The Chicago Tribune is out this week with a nifty chart of which aldermen have opted out of voluntary cost-of-living increases, and which are sharing the financial sacrifices of city workers by taking furlough days.
Starting in 2006, the City Council began pegging its salary to the cost of living, so members wouldn’t have to take the unpopular step of voting themselves raises. Since then, their base salary has increased $10,000, without a pay increase on their voting records. However, aldermen can opt out of the raises. Not surprisingly, only three have refused all pay increases: Scott Waguespack (32nd), Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Thomas Tunney (44th) all live in some of the city’s most expensive wards, but they’re still making do on $104,101 a year. But 19 aldermen are earning the full $114,913.
As 21st Ward Ald. Howard Brookins explained, “Once it’s out there, I think for me to give it back to the city for someone else to waste it somewhere else in the city doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t help me with my obligations to my family.”
In 2009 and 2010, aldermen were also asked to take unpaid days to show solidarity with city workers who were forced to sacrifice during the worst years of the Great Recession. Ald. James Balcer (11th) took the most days off, with 41. Ald. Ricardo Munoz took off the fewest, with only 7. In 2011, newly-elected Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) took 55 unpaid days, to fulfill his campaign promise to take only $60,000 in salary his first year in office.