts Online, Aug. 5, 2011
  4. Chicago Sun Times, Chicago can’t afford retirees’ health care costs: panel, Jan. 14, 2013
  5. Chicago Sun Times, Chicago can’t afford retirees’ health care costs: panel, Jan. 14, 2013
  6. Federal Stimulus
  7. CNBC "Citing economy, pension worries, Fitch downgrades Chicago," November 11, 2013
  8. Elected Officials
  9. Mayor’s Office
  10. Office of City Clerk
  11. Office of City Treasurer
  12. Salary table
  13. Salary
  14. Chicago Tribune, Sergeants reject Emanuel pension blueprint, March 12, 2013
  15. Chicago Tribune, Sergeants reject Emanuel pension blueprint, March 12, 2013
  16. Chicago Tribune, Sergeants reject Emanuel pension blueprint, March 12, 2013
  17. MacIver Institute, City of Milwaukee Pension a Ticking Time Bomb According to Northwestern Study, Oct. 12, 2010
  18. Chicago Breaking News, New report details scope of public pension shortfalls, Feb. 10, 2011
  19. Chicago Tribune, Chicago area pension plans in debt by $27.4 billion, June 25, 2012
  20. Chicago Sun Times, City Council calls pension crisis a 'ticking time bomb', Oct. 19, 2010
  21. Global Economic Analysis, Chicago's Mayor Daley Discusses Bankruptcy For City Pensions, Dec. 11, 2010
  22. Chicago Tribune, Generous rules govern aldermen's pensions, May 1, 2012
  23. Chicago Tribune, Generous rules govern aldermen's pensions, May 1, 2012
  24. Chicago Tribune, Generous rules govern aldermen's pensions, May 1, 2012
  25. Chicago Tribune, Emanuel to state lawmakers on pension costs: 'Day of reckoning has arrived', May 8, 2012
  26. Chicago Tribune, Aldermen reminded of looming pension crisis, Sept. 26, 2012
  27. Chicago Sun Times, Kirk says state and local government are drowning Illinois residents in debt, Oct. 12, 2011
  28. Blagojevich scandal
  29. Chicago Sun Times, Audit discovers firefighters falsified mileage claims, Nov. 9, 2010
  30. Open Chicago
  31. Crooked Code
  32. Universities refuse FOIA
  33. FOIA suit
  34. BGA files FOIA suit against CPD
  35. FOIA suit against Chicago State University
  36. Pork barrel FOIA request
  37. "$6.4 Million in Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying," Illinois Policy Institute, May 24, 2010
  38. "Public Bodies Spent $6.4 Million Lobbying State Government," Illinois Campaign for Political Reform
  39. City of Chicago, Budgets, Accessed: November 25, 2012
  40. City of Chicago, City Government, Accessed: November 25, 2012
  41. City of Chicago, Phone Book, Accessed: November 25, 2012
  42. City of Chicago, Elected Officials, Accessed: November 25, 2012
  43. City of Chicago, Meetings, Accessed: November 25, 2012
  44. City of Chicago, CAFR, Accessed: November 25, 2012
  45. City of Chicago, Bid Tabulations, Accessed: November 25, 2012
  46. City of Chicago, Approved Contracts, Accessed: November 25, 2012
  47. City of Chicago, FOIA Requests, Accessed: November 25, 2012
  48. City of Chicago, Tax Division, Accessed: November 25, 2012
  49. City of Chicago, Zoning, Accessed: November 25, 2012
  50. City of Chicago, Permits, Accessed: November 25, 2012
  51. Lobbyists