You can look up your alderman’s meeting attendance rate using our tool below.
Attendance records varied widely during the two-and-a-half-year period, from the top alderman attending 99% of their required committee meetings to a 57% attendance rate for the lowest-scoring alderman. Freshman members of the City Council generally posted higher attendance rates than their veteran colleagues and the aldermen they replaced.
Data explained How we calculated the rankings
Reporters from WBEZ,
Crain’s Chicago Business and The Daily Line analyzed committee and full council attendance records maintained by the city clerk’s office from the start of the term in May 2019 through the end of 2021.
The clerk’s office maintains only PDFs of attendance. The analysis required reporters to input nearly 11,000 records into spreadsheets to be calculated.
An alderman’s individual rate was based on the total number of meetings the alderman was marked as present divided by the total number of meetings the alderman was required to attend.
The overall average rate of attendance, 86%, was calculated by totaling all the meetings attended by each alderman and dividing that by the total number of meetings aldermen should have attended. The team recalculated the attendance analysis from 2019 with the same methodology, which resulted in an adjusted City Council average of 64% from 65%. The previous story has not been changed.
Required meetings were based on committee membership (
), which can vary widely. Some aldermen are members of as many as 10 committees, others as few as four. found here
Some City Council committees (Finance, Budget, Zoning) meet every month; others meet once in a blue moon. The Budget Committee met more than any other City Council committee. Others, such as the Committee on Immigration and Refugee Rights, met twice.
These variables lead to noticeable outliers in the data.
For example, Ald. Walter Burnett, 27th Ward, had to attend 359 meetings, more than anyone else, while Ald. Roberto Maldonado, 26th Ward, only had to attend 126 meetings. The average number of required meetings among all aldermen was 269.
Aldermen did not get bonus points for attending a committee meeting for which they were not a member.
Attendance records at the discretion of the chair
When WBEZ and The Daily Line did this analysis in 2019, the city clerk’s office did not publicly post attendance records for committee meetings and committees were not penalized for failing to take attendance.
A Freedom of Information Act request then revealed dozens of cases where aldermen met, but no record of who was there — and if there was a quorum — could be found.
But after our 2019 reporting, committee chairmen were required to take roll at the beginning of each meeting. Attendance records are now publicly available on the city clerk’s website,
and no longer require a FOIA request to be analyzed. However, attendance reports from more than 20 meetings were not posted online and had to be obtained directly from committee chairs or from videos of attendance roll calls. found here, A note about accuracy
These records are the responsibility of the city clerk’s office and they may be prone to human error.
There is no uniform system for taking attendance
Reporters only counted meetings in which attendance records were provided
or in which videos were available showing aldermen registering their attendance . Meetings for which no attendance was taken, or for which no attendance records could be found,with missing attendance sheets were excluded from the analysis. Attendance may include/exclude drop-ins
Sometimes, aldermen left a meeting shortly after they were marked present on attendance sheets. Sometimes, aldermen showed up late, even when the meeting was about to adjourn, and requested to be noted as present for the meeting. The analysis counts aldermen as having attended a meeting if they showed up to any part of it and registered their presence.
Due to inconsistent record-keeping by the City Council and City Clerk’s Office, more than two-dozen Rule 45 attendance reports — which were the core tool used to calculate each alderman’s attendance — were not available at the time the analysis was published. The ranking methodology intended to totally exclude from the analysis all meetings that were missing records. However, due to a data aggregation error, those meetings were included among the 519 total meetings counted toward aldermen’s attendance. The result was that all aldermen were inadvertently counted as absent for those meetings, thereby artificially deflating every alderman’s attendance score — some by more than others.
Since the initial analysis, the reporting team has worked to track down records for every one of the meetings that had been excluded from the analysis. Eight meetings were added because their records were posted online by the Clerk’s Office. Attendance records were obtained directly from the staffs of the Housing Committee, Finance Committee, Rules Committee and Public Safety committee for 15 total meetings whose records had not been posted publicly. Seven additional meetings had video archives available but no written attendance records, so reporters watched videos of the meetings end-to-end to mark everyone who recorded themselves as present, even if they showed up late. Another seven meetings were deleted from the analysis entirely, either because no video or written record was available or because attendance was not taken at the meeting.
This updated analysis changed the overall attendance rate to 86%, a 5 percentage point increase from the previously published report. Individual aldermanic rates improved by between 1 and 9 percentage points. This did not affect the relative rankings of some aldermen; others shifted between 1 and 8 places in the rankings.