Take Charge Chicago, P.O. Box 8048, Chicago, IL 60680 info@takechargechicago.org 1-773-999-2016

Frequently Asked Questions

Term limits is a time-honored tool of democracy to restrict the time any one person may serve in a particular elected office. In this section, you can find out more about the need for term limits, especially on Chicago Mayors.

Term Limits

Supporters have made various arguments for term limits. Here are a few we’ve heard:

  • Incumbents’ reelection rates at all levels of government typically exceed 95 percent. Term limits breaks up the cozy relationships between incumbents and big money donors.
  • Term limits boosts competitive elections and gives voters more choices.
  • Term limits attracts people with fresh ideas who will push for innovative solutions. It encourages long-term planning and bold action by public officials who know they’re on the clock.
  • Term limits encourages more women, minorities and young people to run.
  • Term limits emboldens public officials to stand up to party bosses, entrenched bureaucrats and special interest lobbyists.
  • Term limits enables a truer reflection of changing ethnic and minority communities.
  • Term limits brings more candidates, volunteers, donors and voters into the process, fostering broader engagement and citizen democracy.

The Amendment reads:

“No person may hold the office of Mayor for more than two consecutive elected 4-year terms (with all prior consecutive terms of the current officeholder counted in determining the term limit for that officeholder).”

Since the incumbent Mayor will have served two consecutive four-year terms, he would be ineligible from seeking reelection in 2019.

The Take Charge Chicago referendums are binding, meaning the voters can directly change the structure of their government by voter referendum, bypassing the Mayor and City Council. These referendums are guaranteed by Article VII of the 1970 Illinois State Constitution and would be Chicago’s first binding referendums in memory.

How does this become the Law of Chicago? It’s a two-step process.

First, 52,519 registered Chicago voters (8 percent of the Chicago turnout in the 2014 gubernatorial race) would need to sign a petition to put the two Take Charge Chicago referendum amendments on the ballot. Then, if a majority vote “Yes” on each referendum, the reforms would automatically take effect in the 2019 Mayoral election.

  • Chicago is the only city among the nation’s ten largest cities where the office of mayor does not have term limits. The U.S. Constitution limits the President to two elected terms.
  • Chicago mayoral incumbents significantly outspend challengers, thanks to campaign war chests amassed from corporate lobbyists and the SuperPACs of the uber-rich. In 2007, for example, the incumbent had a 6-1 edge over his two challengers. In 2015, the incumbent outspent his principal challenger by 5-1.
  • Chicago Mayors enjoy unusual power over the legislative branch. Unlike the chief executives of our nation and state, the Chicago Mayor appoints City Council Committee Chairs, runs City Council meetings and fills aldermanic vacancies. This added power requires the added check of term limits to restore balance in City Hall.
  • Many officials in ancient Greece and Rome were “One-and-Out”; only one year in office. By 1700, some American colonies used term limits, particularly in New England, where such ideas as town hall meetings, direct democracy and citizen assemblies took root.
  • Many Founding Fathers studied ancient history and despised dynasties. They never intended for lawmakers to be life-long incumbents. Ben Franklin wanted gubernatorial term limits in Pennsylvania’s state constitution. In arguing for a 3-year term limit on Continental Congress delegates, Thomas Jefferson said term limits were needed, “…to prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office.”
  • George Washington set the two-term presidential precedent, which was voluntary until 1951 when the American people formally ratified term limits in the U.S. Constitution as the 22nd Amendment.

Chicago Consumer Advocate

The Chicago Consumer Advocate would be a new independent watchdog, elected by the voters citywide to a four-year term (instead of being appointed by the Mayor).

The Consumer Advocate will be a strong voice who will stand up to the insiders on behalf of consumers and taxpayers who are not getting a fair shake. The Consumer Advocate will also be a steward for a healthful environment and a vigilant monitor of City Hall compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

The Consumer Advocate will tackle issues neglected by City Hall and stand up for beleaguered consumers and taxpayers. The Consumer Advocate will fight against unfair insurance practices, cable TV abuses, credit redlining, scanner scamming at the grocery store, and unsafe drinking water. The Consumer Advocate will also open the doors of City Hall and bring in more sunshine by forcing compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

Yes, but it’s primarily concerned with licensing and regulation, more of a rubberstamp than an independent watchdog. The current Commissioner is appointed by the Mayor, not elected by the people. The Consumer Advocate would replace the Commissioner of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection and earn the same pay as Chicago’s City Clerk ($133,545), much less than the current BACP chief ($157,092).

  • Some 700 years ago, Sweden used an “ombudsman” to represent citizen grievances with the king. The word “ombudsman” means “the peoples person”.
  • Today, many U.S. local governments have an ombudsman to receive grievances by the general public.
  • New York City’s Public Advocate has been a voice for everyday people since 1993. As Public Advocate, now-Mayor Bill de Blasio fought for universal pre-K, tenants’ rights and fairness for students. He created a list of “New York’s 100 Worst Landlords”. His successor – Letitia James – has continued by fighting for working people, foster children, and fairness in the workplace.
  • In 1982, Chicago voters overwhelmingly approved an advisory referendum which led to creation of the Illinois Citizens Utility Board (CUB), now the state’s largest consumer group.

“Shall Chicago establish an elected Consumer Advocate for taxpayers and consumers to replace the appointed Commissioner of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection?”

Specific duties include:

  • protecting Chicago taxpayers and consumers from unfairness and inequality;
  • promoting a healthful environment;
  • monitoring City Hall compliance with the Freedom of Information Act; and
  • replacing the appointed Commissioner of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protecting and managing all duties and responsibilities of the Department.

The Chicago Consumer Advocate would be created by the voters through a binding referendum. It is part of the Take Charge Chicago campaign, which also calls for a term limit on Chicago Mayors. Take Charge aims to collect 100,000 signatures to put both referendums to the voters. If the Chicago Consumer Advocate referendum is approved by voter referendum, then the Chicago Consumer Advocate would be elected by the voters in the 2019 municipal election.