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Aldermen Opted In For Pay Raises While The City Laid Off Workers

By aaroncynic in News on Jan 30, 2012 7:20PM

Image Credit: Joeff Davis

The salaries of some City Council members seem to reflect their own version of income disparity, according to the Chicago Tribune. While aldermen at the low end still clear six figures a year, the Trib reports there’s about an $11,000 gap between the low and high ends of the city salary spectrum.

The gap comes from a group of 19 Aldermen who voted to take every salary increase offered and rejected pay cuts, while the city laid off workers and forced thousands of employees to take up to 40 unpaid furlough days between 2009 and 2011. Even though all 50 members of the council started out collecting the same paycheck, the top paid Aldermen make 10 percent more than they did four years ago. In contrast, other city employees like firefighters and police saw a pay raise of slightly more than 6 percent. Only three Aldermen declined every pay raise offered since 2008: Scott Waguespack (32nd), Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Thomas Tunney (44th).

The pay disparity between various Aldermen is noteable, mostly as a window into which ones actually stand behind the rhetoric they use when talking about fiscal accountability inside City Hall. What’s more glaring however, is the gulf between the income of City Council members and the average Chicagoan. According to the Census, the median household income in Chicago between 2006 and 2010 was $46,877 per year, less than half of what the lowest paid Alderman makes.

Alderman Howard Brookins, who voted against a proposal passed in 2006 which changed the rules to allow Council members to attach their salaries to the City’s cost of living, took all of the raises and is among the 19 highest paid Aldermen. In words that might make even the most miserly scrooge raise an eyebrow, he told the Trib “Once it's out there, I think for me to give it back to the city for someone else to waste it somewhere else in the city doesn't make sense, and it doesn't help me with my obligations to my family.”

It's worth pointing out that Brookins also said in 2009 that "with unemployment growing and tax revenues sagging, Chicago needs Walmart." The average Wal-Mart associate makes $11.75 per hour.