About City Government & the Chicago City Council

a. About Chicago Government

i. Mayor

ii. City Clerk

iii. City Treasurer

iv. Aldermen

b. City Council & Committees

i. Legislative process

ii. Committees

iii. Meetings

1. City Council Meeting Agenda

2. Live & Archived City Council Meetings

iv. Legislative Information Center

About Chicago Government

Originally settled by Jon Baptiste Point de Sable in the 1770s and incorporated as a city on March 4, 1837, Chicago developed from a small trading center on the shores of Lake Michigan to the vibrant modern metropolis of today. The city is divided into municipal legislative districts called “wards,” each represented in City Council by an Alderman. The original six wards established under the city’s first charter in 1837 have grown to the 50 now in effect. The City of Chicago is a home rule unit of government under the Illinois Constitution and thereby authorized to perform certain functions pertaining to its government and affairs. The powers and duties of the City of Chicago are exercised by the Mayor, the City Clerk, the City Treasurer, and the City Council.

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Rahm EmanuelMayor Rahm Emanuel

The Mayor is the chief executive of the city and responsible for the administration and management of various city departments. The Mayor submits proposals and recommendations to the City Council and is active in the enforcement of the city’s ordinances. The Mayor also submits the city’s annual budget and appoints city officers, department commissioners or directors, and members of city boards and commissions.

During meetings of the City Council, the Mayor serves as the presiding officer of the City Council. In the absence of the Mayor, the President Pro Tempore, who is a member of and elected by the City Council, acts as presiding officer. The Mayor submits proposals and recommendations to the City Council of his own accord and on behalf of city departments.

Although a member of the City Council, the Mayor is not allowed to vote on issues except in certain instances, for example where the vote taken on a matter before the body results in a tie. However, the President Pro Tempore can vote on all legislative matters.

Office of the Mayor

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City Clerk

The City Clerk is the official record keeper for the City Council and the designated repository for city documents. The City Clerk also maintains the corporate seal of the city and publishes the official legislative record of City Council actions in the Journal of Proceedings and related pamphlets as directed by state or municipal law or upon direction of the City Council.

Read more about the Office of the City Clerk.

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Kurt Summers, Jr.Treasurer Kurt Summers, Jr.

The City Treasurer is the custodian and manager of all cash and investments for the City of Chicago, the four City employee pension funds and the Chicago Teacher’s Pension.

In addition, the Treasurer’s Office manages a number of programs that promote economic development in Chicago.

Each year the Treasurer is required to file an annual report with the City Council summarizing the city’s investment portfolio including the monies received, invested and dispersed.

Office of the City Treasurer

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Aldermen are legislators and members of the City Council who serve a four year term to represent the residents of a district or area of the city known as a ward. Nominated by petition of the voters of each ward, elections are held on the last Tuesday in February in the year preceding the presidential election. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast in that election, a run-off election between the two highest candidates is held on the first Tuesday in April of the same year.

By custom, an alderman is a source of information and intermediary on behalf of their constituency about city functions and services within the ward. Many aldermen maintain an office within the ward to provide greater service to their constituents.

Find Your Alderman

Use the Ward/Aldermanic/Zone Look-Up Tool.

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City Council & Committees

The City Council is the legislative branch of government of the City of Chicago. In accordance with Illinois law (65 ILCS 5/3.1-40-5) it consists of the Mayor, the City Clerk, and aldermen elected from each of the 50 wards to serve four-year terms. The legislative powers of the City Council are granted by the state legislature and by the home rule provisions of the Illinois constitution. Within specified limits, the City Council has the general right to exercise any power and perform any function pertaining to its government and affairs including, but not limited to, the power to regulate for the protection of the public health, safety and welfare; to license; to tax; and to incur debt.

As established by resolution, the City Council is organized into sixteen standing committees. The jurisdiction, membership and appointment of chairman and vice-chairman are approved by the City Council. Subcommittees may be established for consideration of subject matter under the authority of the parent committee as determined by the chairman. Special committees may be created by the City Council upon resolution adopted by a 2/3 vote of the Aldermen. Committees meet on call of the chairman or upon request of a majority of the members.

At the beginning of each term, the City Council elects one of its members to serve as President Tempore to preside over Council meetings in the absence of the Mayor and adopts parliamentary rules and regulations governing its meetings. Also, in accordance Illinois law, the City Council elects a Vice-Mayor who serves as Interim Mayor in the event of a vacancy in the office of the Mayor or the inability of the Mayor to serve due to illness or injury.

The formal legal authorization for passing legislation is contained in the Illinois Revised Statutes, the Municipal Code of the City of Chicago, and the City Council’s Rules of Order and Procedure.

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City Council Regular Meeting Agenda*

*Agenda items are shown in bold font. Text not in bold font is explanatory, for the convenience of the reader.

In accordance with Rule 3 of the City Council Rules of Order and Procedure, the following is the agenda and order of business for regular City Council meetings:

  1. Call to order by the Mayor.

    The Mayor, or in his or her absence the President Pro Tempore, calls the City Council to order to begin the meeting.

  2. Call of the roll.

    The City Clerk calls the roll of members present beginning with the 1st Ward.

  3. Determination of Quorum.

    If a quorum is present, the Council may proceed. A quorum consists of the majority of the members of the City Council, including the Mayor. If no quorum is present, the City Council shall, by majority vote of the members present, move to recess or adjourn.

  4. Pledge of Allegiance.

    The Pledge of Allegiance is recited by the members of the City Council and assembled guests.

  5. Invocation.

    An invocation is given.

  6. Reports and Communications from the Mayor.

    Reports and communications from the Mayor and City departments are announced into the record by the City Clerk and sent to the appropriate committee unless there is 2/3 vote to Suspend the City Council’s Rules of Order and Procedure and consider them immediately. The Mayor or Presiding Officer may also present resolutions or proclamations.

  7. Communications from the City Clerk.

    The City Clerk apprises the City Council of communications from various departments and agencies that were filed in his or her office from the time of the previous meeting. The City Clerk also notes the publication of the previous City Council Journal and other documents required or requested to be published. Matters submitted to the City Clerk by members of the general public or other entities requiring City Council approval are also introduced and referred to the appropriate committee for deliberation.

  8. Reports of Standing Committees.**

    Standing committee chairmen report out to the full City Council the recommendations of the membership on matters under their consideration. Joint committees comprising two or more standing committees also report their recommendations at this time.

    **The committee agendas/reports posted on the Chicago City Council Calendar list the items that may be called for a vote at the City Council meeting and are considered to be part of the City Council meeting agenda.

  9. Reports of Special Committees.

    Special committee chairmen present their reports. Special committees are created by resolution adopted by 2/3 affirmative vote of the aldermen entitled by law to be elected.

  10. Agreed Calendar.

    Non-controversial resolutions honoring or paying tribute to individuals or organizations or ceremonial in nature are considered under the Agreed Calendar and on recommendation of the Chairman of the Committee on Finance, they are voted upon as a group by the full City Council. The Agreed Calendar is also commonly referred to as the Consent Calendar.

  11. Presentation of petitions, communication, resolutions, orders, and ordinances introduced by Aldermen.

    The City Clerk will "Call the Wards" and read into the record new legislative proposals (ordinances, orders, petitions, resolutions, or other original matters) introduced by aldermen on a variety of topics including but not limited to Municipal Code amendments, traffic regulations, zoning matters, licensing requirements, etc. The order of presentation alternates each meeting beginning with the 1st Ward on one meeting, then the 50th Ward on the next succeeding meeting, and so forth.

    Under City Council Rules, all legislative matters introduced are automatically referred to a City Council Committee without debate, unless there is a 2/3 vote of the members (34 votes are required) to suspend the rules to allow immediate consideration of the matter in question.

    Matters may be referred to a Joint Committee for consideration; however, if two or more committees are called, the subject matter is referred, without debate, to the Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics.

  12. Correction and approval of the Journal of the Proceedings of the last preceding meeting or meetings.

    Correction to the Journal of Proceedings are presented and referred to the Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics for review. The Chairman of the Committee on Finance will also recommend that the full City Council approve of the Journal(s) of the last preceding regular meeting, as corrected, as well as any special meetings which occurred from the time of the last City Council meeting.

  13. Unfinished Business.

    Aldermen may request that the City Council call up for consideration previously deferred items. Notification of intentions to consider such matter(s) must be given to all aldermen and must clearly identify the item intended to be called up for a vote.

  14. Miscellaneous Business.

    At this point in the meeting, any alderman may motion to discharge a committee from further consideration of a matter which has been pending in committee for more than 60 days. The motion to discharge requires a majority vote of all aldermen (26 votes are required).

  15. Ordinance setting the next regular meeting.

    An ordinance is presented setting the date and time of the next regular meeting of the City Council. If no meeting date is set, then in accordance with the Municipal Code, the regular meeting shall be held at 10:00 a.m. of every second and fourth Wednesday of each calendar month.

  16. Roll call on omnibus.

    An omnibus vote is a single roll call vote taken and applied to all items not voted upon separately, or for which another vote was not employed during the course of the meeting.

  17. Adjournment.

    If no further business is to be considered and the meeting is concluded, then a motion is made to adjourn.

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City Council Special Meeting Agenda

Under Illinois State Statutes (65 ILCS 5/3.1-40-25), the Mayor or any three aldermen may call a special meeting of the City Council. The call for a special meeting must be filed with the City Clerk at least 48 hours prior to the time the meeting is to convene. The call must also specify the purpose or purposes for the meeting, and the business conducted shall be to only those matters.

  1. Call to order by the Mayor.

    The Mayor, or in his or her absence the President Pro Tempore, calls the City Council to order to begin the meeting.

  2. Call of the roll.

    The City Clerk calls the roll of members present beginning with the 1st Ward.

  3. Determination of Quorum.

    If a quorum is present the Council may proceed. A quorum consists of the majority of the members of the City Council, including the Mayor. If no quorum is present, the City Council shall, by majority vote of the members present, move to recess or adjourn.

  4. Pledge of Allegiance.

    The Pledge of Allegiance is recited by the members of the City Council and assembled guests.

  5. Invocation.

    An invocation is given.

  6. Call for Special Meeting.

    The City Clerk reads the call for the special meeting.

  7. Presentation and Consideration of Item(s) Contained in the Call for a Special Meeting.

    The specific item or items referred to in the call for the special meeting are presented.

  8. Adjournment.

    A motion is made to adjourn.

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Legislation in the City Council

Legislative bodies exercise their authority through the issuance of laws which impact our lives and livelihoods. In Chicago, the process by which laws are enacted is governed by the Illinois Revised Statutes, the Municipal Code of Chicago, and the City Council’s Rules of Order. Once a document is drafted and introduced into the City Council, it is assigned to a committee where hearings are conducted to review the proposal. Following deliberations, the Committee will report out their recommendation to the full City Council. Changes and amendments may occur at any time in the legislative process up to its final consideration by the City Council. If approved by the full City Council, the legislation becomes law.

1 — Introduction and Committee Referral

Legislation may be introduced by the Mayor or the executive departments, by one or more aldermen, by a City Council committee, or by a citizen (through the City Clerk’s Office). During the legislative process documents may be amended in part or substituted in full before final consideration.

At each City Council meeting, as the order of business progresses, the Clerk announces a very brief summary of the subject matter of each newly proposed legislative document, including the name of the sponsor and the committee to which it has been assigned.

The City Council rules provide that, after the quorum roll call and invocation, the Council receives “Reports and Communications” from city officers, which include new legislation submitted by the Mayor and the executive branch, and matters received in the City Clerk’s Office. Legislation introduced by aldermen is presented later in the meeting during what is referred to as “Call of the Wards” or “Aldermanic Introductions.”

Pursuant to City Council Rule 41, all proposed legislation is automatically referred to a committee for consideration and only acted upon by the City Council at a subsequent meeting. If during the presentation and reading of new business two or more committees are called for assignment of the legislation, it is automatically sent to the Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics which will make a recommendation regarding the conflict of jurisdiction. In cases of urgency, the City Council rules can be suspended by a 2/3 vote of the members elected, or 34 aldermen, at which point the item can be debated and acted upon immediately.

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2 — Consideration by Committee

After recording and processing by the City Clerk, legislative introductions are immediately transmitted to the assigned committees. The committee chairman will then schedule a meeting and send notification to the Aldermen and City Clerk of the date, time and location of the meeting. Notification also is posted in the City Clerk’s Office, on the City Clerk’s website and outside the City Council Chamber. Under both City Council Rule 40 and the Illinois Open Meetings Act (5 ILCS 120/), except in cases of emergency, at least three days’ notice is required for holding such meetings. All committee meetings are open to the public and citizens wanting to testify at a committee meeting are advised to contact the committee prior to the scheduled meeting date.

The committee chairman will provide an agenda containing a listing and brief description of the items to be considered. Although consisting primarily of legislation previously referred to the committee, City Council rules also allow operating departments to introduce legislation directly into committee to facilitate expedious consideration or in cases of emergency. During committee review, members will discuss and debate the legislative proposals. Members also may request to hear testimony on a particular issue or may submit amendments or changes to a document. If the committee decides not to act on a matter it will remain with the committee. Under City Council Rule 41, if a legislative item is pending in committee for 30 days, the sponsor may require the chairman to file a written report with the City Council of its progress; and after 60 days any alderman may move under “Miscellaneous Business” to discharge the committee and bring up the item for immediate consideration. Such motion to discharge requires the majority vote of the full City Council (i.e., 26 votes).

If the committee recommends that an item be passed it is included on the committee’s report to the full City Council for consideration. Members may also recommend referral to another committee due to the subject matter of a particular document. Most items are approved in committee by a consensus of the members.

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3 — Council Action

During “Reports of Committees”, chairmen will report out to the full City Council on the matters referred to committee and the recommended action to “pass” or “do not pass”, unless a member or members of the body move to disapprove a committee report. Also, two aldermen may exercise their statutory right to “defer and publish” the legislation. In such instances the text of the ordinance is published in the Council Journals of Proceedings and final consideration for passage of the legislation is postponed until notification calling for a vote on the item is provided to all Council members. Consideration of any deferred and published item is acted upon during the “Unfinished Business” segment of City Council meetings.


The committee chairman may request a roll call vote on any matter or, for expediency in approving non-controversial items, move to apply a previous roll call vote or an omnibus vote. Under City Council rules, any alderman may request a special roll call vote.

After the City Council votes on a legislative item, an alderman voting on the prevailing side may wish to finalize consideration of the item by reconsidering the vote. When the motion to reconsider is lost, the vote on the document becomes final. Without an immediate vote against reconsideration, an ordinance could be reconsidered at the next City Council meeting.

Mayoral Veto

If a legislative matter is passed by the City Council, the Mayor may exercise the right to veto such issue by notifying the City Council of such action before the next regular Council meeting occurring not less than five days after the vote. The members of the City Council may accept such veto or, upon 2/3 vote of the members so elected, override such veto.


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Attending/Watching City Council

For each City Council meeting, the Office of the City Clerk provides live streaming video, including captions, on our Council News Central page.

You can also follow along live via Twitter from the City Clerk, aldermen, and other Chicagoans. The Council News Central page includes social media contact information for all of our aldermen. 

Archived City Council meeting videos can be found in the Legislative Information Center.

Chicago City Council meetings are open to the public. Meetings typically begin at 10 a.m. in the Council Chambers located on the second floor at City Hall.

For more information on attending a Chicago City Council meeting, please contact the Chicago City Council Sergeant-at-Arms at 312-744-6800 or via email at CityCouncilSeating@cityofchicago.org.

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