Feb. 22 election could transform City Council

February 9, 2011 3:16:57 PM PST
Chicago voters go to the polls in less than two weeks. Most of the spotlight will be on the race to replace Richard M. Daley as mayor. But there will also be some very big changes in the City Council as well.

The City of Chicago is made up of 50 wards. Each of those wards is represented by an alderman. For many years, Mayor Richard M. Daley has had a strong reign over the council's actions. This election will bring not only a new mayor but many new aldermen.

Chicago City Council will undergo a transformation with the next class of alderman.

"This is an historic moment for the City Council too," said ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington. "This will be the biggest change in the City Council since the 1970s. And I think it will have a big impact on politics as we know it in Chicago."

Eleven of the 50 wards are being vacated by the sitting alderman.

The 4th Ward will be open as Toni Preckwinkle was elected Cook County Board president.

On the Southwest Side, aldermen Olivo and Rugai are leaving.

On the West Side, longtime Alderman Ed Smith stepped down.

To the north, there are several vacancies: Alderman Tom Allen was appointed as a Cook County judge. Aldermen Doherty, Vi Daley, Levar, Shiller, Schulter and Mary Ann Smith are leaving.

"We're supposed to have a weak mayor/strong Council system in this city. It's never really worked like that. I think for the first time we may see some real power in the City Council," said Washington.

At City Hall Wednesday, some outgoing aldermen also expect to see a shift in power with so many new alderman and a new mayor.

"I think you're gonna see the Council assert itself more than it has in the past, and I think that lead will be taken by the elder statesmen on the floor," said Ald. Brian Doherty, 41st Ward.

"There'll be people who want to fight and other people who want to identify a path to go down," said Ald.Helen Shiller, 46th Ward. "There may be four or five paths to go down...I'll definitely be watching."

In addition to the 11 wards that will have new representation, 33 incumbents have challengers, in some cases many challengers.

In the 24th Ward there are 17 candidates running against incumbent Sharon Denise Dixon.

Only six aldermen are unopposed this election.