CHICAGO — Before this spring’s election, four Chicago aldermen were out on bond.
Currently, there’s one sitting alderman that is under federal indictment. Sadly, ending up in jail is a common occurrence for Chicago’s leaders — and now South Side journalism lab City Bureau is making it easier for residents to know if their elected alderman is in trouble with he law.
City Bureau’s new website, hasmyaldermanbeenindicted.com, includes information on the aldermen who lead all 50 of Chicago’s wards, as well as the history of political corruption in each ward. Simply plug in your address and find out what your alderman (past or present) has been up to.
The City Council’s most high-profile member in trouble is Ald. Ed Burke (14th).
“Chicago’s Godfather Alderman Ed Burke pleaded ‘not guilty’ to federal charges of bribery and racketeering — a law first devised decades ago to combat mobsters and organized crime — following a May 30 indictment and a federal raid of his offices,” the website’s entry on Burke reads.
In January, Burke, the longest-serving alderman in the City Council’s history, was charged with trying to shake down a South Side Burger King.
Other leaders featured on the website, even though they aren’t currently facing indictments, include Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) and former Alds. Danny Solis (25th), Willie Cochran (20th), Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st) and Ricardo Muñoz (22nd).
Chicago has a long history of corruption — 30 Chicago aldermen have pleaded guilty or been convicted of crimes related to their official duties since 1972, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“If you look at those statistics, Chicago aldermen are batting about .300 when it comes to criminality,” said Darryl Holliday, one of City Bureau’s co-founders.
This website is another way the nonprofit is trying to make the city’s government more transparent and accessible to Chicagoans.
“The idea for ‘Has My Alderman Been Indicted’ kind of grew out of our work with our documenter’s team,” Holliday said. “It started as a newsroom joke last week. But we’re a bunch of news nerds. So it went from a joke to us thinking, ‘How could we turn this into public service journalism?’”
In addition to the entries on current and former aldermen, the website also has a “frequently asked questions” section that explains things like what the City Council is supposed to do as well as where the word “alderman” comes from.
In addition to letting the public know if their aldermen are in trouble, City Bureau has been covering city meetings via its Documenters program. The website that launched Wednesday is an extension of that program, Holliday said
To date, more than 550 people have signed up to get trained and paid as a documenter to monitor city meetings which might not get much media coverage and or have records readily available to the public.
“Monitoring indictments is just one metric for grading our city leaders. But there are a lot of ways to hold elected officials accountable,” Holliday said. “So we’re trying to do that by hosting public newsroom events in addition to our documenter and reporter fellowships.”
To this end, throughout August, City Bureau will be hosting four events across the city looking at what City Council members have been up to in the first 100 days since taking office.
Find out if your alderman has been indicted here.
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