With the decreasing population in the city of Chicago, we should consider reducing the number of City Council members. There was a proposal by a current Alderman to reduce the number to 35 and I would support that ordinance.
Chicago was designed as a weak mayor, strong council form of government. Is there a power imbalance between Mayor Daley and the City Council? On which issues should the mayor lead? On which should the council lead?
The overall Chicago City Council voting record, which is available through the office of the City Clerk, clearly evidences the fact that Chicago Aldermen vote in favor of major legislation, proposed by the Mayor, ninety-two percent of
the time. According to a 2008 University of Illinois at Chicago Department of Political Science and Developing Government Accountability to the People (DGAP) report, "There have been only thirteen divided roll call votes in the first eleven months, averaging 1.2 divided votes per month similar to approximately 1.8 per month during the last eleven months before the new
council was elected in 2007." The numbers are relatively the same in 2010. It has often been expressed that the City Council is nothing but a Rubber Stamp for Mayor Daley. Many of the Daley proposed and City Council
approved ordinances have fleeced the public. For example, the nonsensical 75 year Parking Meter lease deal which, on its face, was fatally flawed. Daley hastily provided it to the Aldermen and all but five of them voted to pass it
two days later. With the advent of technology, the city of Chicago has developed a
sophisticated, computerized, 311 system which effectively interacts with the public and addresses their concerns. Thus, residents rarely phone their
alderman with requests for information or to request routine city services. Aldermen no longer handle the bulk of resident complaints. Walls said "Many city services like street sweeping garbage pickup and some non emergency
police services could be more effectively and efficiently performed on a grid
system basis. Chicago is in need of serious reform. More and more concerned citizens are
asking, "Why are we paying fifty Aldermen $110 Thousand Dollars a Year to simply vote Aye?"
In light of the foregoing, I propose we use our home rule powers and cut the City Council by fifty percent (50%) over a period of five years. That
action would streamline our city government, which is growing out of control, and save taxpayers billions of dollars. This strategic reduction can
be accomplished through a combination of attrition scheduled mergers and remapping
Apparently, the majority of our Aldermen are not independent thinkers who vote to protect the interest of residents of their Ward. Therefore, As Mayor, I will encourage the City Council to be more deliberative without being
obstructionist. The Mayor should lead on issues pertaining to the overall development of
policy affecting the entire city. The Aldermen should take the lead on matters
that can be implemented on a ward by ward basis.
As part of the ongoing redistricting process, Alderman Waguespack suggested that the City Council consider a map with 35 rather than 50 wards. Given the decline in population since the peak of 3.6 million in 1950, such a map would have a population per Ward more consistent with the historical average. This is a measure I support and will advocate for, provided that the people of Chicago are consulted and feel this adequately represents them. A reduction in the number of aldermen from 50 to 35 would put Chicago more in line with the number of alderman per capital in other large metropolitan cities nationally.
The city council should continue to have 50 members to ensure that all Chicago residents have adequate representation. Each alderman helps supervise the provision of city services to 55,000 residents. If the size of the city council were cut in half, then each alderman would have to serve 110,000 residents, and they would know less about their communities, residents, and the services actually being delivered. While it is true that some city councils in other states are smaller, like Los Angeles with its 15 members, others, like New York with its 51 members, have more than Chicago. Small city councils like those in the Chicago suburbs operate more like corporate boards of directors, but Chicago's city council allows it to act as a legislative body, which is an important and necessary function.
I believe we have higher priorities in Springfield than changing the size of City Council.