Barring an eleventh-hour parliamentary maneuver, the Chicago City Council is set to rename Outer Lake Shore Drive in honor of Jean Baptiste Point DuSable on Wednesday at a set cost of $2.5 million.
Aldus. David Moore (17th), the council champion for DuSable Drive, said Tuesday that Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration tried to block the ordinance with an alternative he sees as having “racial overtones” – renaming the Dan Ryan Highway in honor of Chicago’s first permanent, non-native settler.
Lightfoot also proposed to complete DuSable Park, create an exhibit honoring DuSable in the “busiest part” of downtown Riverwalk, and rename all of Riverwalk in DuSable’s honor.
“We were offered to rename the Dan Ryan. …. Keep it on the south side. South of 35th Street. Let’s be honest: keep it in the black community,” Moore told the Sun-Times.
“These are racial overtones and ones that we need to move past in this city. We are better than that.
Moore declined to name the person who offered to rename the Dan Ryan. [Lightfoot] administration and leave it at that.
The mayor’s office had no immediate comment on the matter on Tuesday.
Zoning committee chairman Tom Tunney (44th) said he heard about the name change from “people who actually live on Lake Shore Drive.” They fear it will be “a bit of a nightmare in terms of mailing addresses and everything else they would have to rearrange,” Tunney said.
Ald town center. Brendan Reilly (42nd) also warned that the name change will require a “long and costly solution” for “tens of thousands” of Chicago voters and will have “expensive implications” for businesses, police and firefighters.
But on the eve of the showdown vote, Moore revealed the combined cost to the city, state and CTA to change signs, maps and schedules pales in comparison to the cost of Lightfoot’s alternative proposal to honor DuSable.
“The state has given its figures. The city has given its numbers. And it came out less than $2.5 million to change the street and the signs and everything,” Moore said of the estimate handed over in recent months at Reilly’s request.
“But yet the administration came back with a $40 million proposal: $25 million for the park and $15 million for the Riverwalk and also added to that the possibility of changing the Chicago River to DuSable. But they would have to go through the Ministry of the Interior. All that heavy work just to not rename the Outer Drive? This is a problem for me.
In 1993, then-aldermen Toni Preckwinkle and Madeline Haithcock proposed renaming Lake Shore Drive to honor DuSable. Mayor Richard M. Daley put the kibosh on the idea.
Then, 18 years later, so-Ald. Ed Smith proposed a different honor – naming City Hall after DuSable. He met the same fate.
Since then, the political landscape has changed dramatically.
The Council is now majority-minority, with 20 black aldermen and 13 Hispanic members.
More importantly, the death of George Floyd a year ago on Tuesday at the hands of Minneapolis police officers sparked a racial toll in Chicago and across the country. This prompted the Council to create a reparations subcommittee to find a way to make amends to the “descendants of enslaved Africans” living in Chicago.
Against this backdrop, an ordinance that has languished in committee since October 2019 appears to have too much political momentum to halt.
“People’s voices are louder. … I don’t think it’s a political conscience as much as a social conscience. People are raising their voices and knowing the meaning of certain statues, certain recognitions and how it plays a role in our lives,” Moore said.
Moore, whose ordinance needs a technical solution to define ‘Outer Drive’, said he had been pleasantly surprised by the influx of ‘students and young people’ in the two years since he introduced the name change.
“I didn’t think it would happen at the rate it did. That’s why it’s important to me. He educated young people to learn more about DuSable and learn more about… his discovery of Chicago. And not just black kids. These are all of our children across this city,” he said.
“When we talk about immigrants, people think either of European immigrants or of Mexican immigrants. But we have a lot of immigrants from Haiti and from the African diaspora. Their voices are finally heard. It means a lot to them to see this happen.
Two aldermen can decide to “defer and publish”, which delays consideration of any matter for a meeting. Tunney said he did not plan to use this parliamentary maneuver. Reilly was unreachable.
Ald town center. Brian Hopkins (2nd) was asked if he plans to delay the vote.
“Not sure. Under discussion,” Hopkins wrote in a text message to the Sun-Times.
Lightfoot also has the ability to veto the name change. But allies say Lightfoot would be best served by letting go and saving his energy for the most important battles ahead, such as handing out federal relief funds, enacting some form of civilian police oversight and developing a municipal budget, to name a few.