Lake Shore Drive, Chicago’s flagship lakeside boulevard, could be renamed in honor of Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, Chicago’s first permanent settler, under a revised ordinance that has languished in committee for more than a year. year.
Transportation Committee Chairman Howard Brookins (21st) agreed on Thursday to hold a “subject matter hearing” on the ordinance on Friday – and to schedule an up or down vote “in or before April” – after Ald. David Moore (17th) has agreed to limit the scope of his name change proposal to minimize the cost.
“I’ve heard from residents on the north side and even the south side of Chicago. What they didn’t want us to do was the whole Lake Shore Drive. They said, “Why don’t you consider doing just the external drive?” ,” Moore told the Sun-Times.
“I listened to them. My original proposal said Lake Shore Drive. We changed it to…just Hollywood’s Outer Drive to 67th Street, so the only addresses that would be affected are ports. No businesses and residents would be affected. »
In 1993, then-aldermen Toni Preckwinkle (4th) and Madeline Haithcock (2nd) joined forces on a similar proposal, but then-mayor Richard M. Daley put a stop to the idea .
“The idea is not stupid. But, the cost,” Daley said at the time. “You start renaming streets, we’ll have people renaming every street in Chicago. It would be impossible.
Eight years later, then-Ald. Ed Smith (28th) offered another DuSable honor — naming City Hall after him — only to suffer the same fate.
But since then, the political landscape has changed dramatically.
The Council is now majority-minority, with 20 black aldermen and 13 Hispanic members. The Socialist Caucus has six members.
More importantly, the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers sparked a racial toll in Chicago and across the country that prompted the Council to create a reparations subcommittee tasked with finding a way to make amends to the “descendants of enslaved Africans”. “Living in Chicago.
Against that backdrop, Moore said on Thursday he was not at all surprised that an ordinance that has languished in committee since October 2019 could finally be on its way to Council approval.
“What people don’t realize is the whole riot – I shouldn’t even say the riot – the whole civil unrest was bigger than George Floyd. It’s the constant ignoring of not only the contributions of black people, but also the economy as it relates to black people,” Moore said.
“That’s what really got people excited. George Floyd was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. »
DuSable already has a high school, a museum, and a new Park District harbor named in his honor. And a park named after him is still being developed near Navy Pier.
But Moore said that wasn’t enough for one of the city’s most important historical figures.
“People from the north side and other parts of the community don’t even come to the south side. Most people don’t even get past 35th Street. Sometimes not even after Roosevelt. They haven’t even made it to the DuSable Museum. They didn’t even make it to DuSable High School,” he said.
“It’s not just a black thing. It’s a town affair because he’s the founder of our town. And that shouldn’t even be a problem. I don’t care if you want to name buildings or multiple streets. He’s the founder of Chicago. It’s almost a slap in the face, really, that her recognition isn’t bigger than it is.
Preckwinkle is now chairman of Cook County Council.
She agreed with Moore that Floyd’s death helped break down the obstacles she faced trying to rename Lake Shore Drive 27 years ago.
“This is an extraordinary moment in our history. George Floyd was not the first black person murdered by police. And he won’t be the last,” Preckwinkle said Thursday.
“The town was a Native American settlement before it was anything. But in terms of its non-native population, DuSable was clearly important in the … settlement of this area. And we don’t, as a town – for, I believe, racist reasons – recognized its importance to our history or honored it as it should.
Congress Parkway was renamed in honor of Ida B. Wells, the crusading journalist and civil rights leader, but only after Italian-American groups demanded that Balbo Drive be spared.
Aldus. Sophia King (4th), Chair of the Council’s Progressive Caucus, led the charge for this renaming campaign and joined Moore as a co-sponsor of the proposal to rename Lake Shore Drive.