Chicago, Illinois

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Chicago, Illinois
Chicago city seal.png
General information
Rahm Emanuel.jpg
Mayor:Rahm Emanuel
Last mayoral election:2011
Next mayoral election:February 25, 2015
Last city council election:2011
Next city council election:February 25, 2015
City council seats:50
2015 FY Budget:$7.3 billion
City website
Composition data
Population in 2013:2.7 million
Gender:51.5% Female
Race:White 45.0%
White Not-Hispanic 31.7%
African American 32.9%
Asian 5.5%
Native American 0.5%
Pacific Islander 0.0%
Two or More 2.7%
Ethnicity:Hispanic 28.9%
Median household income:$47,408
High school graduation rate:80.5%
College graduation rate:33.6%
Related Chicago offices
Illinois Congressional Delegation
Illinois State Legislature
Illinois state executive offices
Chicago is a city in Illinois. It is the seat of Cook County and the center of the Chicago Metropolitan Area. As of 2013, its population was 2.7 million.[1]

City government

See also: Mayor-council government

The city of Chicago utilizes a "strong mayor" and city council system. In this form of municipal government, the city council serves as the city's primary legislative body and the mayor serves as the city's chief executive.[2]


The mayor serves as the city's chief executive, and is responsible for proposing a budget, signing legislation into law, appointing departmental directors and committee members and overseeing the city's day-to-day operations. Rahm Emanuel is the current mayor of Chicago. Emanuel served as the White House Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama and served as Congressman from the 5th Congressional District for six years.[3]

City council

The Chicago City Council is the city's primary legislative body. It is responsible for adopting the city budget, approving mayoral appointees, levying taxes and making or amending city laws, policies and ordinances.[2]


The Chicago City Council is made up of 50 members (called Aldermen) from 50 wards.[4] A President Tempore and Vice-President are elected every term. The President Tempore oversees meetings if the Governor is absent and adopts parliamentary rules and regulations. The Vice-President serves as Interim Mayor should there be a mayoral vacancy or the Mayor is unable to serve due to illness or injury.[5]

A full list of city council members can be found here.

Council committees

The Chicago City Council features sixteen standing committees, which focus on individual policy and legislative issues. Generally, the drafting of city legislation begins with the committees.[5]

Boards and commissions

A series of advisory boards and commissions that are made up of non-elected citizens, whom city council members have appointed and approved, advises the Chicago City Council. The roles of these boards and commissions are to review, debate and comment upon city policies and legislation and to make recommendations to the city council.[6]

For a full list of Chicago city boards and commissions, see here.



See also: Chicago, Illinois municipal elections, 2015

The city of Chicago, Illinois, held nonpartisan elections for mayor and city council on February 24, 2015. A runoff election for races in which no candidate received a majority of the votes took place on April 7, 2015. The filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in this election was November 24, 2014. All 50 city council seats were up for election.[7]


The city's budget process operates by fiscal calendar years running from January 1 to December 31. Each summer, city departments begin the budget process by giving the Office of Budget Management (OBM) their projections on personnel and non-personnel needs for the coming year. The Mayor and OBM then combine these figures, along with feedback from the public, to propose a budget on or before October 23. The City Council holds committee and public hearings on the proposed budget. Once approved by the Council, the budget becomes the Annual Appropriation Ordinance and is officially implemented on January 1 of the following year. The city is required by state law to maintain a balanced budget.[8]


Chicago's approved budget for FY 2015 totals $7.3 billion.[9] It includes tax increases on parking in city garages and public lots, cable television, vehicle leasing and skyboxes at Chicago stadiums. The budget also provides funding for new neighborhood services such as graffiti removal, pest control and tree planting. The budget, however, did not address the issue of a $550 million contribution that the city was expected to make to its police officer and firefighter pension plans.[10][11]


Chicago's approved budget for FY 2014 totaled $7 billion. It included new funds for police overtime, an increased cigarette tax, increased parking fines and a network of speeding cameras. The inclusion of police overtime was a contentious point amongst some Aldermen, who suggested hiring new officers instead. Emanuel, who initially wanted the cigarette tax increased by 75 cents per pack, compromised with the Aldermen to decrease the tax to 50 cents per pack.[12]

Contact information

Office of the City Clerk
121 North LaSalle St
Chicago, IL 60602
Phone: 312-742-5375
Email: Contact Form
Office Hours: Varies by Office

Office of the Mayor
121 N LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60602
Phone: 312-744-5000
Email: Contact Form

Click here for information on how to contact individual city council members.

Ballot measures

See also: Cook County, Illinois ballot measures

The city of Chicago is in Cook County. A list of ballot measures in Cook County is available here.

Initiative process

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in Illinois

No Illinois local governments provide for binding local initiative and referendum for local ballot measures.


In 2013, Chicago's federal lobbying related expenses amounted to approximately $292,000.[13] The issues for which the city filed in 2013, as well as the number of reports, can be seen in the box below. The issues column lists the generic issues that lobbyists working for local governments are required by law to disclose on quarterly federal disclosure forms.[14][15] The reports column gives the number of reports lobbyists filed in regards to each generic issue. To learn more about the details of the specific issues for which Chicago filed reports, read the federal disclosure forms by clicking the "Issues" links in the box below. The city of Chicago maintains a searchable database of all registered lobbyists. It can be accessed here.

Federal Lobbying Issues, 2013
Reports Issues
7 Transportation
3 Taxes

Public pensions

See also: Illinois public pensions


Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott made known to 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." Absent a city pension overhaul, the fund for retired city firefighters would become insolvent by the end of the decade, according to a city report issued in 2010. The police pension would be bankrupt later, while funds for city laborers and municipal workers would be empty by 2030.[16]

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, roughly one third of that sum. 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 to 30 years for everyone else in the municipal pension plan. 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 eventually reached $165,000 a year.<ref=alder>Chicago Tribune, "Generous rules govern aldermen's pensions," May 1, 2012</ref>

Emanuel's reforms

Speaking before the Illinois State 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 was necessary because retirees were getting increases while current employees are unable to get similar increases. For example, a retiree making a $60,000 pension in 1995 would be receiving $100,000. After ten years, Emanuel said the plan would go to a simplified cost-of-living adjustment rather than annual compounded increases.[17]


According to a 2010 report published at Northwestern University, Chicago was one of the ten municipalities with the largest amount of unfunded pension liabilities. Nationwide there was $574 billion in unfunded pension liabilities for local pension plans in addition to the $3 trillion in debt facing state-sponsored pension plans. The reported stated that 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 2000s, with shortfalls nearing $27.4 billion.[18][19][20]

Chief Financial Officer Gene Saffold said it would take $650 million a year for the next 40 years to run a healthy pension fund. He also stated that only about 42% of the pension is funded, compared to past rates of 62% in 2008 and 80% in 1996.[21]

Then-mayor Richard Daley expressed opposition to Governor Pat Quinn's (D) 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.[22]

Issues in the city

Blagojevich scandal

On June 27, 2011, after more than two years, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was convicted of 17 of 20 public corruption charges 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. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. regarding allegations that he offered to raise campaign funds for Blagojevich in exchange for his appointment to the senator's seat.[23]

Fire department mileage audit

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 stated that the abuse could potentially have cost taxpayers "hundreds of thousands of dollars."[24]

Public records lawsuits

  • Inspector General announced “Open Chicago” in March 2011 to enhance transparency in Chicago and Cook County.[25]
  • 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.[26]
  • 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.[27]
  • 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.[28]
  • 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.[29]
  • Chicago State University’s former senior legal counsel, James Crowley, accused President Wayne Watson of withholding information sought under the 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 State University Retirement System rules.[30].

Website evaluation

Main article: Evaluation of Illinois city websites
Budget Y
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Elected Officials Y
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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.[31]
  • Administrative officials
    • Department heads are listed for each department.[32]
    • Phone numbers can be found in the employee directory.[33]
  • Elected officials
    • Elected officials are listed with a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.[34]
  • Meetings
    • Meeting video or podcasts are available.[35]
    • 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.[36]
  • Contracts
    • Bids and RFPs are posted online.[37]
    • Approved contract statements are provided for vendors.[38]
  • 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.[39]
    • 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.[40]
    • Residents are able to pay taxes online.
  • Permits and zoning
    • Zoning ordinances are posted online.[41]
    • Permit applications can be downloaded on the site, along with information on how to apply for the permits.[42]
  • Lobbying
    • A list of lobbyists who lobby city government is posted.[43]

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

Suggest a link

External links

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  1. United States Census Bureau, "American Fact Finder," accessed April 29, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 City of Chicago, "Chicago Government," accessed on August 29, 2014
  3. City of Chicago, "About the Mayor," accessed April 29, 2014
  4. City of Chicago, "About the Council," accessed April 29, 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 Chicago City Clerk, "About the Council," accessed April 29, 2014
  6. City of Chicago, "Citizen Participation," accessed on October 29, 2014
  7. Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, "2015 Election Calendar," accessed August 21, 2014
  8. City of Chicago, "Budget Process," accessed April 29, 2014
  9. Chicago City Clerk, "City of Chicago 2015 Budget Overview," accessed on January 27, 2015
  10. Progress Illinois, "Chicago City Council Passes Emanuel's 2015 Budget; Four Aldermen Object," November 19, 2014
  11. NBC Chicago, "City Council Approves 2015 Chicago Budget," November 19, 2014
  12., "Chicago City Council approves 2014 budget," November 26, 2013
  13. Open Secrets, "City of Chicago," accessed on November 11, 2014
  14. U.S. House of Representatives: Office of the Clerk, "Lobbying Disclosure Act Guidance," accessed on November 11, 2014
  15. Open Secrets, "Methodology," accessed on November 11, 2014
  16. Chicago Tribune, "Aldermen reminded of looming pension crisis," Sept. 26, 2012
  17. Chicago Tribune, "Emanuel to state lawmakers on pension costs: 'Day of reckoning has arrived'," May 8, 2012
  18. MacIver Institute, "City of Milwaukee Pension a Ticking Time Bomb According to Northwestern Study," October 12, 2010
  19. Chicago Breaking News, "New report details scope of public pension shortfalls," February 10, 2011
  20. Chicago Tribune, "Chicago area pension plans in debt by $27.4 billion," June 25, 2012
  21. Chicago Sun Times, "City Council calls pension crisis a 'ticking time bomb'," October 19, 2010
  22. Global Economic Analysis, "Chicago's Mayor Daley Discusses Bankruptcy For City Pensions," December 11, 2010
  23. New York Times, "Blagojevich Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison," December 7, 2011
  24. CBS Chicago, "Audit Finds Chicago Firefighters Falsified Mileage Claims," November 10, 2010
  25. Chicago Inspector General, "Open Chicago," accessed April 29, 2014
  26. Chicago Inspector General, "Crooked Code," accessed April 29, 2014
  27., "Chicago Tribune v. University of Illinois," accessed April 29, 2014
  28. The Huffington Post, "Dumke Complaint," accessed April 29, 2014
  29. Better Government Assocation, "BGA Files Transparency Lawsuit Against Chicago Police Department," January 5, 2011
  30. Sun Times, " Lawsuit suggests little is changing at Chicago State," accessed April 29, 2014
  31. City of Chicago, "Budgets," accessed November 25, 2012
  32. City of Chicago, "City Government," accessed November 25, 2012
  33. City of Chicago, "Phone Book," accessed November 25, 2012
  34. City of Chicago, "Elected Officials," accessed November 25, 2012
  35. City of Chicago, "Meetings," accessed November 25, 2012
  36. City of Chicago, "CAFR," accessed November 25, 2012
  37. City of Chicago, "Bid Tabulations," accessed November 25, 2012
  38. City of Chicago, "Approved Contracts," accessed November 25, 2012
  39. City of Chicago, "FOIA Requests," accessed November 25, 2012
  40. City of Chicago, "Tax Division," accessed November 25, 2012
  41. City of Chicago, "Zoning," accessed November 25, 2012
  42. City of Chicago, "Permits," accessed November 25, 2012
  43. City of Chicago, "Lobbyists," accessed November 25, 2012