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What Can Political Science Tell Us About the Chicago City Council?

By Kevin Robinson in News on May 16, 2008 1:00PM

According to a study released earlier this week, while there is an independent caucus in the Chicago City Council, a majority of aldermen still vote consistently with Mayor Richard Daley. The study, "The Independent Caucus: Breaking the Rubber Stamp Mold," (here, in PDF), examines current council voting since May 2007 and the formation of an independent caucus within the council ranks, noting a new opposition to the machine politics of the past 20 years, which stands in contrast to a majority held by the mayor.

2008_5_city_hall.jpg"The most prominent change in the current city council has been the number of aldermen willing to dissent from the mayor on votes," said study co-author Dick Simpson, professor and head of political science at UIC and a former 44th Ward alderman in Chicago. Since the landmark aldermanic elections of last year, the mayor has faced 13 divided votes, and the study found that six aldermen have voted with the mayor less than half the time since. Alderman Sandi Jackson (7th), has sided with Daley only 17 percent of the time, Bob Fioretti (2nd) has backed the mayor just over 23 percent of the time, and neither has supported the mayor on any major issue, such as the city budget, real estate tax increases, or the CTA bail-out. Furthermore, four aldermen, Toni Preckwinkle (4th), Ricardo Munoz (22nd), Brian Doherty (41st), and Joe Moore (49th), have supported the mayor in the less than 40 percent of votes before the council. In the years before the most recent election, only three alderman supported the mayor less than 70 percent of the time.

"This is even more remarkable when considering that in the previous council no aldermen had voted with the mayor 100 percent of the time," Simpson said in a press release. "In the previous council, only seven aldermen voted with the mayor over 90 percent of the time." According to the study, some of the new aldermen who defeated pro-Daley aldermen in 2007 are now mayoral loyalists, including Pat Dowell (3rd) and Willie Cochran (20th), backing the mayor in well over 80 percent of votes before the council. Conversely, longtime Daley loyalists, such as Bernie Stone (50th), Eugene Shulter (47th), and William Banks (36th), have supported Daley less than 70 percent of the time, including opposing property tax hikes. "The divisions of the city council are leading to more debate, and new issues, like the vote on the Children's Museum, may change the voting patterns that have emerged thus far," Simpson said.

Photo by afunkydamsel