Absentee Aldermen

 

Before something gets voted on in City Council, it has to pass out of committee. There are 15 active committees in City Council that do everything from conduct hearings on important items to voting on them.

But if showing up to do committee work is half the battle, several aldermen are losing it. Last week, Chicago Tonight reported on aldermen who had missed multiple City Council meetings. Since then, we've found several aldermen are barely showing up at all for committee meetings. And overall aldermanic attendance at committee meetings is 49 percent.

The most absent alderman was Michael Chandler from the 24th ward. He attended just 6 percent of meetings for committees he is on since his term began last May, according to records obtained by the City Clerk's office. Those records do not include most joint committees or the Council's committees on aviation or the budget because those records were not available, the clerk's office said. Chandler did not respond to requests for comment. Ald. Michael Chandler

Ald. Tim Cullerton, from the 38th ward, attended 92 percent of meetings, the highest rate among the Council. He was also the only alderman who attended more than 90 percent of meetings.
 
Ald. Sandi Jackson of the 7th ward, who missed five out of 22 full Council meetings, had a 14 percent attendance rate this term. Jackson has been dealing with her husband, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s, diagnosed bipolar disorder, and says constituent services are sometimes more important than committee hearings.
 
"Those meat and potato issues that dramatically and directly impact our lives are things that I think constituents tend to pay more attention to than what happens in committee," she said last week. "The things we do for them on a day-to-day basis tend to weigh more heavily than what happens down here in City Hall once a week."
 
But Mayor Rahm Emanuel thinks aldermen should be showing up for committee meetings.
 
"Given that the public’s paying their salaries, yes. And as a former legislator, attendance is important and your ability to vote on issues in an informed way requires it," Emanuel said Tuesday after being asked about the statistics. "It’s important to attend the meetings, attend the Council hearings and be informed, as the public expects, on a cross-section of issues."
 
Ald. Dick Mell of the 33rd ward, who attended 42 percent of meetings and chairs the Rules Committee, says most of his committee hearings are perfunctory, which is why attendance there is the lowest of all committees. But, he says, for important issues, most aldermen are present.
 
View a list of all aldermen and their attendance rate below: 

Do you think it's a problem if aldermen miss too many committee meetings? Post your comments below or sound off on our discussion board!

Paris Schutz and Michael Lipkin contributed to this report.