Added May 01 2012
When pension benefits for aldermen were boosted in 1991, their salary was $40,000 a year. Since then, it has grown to as much as $115,000 — rising at nearly double the rate of inflation.
That six-figure salary, and the large pension that goes with it, isn't even for full-time work. By law, the job of a Chicago alderman is part time.
Under the plan, aldermen and other elected city officials became eligible to receive up to 80 percent of the salary they earned during their last month of work. All other employees in the municipal pension plan...receive 70 percent of their average monthly salary over the previous four years.
Aldermen can also reach the maximum benefit with just 20 years of service, compared with nearly 30 years for everyone else...
Council members argue that they deserve to earn credit more quickly because they face re-election every four years...Data from the pension fund show that aldermen...retired with an average of 25 years of service, roughly the same as the average retiree in the municipal pension plan.
"It's not a part-time job, not if you're doing what you're supposed to be doing," said Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., 27th. "The definition of the job is part time. But I work 16-hour days twice a week. I work on Saturdays. You can't go to church without people asking you for things."
But those duties are not mandatory, and there are other avenues to city services, such as the 311 phone line.
According to state law, the aldermen's only responsibility is to draft and approve legislation.
And Chicago's City Council, though among the largest and most expensive in the nation, rarely produces ordinances of substance...The council takes roughly 7,000 votes a year on ordinances. Yet, since mid-2006, fewer than 100 votes were not unanimous, according to...the city clerk's office.