Chicago aldermen on Thursday approved the renaming of Outer Lake Shore Drive from Hollywood Avenue to 67th Street in honor of Jean Baptiste Point DuSable — over objections from Mayor Lori Lightfoot — in a rude meeting that fueled accusations of racism.
Aldus. David Moore (17th) sparked the tirade in response to a proposed replacement order from the Lightfoot administration that sought to clarify which sections of the Outer Drive were or were not affected by Moore’s proposed name change.
“These are racist bulls – t,” Moore said at one point.
Moore only grew more furious when Deputy Transportation Commissioner Tom Carney argued that it was ‘not uncommon to clarify from a legal standpoint’ which parts of a road would be affected by a change in name and that Outer Drive is “not a legal designation”.
“It’s fucking bulls,” Moore replied.
At that time, Transportation Committee Chairman Howard Brookins (21st) called for a temporary suspension.
When the aldermen returned, Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) sided with Moore.
Taylor called the replacement order “very disrespectful” to Moore and her co-sponsor, Ald. Sophia King (4th), and the proposal they “worked very hard on” for two years.
“It is important for the black community. How difficult is it? … It’s crazy,” Taylor said.
“You expect us to get along. It will not arrive. This is what the community demands. If you can afford to live on Lake Shore Drive, you can afford to spend $20 for a change of address on stationery, driver’s license, and other legal documents.
Aldus. Andre Vasquez (40th) called the 11th-hour substitute that Carney called a “technical” correction “absolutely racist”. Vasquez accused the Lightfoot administration of playing, what he called, “okey-doke.”
“Once again the administration is finding ways to hinder or alter the things that people have brought in. If people want to know why this government is not working it is because the executive has no respect for the legislature to do the job for this city,” Vasquez said.
Ald town center. Brendan Reilly (42nd) countered that Moore’s original order “may have been a little too vague on the definition” and inadvertently impacted Inner Lake Shore Drive.
“A number of my colleagues are concerned about the costly consequences for landlords, police and firefighters. … This has an impact on tens of thousands of voters — not just on the north side, but on the south side. And it’s not a $20 solution. It’s a very time-consuming and expensive solution” to changing mailing addresses, legal addresses, 911 addresses, Reilly said.
When the dust settled, the technical correction was postponed to another day, but the name change to honor Chicago’s first permanent non-native settler was approved.
King, who joined Moore in co-sponsoring the renaming, compared the resistance to renaming Lake Shore Drive to the backlash she faced before Congress Parkway was renamed in honor of Ida B. Wells.
“It’s just all, sort of, unconscious biases that come out. Individuals are strategically afraid of money and marketing and all the things that really aren’t that important but change people’s minds,” King said.
“We had no problem changing the White Sox park. Very iconic. And many other Chicago icons. So marketing shouldn’t stop us from taking that moment of judgment – in our world, in our country, and in our city – to do the right thing. We should be leaders and do what is right and turn Lake Shore Drive into DuSable Drive, which will set our city apart in a very distinct way by celebrating its true diversity and making our city even more iconic.
Before the final vote, Moore apologized for using profanity in anger.
He acknowledged that this sets a bad example for the young people he hopes to educate about the contributions of DuSable, “that great man, the founder of our city.”
“It will connect us. It will bring people together even more,” Moore said.
“It’s a story. It’s important for our young people.”
Moore assured colleagues that his intention was to impact the name change “just three or four ports along the Outer Drive.” If a technical correction is needed after the fact, Moore said he would spearhead that decision.
Earlier Thursday, Lightfoot outlined his alternative plan to invest $25 million to complete DuSable Park, create an exhibit honoring DuSable in the “busiest part” of downtown Riverwalk, and rename the entire Riverwalk to the honor of DuSable.
“There will be three iconic statues that will tell part of DuSable’s story. I’m very excited about the proposal,” Lightfoot said.
“DuSable has not been properly recognized, in my opinion, as the founder of the city. We don’t exist if he doesn’t come [and] set up a trading post with his wife… And what we’ve done so far is woefully inadequate.
Moore considers all of these plans a “great complement” to the revised plan he’s championing to rename the Outer Drive — not a replacement for it.