Oct 2, 2023 - Politics

Lori Lightfoot's term birthed more independent alders in Chicago

Photo illustration of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot with lines radiating from her.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg via Getty Images

University of Illinois at Chicago researchers say Mayor Lori Lightfoot's relationship with the City Council was one of the most contentious in decades — and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Why it matters: After decades of rubber stamp administrations, City Council members, under Lightfoot, started voting more independently, prompting more discussion and compromise without returning to the rancor of the early '80s Council Wars, a new UIC report shows.

  • This analysis helps us understand larger political trends in the city and where the evolving council might go from here.

Details: The 86-page report shows that under Lightfoot, approximately half of the council supported her 90% or more of the time.

  • This was "lower than that under Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel," who enjoyed "strong majorities that supported their legislations more than 90% of the time, and had a core group of alderpersons who voted with them 100% of the time," the researchers wrote.

The intrigue: Researchers resurface some of the most contentious legislation proposed under Lightfoot, including an ordinance aimed at condemning violence against certain castes.

  • It sparked debate in the city's South Asian community and failed to pass.

The bottom line: Under Lightfoot's tenure, both the mayor and alders lost some of their traditional powers.

  • Researchers think that could lead to the city being "seen as a more mature democracy, one that sincerely responds to the will of its citizens, and can adequately tackle many of the city's chronic problems."

What we're watching: What new factions, caucuses and voting blocs will emerge under Mayor Brandon Johnson as his term plays out.


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