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Within the 50-person City Council, there’s currently a bloc of 20 alders who make up the Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus (CABC). Since its inception, the CABC’s mission has been to work together closely to “represent the needs and interests of Chicago’s Black communities.”

Have they done that? Given the current state of Black Chicago as a whole, it’s hard to say. 

Chicago was once the business and political powerhouse of Black America. By 1980, it was home to nearly 1.2 million Black people (about 40 percent of the population). During what’s now being referred to as a Black exodus of people and political power, that number has dropped below 29 percent today.

Additionally, many of the predominantly Black wards that the CABC represents are struggling under continued divestment. In West Side neighborhoods such as North Lawndale, East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park and Austin, for example, poverty rates by household are some of the highest in the city: at 43 percent, 42 percent, 42 percent and 29 percent, respectively. In East and West Garfield parks, specifically, the median household income is $23,067 and $29,443, respectively; for the city as a whole, it’s $62,907.

The West Side is also disproportionately impacted by the criminal legal system. Between 2005 and 2009, Illinois spent $550 million on incarceration in Austin and $241 million in North Lawndale, according to Chicago’s Million Dollar Blocks. During that same time, according to 2018’s The War on Neighborhoods, 6,700 residents in the West Side’s 60644 ZIP code were convicted and sentenced to prison; whereas 311 residents in neighboring Oak Park were sentenced to prison. At this time, the West Side is home to Cook County Jail, the CPD’s Homan Square black site and the controversial $128-million police and training academy; the latter was highly touted by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the academy’s home alder, Emma Mitts (37th Ward) as a win that will spur more economic development in the area.

The CABC is on the brink of a major shakeup this election season, with six of its members either stepping down, retiring or challenging Mayor Lori Lightfoot for her seat. The TRiiBE produced an accountability dashboard that takes a look at the voting records of each Black alder, dating back to former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s tenure. The dashboard is the first of its kind in Chicago.

To create it, we filed a public records request to the City Clerk for all votes made across all committees in the City Council. The clerk’s office responded with 338,130 pages of PDF files that provided a partial picture of how alders have voted. We supplemented our analysis of those files with yearly divided vote reports compiled by former UIC political scientist Dick Simpson and data provided by Datamade to create this dashboard.

The information presented here shows a slice of the hundreds of votes taken by members of the CABC over more than a decade. We chose to highlight ordinances that had a significant impact on, or particular relevance to, Black Chicagoans.

For example, in March 2021, City Council voted to establish a guaranteed income pilot program that went into effect in July 2022, providing $500 per month to 5,000 low-income Chicagoans. In our dashboard, you’ll find that the CABC did not vote unanimously on that measure. CABC chairman Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward) told the Sun-Times that those funds should be reallocated to violence prevention instead.

In June 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the City Council voted to temporarily ban evictions of renters who were unable to pay rent. Some of the CABC voted against that, too. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, some alders believed the ordinance overly favored tenants.

Knowing how alders voted on key issues over the years is critical to understanding how — and how well — they represent our communities in City Hall. This dashboard is intended to shed some light on that. 

Take a look at the dashboard to see how your alder has been voting, and whether their record is in alignment with improving living conditions in your ward. Ward maps recently changed; be sure to check your address in our Election Center Ward lookup tool.

is a freelance data journalist who focuses on police transparency.
is the editor-in-chief of The TRiiBE and a 2023-2024 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.
is the digital news editor for The TRiiBE.