What, you ask, does the Mayor of Chicago do?
The mayor submits the annual budget and appoints commissioners, city officers, and school board members. As part of the city council, the mayor cannot officially vote but serves as the presiding officer, submitting proposals from the mayor’s office, as well as on behalf of city departments. In the event of a tie, the mayor can vote to break ties. The Chicago mayor, however, lacks veto power; their signature is not needed for bills to become law.
It is difficult to understand the mayor’s role and the legacy of past mayors without also examining the complex history of ‘political machines’ in Chicago, loosely defined as a system of political control in which power is secured through dispensing welfare benefits and patronage jobs. Some of the most notable mayors include Richard J. Daley and Richard M. Daley, the father-son mayoral duo who served as mayors of Chicago from 1955-1976 and 1989-2011. Biographies of the elder Daley, Richard J., illustrate his status in their titles alone: "Clout." "American Pharaoh." "Boss."
This is not to say that reformers cannot win the mayoral race. The 13 years between Richard J. Daley and Richard M. Daley include the first female mayor Jane Byrne, as well as the most famous reform-minded mayor in Chicago history, Harold Washington, who fought against the entrenched interests of the city council during the so-called "Council Wars" of the 1980's.
The mayor, like all of Chicago’s elected officers, technically runs in a nonpartisan race and serves a four-year term. To run for mayor, one must reside in the municipality for at least one year before the election and submit nomination papers with at least 12,500 petition signatures. Should no candidate receive at least 50% of the vote, a runoff is held between the top two vote-getting candidates. Get ready for that to happen this year.