The Role and Responsibilities of Chicago Aldermen: Serving the Community and Making a Change.
What Do Alderman Do in Chicago?
People in a city’s geographic area (known as a ward) contact their alderman when they have issues. Some concerns are trivial, like potholes or garbage collection, others are more serious, such as crime, zoning and community development.
Aldermen serve on 17 committees broken down by policy, and legislation can only make it out of committee if 26 aldermen back it.
As a member of the city council, an alderman must have strong interpersonal skills to effectively communicate with constituents, fellow council members, and city staff. They also need a deep understanding of local government and the issues facing their community.
The position of Chicago alderman can be a full-time job, requiring substantial time and commitment to carry out duties. For example, a candidate for the role should be prepared to attend multiple community meetings and events, as well as research and answer calls from residents.
Additionally, aldermen often serve on committees that work on large projects such as zoning issues. For example, Cohen is a member of the committee that drafted the city’s law to regulate day labor centers, which supply temporary workers. This is a way for him to bring attention to important issues in his community. He also works to ensure that the city’s budget is adequate and promotes progress and growth for his ward.
The City of Chicago requires candidates to have lived in the ward for at least one year prior to election, pass a background check and meet all other qualifications of city office. Interested parties should submit the required signatures from registered voters in their ward and complete the Statement of Candidacy.
Aldermen vote on legislation (ordinances) proposed by the Council, serve on committees and oversee city services in their wards. Their work is critical to the health and sustainability of our city. They also have a major impact on zoning issues and land use decisions.
Aldermen are re-elected based on delivering ward services to constituents and tending to local community concerns. They must be well-versed in local government and have the capacity to connect with citizens of their ward. They must be able to build consensus and support colleagues in the City Council, as well as participate in the day-to-day operations of their ward offices.
It may surprise you to learn that your dentist or the guy wrenching on cars at the local garage could potentially help change the law and make your community a better place. That’s because these individuals are aldermen.
There are 50 of them in Chicago, and they have a lot of power over their home turfs.
Among other things, they sit on 17 committees broken down by policy areas where legislation must pass before it goes to City Council for full approval. They get $1 million a year to spend on their wards in a program known as menu money, which allows them to decide how to spend the cash on projects like street paving or public safety initiatives.
The positions are technically part time, and many aldermen hold outside jobs as lawyers, real estate agents, professors or consultants. Attempts to curb their power by restricting outside income have failed. Still, experts say it’s important for aldermen to try to limit appearances of impropriety.
In order to be elected as an alderman, you must secure the votes from citizens in your neighborhood. Then, once in office, you will work with the community to address local issues. You will also attend City Council meetings and other events to represent your ward.
In addition to their ward-specific duties, Chicago aldermen serve on 17 committees that are broken down by policy. This helps them learn about the different aspects of city government. For example, if they are considering the construction of a new youth center in their district, they will likely attend training sessions with representatives from other cities that have successfully done so.
Moreover, this unique role offers numerous opportunities for professional growth. The skills and experience gained through this position can be beneficial for candidates looking to pursue higher political office, work as a political consultant or transition into the private sector in positions like public relations or nonprofit management.