Who made this?

City Bureau is a nonprofit civic journalism lab based on the South Side of Chicago. We bring journalists and communities together in a collaborative spirit to produce media that is impactful, equitable and responsive to the public.

If you like this tool, consider making a tax-deductible donation or joining our membership club.

What does an alderman even do?

Well, the term “alderman” comes from the Old English title of ealdorman, which means “elder man” or “older man”—so it’s a title in need of an update! Thirty percent of alderpeople in Chicago are women.

In Chicago, an alderperson is one of 50 elected officials in City Council, each representing a district that contains 2 percent of the city’s residents—we call these districts wards. The council is a legislative body, but alderfolks do more than vote on legislation. When something goes wrong on your block, like a pothole needs fixing, or when someone wants to get something done that requires city approval, like a new street sign or sidewalk cafe permit; the first step is often a call to the alder’s office. (In a 2017 analysis by City Bureau and Datamade, just 1.4 percent of proposed legislation in City Council affected the entire city, with the vast majority pertaining to ward-level matters like handicap parking permits.)

Regardless of the size of his or her ward, aldermen and alderwomen get more than $1.3 million of city money each year—known as menu money—to spend on ward improvement projects like repaving roads, replacing traffic signals, planting new trees, bringing neighborhood art installations to the area and more.

If you want to meet your representative, you can reach out directly or attend “ward nights”—an unofficial tradition where some aldermen host first-come-first serve office hours for their constituents. You can also attend meetings for each of City Council’s 19 committees (each happening once a month) or the monthly full session of City Council, when all 50 aldermen meet at City Hall to vote on legislation, from the city’s annual budget to plans for banning (and reinstating) pigeon racing in the city.

Aldermanic salaries are between $108,085 to $120,384 a year, according the city of Chicago’s salary database.

How did you make this list?

Chicago has a long history of public corruption—some would say criminality is “astonishingly common” among our elected officials—but we’re only looking at federal indictments and criminal charges involving an alderman in office or running for office during the 2019 municipal election.

By the way, according to the Chicago Tribune, “Thirty Chicago aldermen have pleaded guilty or been convicted of crimes related to official duties since 1972.” So Chicago aldermen are batting about .300 when it comes to criminality.

What does getting indicted mean?

During an indictment proceeding, a grand jury “determines that there is adequate basis for bringing criminal charges against a suspected criminal actor.” Indictments are usually sought in serious cases—federal felonies such as, let’s say, political corruption scandals.

What is a criminal charge?

A criminal charge is a formal accusation made by a prosecutor (or in less serious cases, police or private citizens) that somebody has committed a crime. The charging document is what generally starts a criminal case in court. But the procedure by which somebody is charged with a crime and what happens when somebody has been charged varies from state to state. A charge is not a conviction—the allegation must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for the person to be declared guilty.

What can I do next?

Here are some easy-to-use tools for monitoring local government in Chicago any day of the week:

  • Ballotpedia.org: the digital encyclopedia for American politics and elections.
  • City of Chicago Data Portal: Find city data and facts about your neighborhood; create maps and graphs about the city, and freely download the data for your own analysis.
  • Chi.Vote: Everything you need to vote in Chicago elections.
  • Councilmatic: Tracks all things related to Chicago City Council from legislation introduced and passed to various committees.
  • Documenters.org: City Bureau’s own civic engagement hub. Find meeting dates, times, locations and official records for local government in Chicago and Detroit—get trained and paid to monitor them.
  • Illinois Sunshine: A tool for browsing political campaign contributions in the state of Illinois.