How Does the Government of Chicago, Illinois Interact with Neighboring Cities and Towns?

The city of Chicago is situated on the banks of Lake Michigan, in Cook County, in the northeastern part of Illinois. Its government is divided into executive and legislative branches, with the mayor as the executive director. This individual is elected by general election for a four-year term, with no term limit. The mayor appoints the commissioners and other officials who manage the various departments.

The other two elected officials of the city are the city clerk and the city treasurer. The basis of statute-based reform in Chicago is based on the balance of power between the mayor and the City Council. This charter grants the City Council access to all information held by the executive branch, allowing them to make their own analyses and properly vet budget, policy, and program decisions. This changes the power and effectiveness of the work of City Council committees.

Illinois state law was designed to restrict the flexibility that larger municipalities, particularly Chicago, could exercise when governing their own jurisdictions. This posed a threat to order and efficiency in the region, according to renowned University of Chicago political scientist Charles Merriam. The evolution of governance in Chicago differs from that of other cities due to its municipal corporations owing their origins and powers exclusively from the legislature. This means that in all matters affecting local government in Illinois, the state remains the final arbiter.

In addition to the governments of Chicago and nearby cities, villages, and towns, there are county governments and special-purpose districts such as park districts, forest reserve districts, and health districts. Mayor Richard J. Daley was able to centralize power by holding two crucial positions simultaneously: mayor of Chicago and president of the Cook County Democratic Party. Metropolitan area government agencies owe their creation to the powers of the Illinois State Legislature.

The 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention amended the 1870 constitution in several important ways, including creating a commission known as the Randolph Commission to study city governance problems. To sum up, Chicago's government interacts with neighboring cities and towns through a variety of means, including statute-based reform, state law limitations on flexibility, municipal corporations owing their origins to legislature powers, county governments, special-purpose districts, and more.