Pat O’Connor has been fighting for the people of Chicago for over 34 years. He has used his abilities as a lawyer, community leader and alderman to advocate for change, improve our public school system, create new jobs and promote economic development, improve our health care system, keep our neighborhoods safe, and rebuild our infrastructure.
Pat is a lifelong resident of the northwest side of Chicago and has represented the City’s 40th Ward in the City Council since 1983. In his years on the Council, Pat has distinguished himself as a leader committed to improving education, economic development, and public safety. He has a solid reputation for honesty and personal integrity.
In his years of public service, Pat has always stood up for what is right and best for the people he serves, even when it is not the popular political choice with Democratic Party leadership. In 1984 Pat was the first city of Chicago Democratic Committeeman to break from the party and endorse the late Paul Simon, a social progressive and fiscal conservative, in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary.
Alderman O’Connor is committed to understanding the needs and concerns of his constituents. Over the past 30 years, Pat has instituted Town Hall Meetings in which he goes out into every part of the community to hear and address concerns of neighborhood residents. He always consults with the potentially impacted neighborhood organizations in the Ward to get their feedback on the many projects and issues throughout the Ward.
For over 20 years, Pat served as the Chairman of the Committee on Education and Child Development, where he worked with Mayor Daley, Paul Vallas, Gery Chico, and Arne Duncan on Chicago’s public school reform movement. Nationally recognized as a leader in public education, Pat O’Connor has received countless awards from teachers and school administrators alike. In his first year as Education Chairman, Pat was a key figure in negotiating a settlement to the longest teachers’ strike in more than three decades. He has established a reputation for bipartisanship and an ability to find new solutions to longstanding problems. His efforts as an advocate for education funding in Springfield have resulted in better pay for teachers and an unprecedented period of cooperation between the Chicago Board of Education and labor unions that serve the school children of Chicago. Pat was one of the founding members of the National League of Cities Institute on Youth Education and Families, headquartered in Washington, D.C. More locally, he was instrumental in bringing Northside College Prep to the northwest side of Chicago, a school which has distinguished itself academically as the top high school in the state of Illinois. He has helped secure additions, new playgrounds and infrastructure improvements for almost every school in the 40th Ward over the years. Most recently, he was able to help to secure an expansion of Jamieson Elementary School (one of only three schools in the entire City that received a major capital improvement in 2015).
After chairing the Education Committee, Pat then served as Chairman of Traffic Control and Safety from 2008 – 2011, and from 2011 to today, Pat has served as Chairman of the Workforce Development and Audit Committee. The committee focuses its efforts on the city’s labor force and regulations affecting labor. This committee was specifically created to deal with oversight of the numerous workforce issues which exist within the City. In this role, Pat has been instrumental in working with Mayor Emanuel to create a more efficient and cost effective city government. Each of the collective bargaining agreements governing the City’s labor force—including police and fire—are approved through the Workforce committee. Pat also serves as the acting Chairman of the Committee on Finance where he has worked to transition the oversight of the workman’s compensation program to an executive branch function to increase the transparency of the program. He has also rejected the security detail that customarily comes along with the position. Pat is also an active member of the Aviation, Budget and Government Operations, Education and Child Development, and Rules and Ethics Committees.
Pat has worked with the residents of the 40th Ward in securing millions of dollars to build and rehab schools; acquire, build and rehab parks as well as build a new library, firehouse and police stations. Under his leadership, the City recently purchased over 20 acres of forest and lake property in Rosehill Cemetery to create a nature preserve in the center of the Ward. Pat believes that focusing on economic development, jobs, education, infrastructure, and healthcare is the best route to ensure every citizen’s good quality of life and chance at the American Dream.
As the son of Irish immigrants, Pat has always understood the need for good jobs that pay a living wage. Recently, he oversaw the passing of a $13 minimum wage in the City of Chicago (by 2019). As an elected official, he has been an advocate for small business owners and has made community economic development a top priority. He has always supported equal pay for equal work.
Alderman O’Connor has long been a champion of issues affecting health and wellness. He introduced and saw the passage of legislation mandating that city establishments which serve alcohol warn pregnant women about the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant. He fought for neighborhood and school-based health care clinics. Pat was awarded an American Cancer Society Partner in Progress Award in recognition of his exceptional leadership in the fight to make Chicago smoke free. He helped secure $2.4 million in TIF dollars for a new Women’s Health Center and Emergency Room renovation at Swedish Covenant Hospital. Alderman O’Connor was proud to help support the new innovative center which will provide the highest quality care; provide support for uninsured and underinsured patients; flexible child-friendly appointment times; translation services; and female staffing with women-only patient areas. He also helped secure revenue to expand mental health services at Swedish Covenant through expanding the Emergency Room and providing on the spot diversion of patients from ER rooms to mental health professionals on site.
Pat has worked for many years in the neighborhood banking industry, giving him the capacity to be a leader on legislation dealing with financial institutions. Pat’s legal knowledge serves him every day as a legislator and in the service of his constituents. Pat has never practiced in land use or zoning areas of law.
Above all of his accomplishments and experience, Pat is first a neighbor in the community. Pat graduated from Mather High School and earned his B.A. and law degrees from Loyola University of Chicago. He is the proud husband of Barbara and father of five children, Hilary, Patrick, Claire, Courtney, and Moira. He is also the grandfather of seven. He resides in the Budlong Woods neighborhood and is an active member of St. Hilary’s Catholic Church. He is integrally engaged in neighborhood, civic and community organizations, and activities.