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:2015
Last city council election:2011
Next city council election:2015
City council seats:50
2014 FY Budget:$7,000,000,000
City website
Composition data
Population in 2013:2,715,000
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 DelegationIllinois State LegislatureIllinois state executive offices
Chicago is a city in Illinois, the seat of Cook County and the center of the Chicago Metropolitan Area. Based on 2012 statistical data, Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States.[1]

Office of the Mayor

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.[2]

City Council

Chicago's legislative body is the City Council, made up of 50 members (called Aldermen) from 50 wards, meets once per month. The Council's duties include voting on all proposed loans, grants, bond issues, land acquisitions and sales, zoning changes, traffic control issues, mayoral appointees, and other financial appropriations. The Council has the power to regulate for the protection of the public health, safety, morals and welfare, to license, to tax and to incur debt. There are 19 standing committees of the Council that work with individual city departments to execute city functions in addition to reviewing proposed ordinances, resolutions and orders before they are voted on by the full council.[3]

A full list of City Council members can be found here.

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.[4]


Chicago's approved budget for 2014 totals $7 billion, and includes $75 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.[5]

The city's budget process operates by 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.[6]

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


The City of Chicago paid for $292,000 in federal lobbying in 2013. The city filed for eight issues relating to Transportation and three issues relating to Taxes.[7]

The City of Chicago maintains a searchable database of all registered lobbyists here.

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.

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.[8]

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.[9]


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.[10][11][12]

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.[13]

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.[14]


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.[15]

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."[16]

Public Records Lawsuits and Open Chicago Transparency Initiative

  • Inspector General announced “Open Chicago” in March 2011 to enhance transparency in Chicago and Cook County.[17]
  • 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.[18]
  • 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.[19]
  • 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.[20]
  • 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.[21]
  • 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.[22].

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
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Audits Y
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Contracts Y
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Lobbying P
Public Records Y
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Local Taxes Y
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School district websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process

The good

  • Budget
    • The most current budget is listed.
    • Budgets are archived for 30 years.[23]
  • Administrative officials
    • Department heads are listed for each department.[24]
    • Phone numbers can be found in the employee directory.[25]
  • Elected officials
    • Elected officials are listed with a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.[26]
  • Meetings
    • Meeting video or podcasts are available.[27]
    • 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.[28]
  • Contracts
    • Bids and RFPs are posted online.[29]
    • Approved contract statements are provided for vendors.[30]
  • 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.[31]
    • 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.[32]
    • Residents are able to pay taxes online.
  • Permits and zoning
    • Zoning ordinances are posted online.[33]
    • Permit applications can be downloaded on the site, along with information on how to apply for the permits.[34]
  • Lobbying
    • A list of lobbyists who lobby city government is posted.[35]

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

Suggest a link


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