Evanston aldermen went through the quadrennial ritual of voting themselves a pay raise Monday night, accompanied by complaints they’re overworked.

“We are not being compensated fairly for the work we do,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward.

Alderman Delors Holmes, 5th Ward, said, “It’s not a part time job.”

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said, “On a good week” she devotes 30 to 35 hours to her aldermanic role.

Aldeman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said the compensation committee appointed by the mayor should have looked at how much Chicago aldermen are paid, instead of just comparing pay rates with Skokie and Lincolnwood, where trustees make less than Evanston aldermen do and there are fewer of them.

Chicago aldermen now make between $104,000 and $115,000 a year and, on average, represent over 54,000 residents each.

But, as an analysis by the Better Government Association points out, Chicago aldermen have among the smallest number of constituents for the full-time aldermen in any large city.

At the opposite extreme is Los Angeles, where 15 city council members each represent more than a quarter million people.

By comparison, Evanston’s part-time aldermen on average represent about 8,300 residents and are currently paid $12,000 a year.

Only aldermen Don Wilson, 4th Ward, and Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, voted against the 2 percent per year increase recommended by the compensation committee for each of the next four years.

“I don’t believe anybody does the job for the money,” Wilson, who works as an attorney, said.

But Rainey, who has no job other than her role as alderman, said she couldn’t do it if she didn’t get paid.

The aldermen also approved 2 percent annual pay hikes for the the mayor, the city clerk and the township supervisor and assessor.

And they approved new two-year contracts for firefighters and city workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that include pay hikes roughly similar to what the elected officials will be getting.

Related story

Aldermen to give workers, officials a raise

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. My alderman works 24/7

    My alderman, Ann Rainey, makes herself available to her constituents at all hours of the day, every day of the week. She attends events and meetings nearly every night after problem-solving for her consituents all day, then often drives around hot spots making sure all is well. She responds to e-mails, text messages and phone calls very quickly. I don't know how many hours she works in a week, but I'm betting it's significantly more than I work in my full-time job, for which I am paid a lot more than $12,000.

  2. The City must cut, cut, and cut.

    Comparing Aldermanic pay in Chicago (where it is high) may provide political cover and justification for higher pay, but it is not a good comparision.  I'm not saying Chicago Alderman make too much nor am I saying they make too little, but Chicago Alderman do run a full-time office, with multiple staff, and handle a number of in-ward services such as garbage pick-up and zoning matters.  

    Overall though, I agree that Evanston Aldermen are overworked and deserve fair pay (whatever that figure may be).  But the best way to address this is to significantly cut the non-critical aspects of city/township government.  Focus on police/fire, sewers, water, etc., and stop the silliness of everything from fluffy resolutions read a city council meetings to excessive regulations like plastic bag bans, rental licensing, and food truck bans.  Over and over again, elected officials say they are too busy and cannot fully address everything (that is true) — but at the same time they push for more and more government.  All these little things add up and adversely impact the attention Aldermen can devote to more important things.  In everything Evanston does, whether it the reading of silly resolution praising the boy scouts or giving money away to businesses for economic development — the City must really ask itself how critical it is that city government takes the issue on.   

  3. Only 2 %

    Chicago aldermen have a paid staff, a fully equiped office with expenses, and a expense accout. There staff filters all the calls and sometimes are autherized to make minor decisions. they also complete all the paperwork.

    The alderperson only meets 1 time per month, gets paid more if the chair or co-chair a committee, and sometimes gets a car, driver, and bodyguard.

    Most alderpersons run another company or are part of another business.

    It is unfair to compare Evanston aldermen to Chicago aldermen, our alderpeople work much harder and put in a lot more time. They deserve more money. Maybe they would be more careful with the taxpayer money. Maybe they could work to keep taxes lower.

    Instead of a 2 % increase it should be 20 %. But they should still pay a fair amount for their health insurance. This would be    $ 300 – $ 700 more a month based on their covered family size.

    1. Stick to facts.

      Stick to facts… not hyperbole.  

      Chicago Aldermen do not "sometimes get a car, driver, and bodyguard" — only one out of 50 Alderman has such an arrangement and it is a very controversial, often attacked arrangement.  

      To say Evanston aldermen "work much harder and put in a lot more time" is pulled out of thin air.  Maybe some Evanston aldermen do and maybe some don't — but such a claim is not based on any factual information.  I would be willing to bet that the demands of a Chicago alderman are greater than an Evanston alderman — that is not a knock against Evanston alderman, but merely the design of the job.

      Lastly, you say "most [Chicago] alderpersons run another company or are part of another business" — again, that is not based on any fact, but merely something you just came up with while typing away at your computer.

      1. sorry Just

        If it is only 1 out of 50, it is one too many. What's your problem.

        Based of news paper stories and tv reporting, only 4 out of 50 call their city job their fulltime job. That leaves 46 others who are part of another income producing line of work. The city pays for their staff to do the everyday duties of an alderperson. I guess that make their jobs as elected city workers a part-time experience.

        Just Observing, are you a Chicago alderperson or just a relative. You spend so much time defending the gang of 50.

        Evanston alderpersons do work hard when compared to their salaries and deserve a raise. What they do not deserve is free health insurance. I assume that they declare the value of their healthcare on their taxes as income. It would far excede their salary.

        1. Again, just the facts.

          OneSmartGuy… I am not a Chicago Alderman nor a relative.  I also did not defend Chicago Aldermen — I was just pointing out facts.

          You said "some" get drivers and bodyguards — some is plural, one is singular.  I was pointing out that it is not the case.  Ald. Burke is the only Alderman that receives that arrangement — I think it is dead wrong and should be immediately stopped.

          You also said "most alderpersons run another company or are part of another business" — the implication being most own or have ownership in other businesses.  I challenge that.  I haven't taken the time to assess the outside employment of all 50 Aldermen, but this recent article states that of the 18 new Aldermen, only 1/3 have an outside job:

          So, I am not opposed to paying Evanston Aldermen a decent salary — I actually support paying elected officials fair salaries and my previous posts indicate so.  But, I am opposed to fly-by-night postings stating things as "fact" with no basis.  If you want to interpret that as defending "the gang of 50" you are free to do so, but that would be incorrect.

    2. For comparison’s sake – Park

      For comparison's sake – Park Ridge alderman are paid $1,200 per year each (7 alderman) and the Mayor is paid $12,000 per year. They have about 5,400 residents per alderman.

  4. Do the math

    A 2% pay raise for the each alderperson is $240 x 9 = $2190. 

    Even if it is a part-time job (e.g. 20 hours a week), and they're making $12,000/yr, it comes to only $11.54 an hour. WIth a  raise they'll get $11.77/hr.

    Too much?!

  5. If aldermen just stick to streets, parks, rec….

    Our aldermen seem to think they are in the business of creating jobs and telling private businesses how to operate.

     If they just stuck to public works, streets, and parks, they would not be so overworked.

    If they just said no to unreasonable requests from constituents, this job would just be part part time- what it's meant to be.

    I do not want to pay more for aldermen, because I want them to stop their wreckless controls in the city. Stop spending my money!

  6. Aldermanic workload and 311

    Since the installation of the 311 system, aldermanic workloads have decreased because complaints/issues can now be directed to 311 instead of individual aldermen.

    However, aldermen do spend an excessive amount of time in long (winded) meetings. For which they have only themselves to blame. 😉

  7. Lets set the record straight on who really works hard!

    Let me set the record straight on who really works hard at the City!

    It not Ann, its the two city workers from the water department who are out in the middle of winter at 5:00 pm trying to shut off a broken water line in below freezing weather that Ann and her friends have taken all the water funds so the 100 year old pipes keep on breaking! Wine and Cheese Bars are more important!

    What about the employees who continue to risk their lifes going into the Lagoon valve pit that Wally and staff seem uninterested in fixing?  A very real and dangerous safety issue.  Wally's little finger would not fit through the openning.

    Its the employees, at the Ecology Center who are working seven days a week, since Wally cut their staff, and are serving hundreds of children and families.  It not the alderman who came over to the center to hold their silly ward meetings.

    Ann stated she spends hours looking at the credit card charges, please. Maybe Ann should ask Wally why there is almost 1 million dollars a year in charges. Don't you trust Wally management? Why does the city need to charge $130,000 last month?  By the way did you catch the employee who was misusing their credit card for personel use?

    Its not  a employee at the city who get the Mayor a silly award and she gives the employee an award for getting her an award.  Then she goes and states the employee will get alot more awards. Thats a real resume builder.

    The workers that are doing their jobs are the ones who are not getting the awards!

    No part time council members are deserving  of almost free medical benefits, what about a hard working part time maintenance employee with a disable child who gets no benefits? The employee I know works far harder than any city council member or the Mayor. 

    Please the show last night was a joke, in my professional experience those that cry about how hard they work, usually work the least  and are usually the least effective workers.


  8. Comparison with Chicago

    :If the alderman want to get paid like Chicago aldermen, then they should work full time. But then the wards should be larger which would mean less aldermanic representation.

    I think three wards would serve the Evanston public better than nine, with full time aldermen each earning $36k plus medical benefits and other extras.

    The real benefit would be to haveing only three council members, thus potentially cutting council meeting time by at least 60 percent, thereby lessening the burden of all that thinking by our aldermen.

    And since they would be full time elected officials, it is fairly certain that they would cut the time they currently spend on official business by 50 percent and hopefully focus on public works and other sundries for which they were elected.

    Win win for everyone:  Aldermen: more money less time, Citizens: fewer aldermen.

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