POLL: Cut Chicago’s City Council?

Is 50 aldermen 25 too many?

Should Chicago cut the size of its City Council? It’s a conversation the BGA initiated back in December, with a look at council sizes around the country. Last week, Chicago Mayor-elect Emanuel indicated he was open to the idea as a way to cut costs.

Since then, newspaper reporters and columnists have been abuzz about the possibility of reducing the number of aldermen.

Mark Brown and John Kass both took issue with the idea, questioning whether its implementation would result in anything good.

The Sun-Times editorial board also examined the issue, questioning whether cutting the number of aldermen in half would reduce constituent services.

That’s what they’re asking. Here’s what we’re asking:



Filed under Chicago City Council, Polls, Streamlining Government

14 responses to “POLL: Cut Chicago’s City Council?

  1. 41st Ward Citizen


    See what 41st Ward Citizens think about cutting the city council in half…


    I think before the city gets to the stage where they can cut back on alderman….they need to streamline and simplify city government and make the public’s interaction with the city more sensible and efficient, so we don’t need an alderman for the simplest things.

    • Kit Duffy

      You got it. The reduction in numbers is a simplistic, thought-less solution similar to the “reform” Pat Quinn effected in the legislature, and we see a partisan quagmire that’s become. Bring administration of functions like water, streets and san, and yes, zoning into City Hall and regionalize them. It will reduce the opportunity for corruption, pinpoint accountability, and promote both efficiency and coordination of services and development.

  3. Harvey Kahler

    My experience in the 49th Ward has been positive. The present ward seems to be a manageable size to focus on local concerns. I can’t imagine the alderman’s staff handling a larger area’s population and issues; so I don’t see any reduction in staffing that might be achieved. Furthermore, if you have a remote and inaccessible alderman, it doesn’t affect a larger population.

  4. Sandra

    Not only would this measure do little to reduce costs but think of the impact it would have on elections! As it stands it is almost impossible for a normal person to raise enough money to run a competitive aldermanic race. If the wards were twice the size it would be even more out of reach and we would see the races become completly dominated by the “connected” or the independently wealthy. Is that really what people want?

  5. In today’s world with the inter-net providing links to the City 311 Service Department for service requests (https://servicerequest.cityofchicago.org/web_intake_chic/Controller) and the 311 telephone system that Mayor Daley has developed, there is less and less need for constituent/citizen calls to the Alderman’s office for services. In the old days if you needed a trash container or potholes repaired, you had to call the Alderman’s office or contact your precinct captain. Today when you contact the Alderman’s service office to make such a request, they tell you to call 311. The current structure is out dated. The number of Wards should be reduced to 25 and their size and configuration should match those of the existing 25 Police Districts.

  6. Pingback: BGA Poll Results: Vote “Aye” On Cutting Chicago’s City Council | BGA Think Tank

  7. dmlawyer

    It is a dumb ideal and is pandering to the goo-goo government types.
    Everyone points to L.A. and N.Y., but has anyone ever talked to a resident of those towns to see if they feel connected to their representative ?

    And if it is all about numbers, then why isnt the same suggested for all cities in Illinois on a proportional basis? Reducing Chicago to 25 would give represenation of 1 to every 120,000 residents.
    So should Chicago residents get less representation than the residents of other Illinois cities at the local level ?
    Elgin – Population 100,000 has 6 aldermen; Peoria 100,000P and 10A; Joliet 150,000P/8A; Springfield 100,000/10A; Naperville 150,000P/8A; Aurora 200,000P/12A; Rockford 150,000P/14A – giving them ratios of about 10 -18,000 persons per alderman. Why should Chicago be treated less than other cities in Illinois ?

    As for the money, the Chicago Budget is $6 Billion dollars. City council budget is $18 million. Cut it in half saves $9 million. That is one tenth of one percent (.1%) or about $3 per person per year. Less than a pack of cigarettes, a Starbucks coffee, or the cost of buying a newspaper for a week.

    • L

      The population of Chicago has declined and so have the City services. What began as a volunteered job has developed into a salaried job of over $100,000 and over $70,000 in office expenses. There are full time City employees who don’t make $70,000. City employees are taking time off without pay. It’s about time that we either cut Aldermatic salaries, eliminate office expenses or better yet, cut the City Council in half. Let these Aldermen earn the $100,000 plus.

  8. Michael Luckenbach

    I have relatives who live in L.A. and they and their neighbors feel no need to “feel connected to their representative”. The 15 elected District Representatives do a very good job of representing the constituents of their Districts in matters that they need to. A big part of the reason is that Los Angeles has a great 311 and on-line system (http://www.lacity.org/index.htm#Menu) to provide the daily requests for mundane city services and needs to the residents of the city. In fact their ‘system’ looks to be very similar to the system that we have in place here in Chicago. This kind of direct access to City Departments has proven to be a much more effective way of getting timely response to requests for service. As I said in my comment above, when calling an Alderman’s ‘service’ office today to request a ‘service’, nine times out of ten you are told to call 311 and make the request (unless of course you’re ‘connected’). And as far as comparing Chicago to other cities in the state, as far as their ‘representation requirements’, is like matching ‘apples and bananas’! BTW, I assume that you are an attorney based on your user name ‘dmlawyer’. Do you have some sort of vested interest in the status quo?



  10. If this is a mean to and end to help resolve a problem in this city yes cut alderman to half, because half are not serving there community any way.

  11. joe

    Cut them! Every other city agency is being cut, city employees are told to take days off without pay. Firemen are going to reduce manpower and fiire houses. New hires have not replaced police officers that left the job due to retirement. Many of the housing projects have been knocked down and residence pushed to the suburbs. Population has dropped. WE DONT NEED SO MANY ALDERMAN. Dont get me started about the corruption.

  12. Chris

    It seems to me that we could allow our wards to mirror our police districts. 23 police districts, 23 wards, 23 alderman. That wouldstill make our city council larger than that of Los Angeles, a city with a larger population than ours. L.A. has 15 wards. In New York City, the borough of Brooklyn, which is similar in population to Chicago only has 16 wards, so I think 23 would be more than fair. Also we should focus on a more centralized city government, thus limiting the power of the aldermen. Just my $.02.

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