Emanuel Denies He Wants To Cut City Council In Half

UPDATED 03/25/11 10:27 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel is denying a published report Friday that claims he wants to cut the size of the City Council in half.

Emanuel representatives tell CBS 2 the Chicago Sun-Times story is the “creation” of a reporter, and say they are not proposing a reduction in size the City Council.

WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports while Emanuel may not be proposing the change, the idea has been discussed with aldermen who were asked to come up with ways to cut the city’s budget.

An Emanuel representative confirms that the mayor-elect has had discussions with aldermen about reforming the City Council.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, Fran Spielman of the Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday morning that Emanuel had talked to aldermen specifically about the idea of reducing the City Council to 25 seats.

Some think a smaller City Council could help save money, particularly given that the city is in dire financial straits. Others say there are too many problems in the city, so shrinking the manpower would make it harder for constituents to get in touch with their aldermen, according to Spielman’s report.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s John Cody has analysis from UIC Professor Dick Simpson

Currently, Chicago taxpayers spend $19.5 million per year to maintain the 50 aldermen, and another $4.7 million to pay for 19 standing committees, Spielman reported.

One man Friday morning said he thought cutting the City Council was a good idea.

“I don’t know why we have so many aldermen,” he said. “I’m sure there’s a historical precedent for it, but I support any effort to reduce the number of aldermen and reduce the costs of governing the city.”

But another man, David Hill, said the Council needs to remain at its current size — or maybe even grow.

“We need all 50. we probably need more, because the city is at a downfall,” he said. “It’s not up like it used to be. With more aldermen, more problems would be solved,” while if the Council were slashed in half, “the city would really go to destruction.”

Chicago has one of the largest city councils in the country.

The only city with a larger city council is New York, which has 51 City Council members. But they are spread across five boroughs, all but one of which has an individual population of more than 1 million people. Manhattan has 10 aldermen, Brooklyn 16, Queens 14, the Bronx eight, and Staten Island three.

Los Angeles, which has a larger population than Chicago, has only 15 City Council members. Detroit, the second largest city in the Midwest region, has only nine.

At one time, the Chicago City Council was actually larger than it is now. From 1901 to 1923, there were 70 aldermen, with two aldermen per ward for each of 35 wards. The two aldermen in each ward served alternating terms so that one of them would be up for reelection every year, the Better Government Association recalls.

The idea of reducing the number of aldermen further has been bandied about for years, although not by a mayor or mayor-elect.

A December analysis by the Better Government Association called for reducing the number of aldermen to 25 for a savings of $2.7 million in salaries for aldermen, and another $4.4 million by cutting the three staffers each alderman employs.

Whatever the case, the mayor cannot unilaterally cut the City Council. Any change in the Council structure would have to be made by the Illinois General Assembly, or by Chicago voters through a binding referendum.

  • Jim

    I’ve said this for quite some time now. They just want a part time job with full time pay. The census states that the population has declined so we have data to backup the reduction. 25 sounds like the perfect number.

    • Bruce Alan Beal

      The population has not been cut in half, so your premise is wrong, hence your errant conclusion.

      • Jim

        The population has not been raised by 67% neither, so why are my income taxes raised? I was stating an opinion based on facts, not a conclusion. We need to reduce our spending and this is a good idea, even though Rahm later denied that this was his plan.

  • robert

    Great Idea!!

  • Citizen of Chicago

    It’s about time someone is starting to look at the DEN OF THIEFS! For a PART-TIME job they get way over full time benefits and free golden pensions with FREE medical for the rest of their lifes and the public fell for it. The graft and corruption that has come out of that city council over the years and the dunb public keeps voting for them is amazing. YES YES YES cut the council in half it not more! Some of those Aldermen think it’s their heratige to be Aldermen and no-one else!


    A democrat cutting! I am confused? Is he saying government is too big?

    • Bruce Alan Beal

      King Rahm is hardly a democrat.

  • Bob Hamilton

    Reduce it by 66%, down to 17 members like the Cook County Board which has a population twice the size of Chicago. The City Council served no real purpose and with 311 and the Internet, there is no need to go kiss the Alderman’s ring any longer in order to get city services. Rahm should also prohibit Aldermen or any other city officials from working both for and against taxpayers, like processing tax appeals or lawsuits against any government agency while collecting a check from the taxpayers. Then privatize city operations by at least 75% and save millions while improving city services at the same time.

  • Aughty Venable

    This would work … although 10 sounds better that 25. We have never needed that many crooks collecting a paycheck for doing nothing. That’s how we got the tag Crook County.

  • Old Witness

    It`s time for positve change,also to look into what all state politicians pensions are, if they get a pension after just one term that`s obseen why can`t they for 20 years to get a 65% pension like everyone else.The rest should be made up of social security.Let`s have a PUBLIC REFERENDUM get the CHANGE going
    U S congressmen get a pension and lifetime Insurance after just ONE term in office,WHAT AN INSULT to American taxpayers.REFERENDUN NOW!!!!

  • southside

    Much easier for Rahm to dictate to 25 folks than it is to 50. It’s not about the money, it’s about CONTROL for King Rahm.

    • Bruce Alan Beal

      Long Live The Good King Rahm … unless the prols get to him first …

  • Jeff Park

    If the story is correct and NEW YORK has 51 council member, WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING WITH 50!!!!???? OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!
    (Let the record show I was a big advocate for this during the elections when it was not on any candidates radars…)

  • JeanSC

    Whatever the number of aldermen Chicago has, I think the gerrymandering of ward boundaries must be corrected.

  • Pearleee

    That is so great if he cuts city council in half or more. They take most of the taxpayers money and they hardly do anything.
    It is imperative that he do just that. Of course the aldermen will scream and yell about this issue. But this economy and all the unemployed and the defecit in the long run will makes us go bunkcrupt, so let us start cutting the police force, half of the aldremen should go, the hospital workers should freeze their salaries and we all hope there will be some money left to repair those roads that are full of potholes.
    Please, save our moeny and save our city.

  • Tired, worried and disgusted

    The overly generous (actually obscene) pension system for a few years work needs reexamination & change. There should be a mandate that the alderman’s job be full-time dedicated service; otherwise cut the numbers. Aldermen (no government worker/politician) should ever be in a position to vote in automatic raises for themselves.

  • Jerry O Henderson

    I believe reduction in the,city council would be beneficial for the whole city.Also there should be a term limit,for all Illinos Elected Officials.It would make them.more accountabe to the citizens of Illinois.Perhaps it would make them more responsive to the people concern,instead of running their office,like a private social club.

  • tom Sharp

    I’ve had letters printed in both newspapers for years advocating for 25 wards and term limits of one. Those changes would wipe out 90% of the patronage abuse in this town. The Alderman’s Office has become a medieval fiefdom, with the job inherited by family or cronies once the alderman leaves with a big bloated pension. Rise up Chicago–throw the bums out!!!

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