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Lake Shore Drive renaming hits roadblock

Any two aldermen can move to “defer and publish,” which delays action for one meeting without explanation. The move was made by downtown Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) and Northwest Side Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th).

Lake Shore Drive, seen from the northbound on-ramp entrance at East 18th Drive.
Lake Shore Drive, seen from the northbound on-ramp entrance at East 18th Drive.
Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

An eleventh-hour parliamentary maneuver on Wednesday derailed — for now — a controversial plan to rename Outer Lake Shore Drive in honor of Jean Baptiste Point DuSable.

Any two aldermen can, without explanation, move to “defer and publish,” which puts off consideration for one meeting.

Wednesday, that maneuver was executed by two aldermen: Brian Hopkins (2nd) and Ariel Reboyras (30th).

Before Hopkins declared he intended to delay the vote, Ald. Sophia King (4th) asked for a roll call.

“I saw the hand of Alderman Hopkins raised,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared from the rostrum.

“I had my hand up. I called for a roll call first,” King said.

Lightfoot countered: “Alderman Hopkins has had his hand up.”

“Oh, come on, President,” King said.

Lightfoot banged the gavel. “Alderman King, you’re out of order. Please.”

King replied: “I’m not out of order. I had my hand up before. I see the play here. ... This is just inequity, plain out. Right here in front of us.”

Lightfoot held her ground.

“Wow,” King said. “The roll call was called first. Can we get a legal opinion here?”

Ald. David Moore (17th) is the City Council champion for renaming the roadway to honor DuSable, a Black man who was Chicago’s first permanent non-indigenous settler. He was reduced to shouting from the floor. His microphone was turned off.

Supporters of the renaming of the outer portion of Lake Shore Drive gathered outside the Thompson Center, across the street from City Hall, in the Loop on Wednesday, May 26, 2021.
Supporters of the renaming of the outer portion of Lake Shore Drive gathered outside the Thompson Center, across the street from City Hall, in the Loop on Wednesday. But a measure to rename outer Lake Shore Drive after Jean Baptiste Point DuSable was delayed on a parliamentary maneuver by two aldermen.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Hopkins explained the delay in a text message to the Sun-Times before the meeting.

“Still unclear if downtown buildings are affected. Specifically 500, 505 and 474 N. Lake Shore Drive. Carving out inner drive doesn’t help,” he wrote.

City, state and CTA officials have put a $2.5 million price tag on changing road signs, maps and other displays on the Outer Drive.

Hopkins argued that estimate “does not include the personal cost to hundreds of residents required to change their mailing address and paperwork.”

Supporters of the change who gathered outside City Hall said they plan to hold a rally in Grant Park on Saturday.

Moore, meanwhile, vowed to join King in calling a special City Council meeting to accomplish the name change. He also promised to retaliate by playing his own brand of hardball.

“If they want to play politics, I take that personal and everything that comes before that Council, I’ll d-and-p,” he said, referring to “defer and publish.”

“Everything that comes before that Council, I’ll ask for a roll call on. If they want to do this, then that’s what I’ll do.”

He added, “It takes a little bit more than this to make me angry. But what I will tell you is that they’re going to be angry because I’m going to hold up every City Council meeting going forward regardless,” he added.

King agreed the “votes are there” to pass the name change at a special meeting — which is why opponents used a parliamentary maneuver to stall it.

“When the votes aren’t there, you don’t have to resort to political shenanigans. The votes are there . . . That’s generally when folks resort to tactics to delay and try and intimidate folks,” King said.

South Lake Shore Drive at East 31st Street, looking north.
South Lake Shore Drive at East 31st Street, looking north.
Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

After the Council showdown, Lightfoot aired her concerns about the name change. She fears changing the name of Chicago’s most iconic and picturesque boulevard — made famous in song and movies — could hurt marketing of the city and be costly and cumbersome for homeowners and businesses.

“There’s a lot of folks who oppose any changing of Lake Shore Drive. It’s one of the most iconic assets the city has. When you say Lake Shore Drive, people know you’re talking about Chicago. I think that’s very important,” she said.

Lightfoot acknowledged a “real interest and hunger” for people to learn more about DuSable and said her counter-proposal does that. It would complete DuSable Park, create “permanent fixtures, statues and markers” honoring DuSable along with “year-round programming” at the “most traveled part” of the downtown Riverwalk and rename the entire Riverwalk to honor DuSable.

“What I’ve also heard from folks is, we haven’t had enough time to talk about this, to debate this. ... We need to make sure that those voices are heard,” she said.

“At the end of the day, the people who are [saying rename] Lake Shore Drive or nothing—we’ll see where that goes. But there’s plenty of room for us to continue the discussion,” Lightfoot said.

King said Lightfoot shares the blame for Wednesday’s delay.

“I wish the mayor were on board with this issue. It’s truly an issue of inequity. I wish she realized that. I don’t totally blame her. It’s the City Council that has to approve this and move this forward. But her leadership would be important in doing so,” King said.

“She missed cannabis. That was huge. And this is another opportunity to talk about racial ...healing and to make up for the past errors and ills of our city....This is the will of the people. It’s also a time of racial reckoning. He’s our founder. He founded our city in a very humble way. He embraced the indigenous people. He learned their culture, married them, married his wife. He should be celebrated.”

Moore said Wednesday’s maneuver amounts to justice delayed. Not justice denied. Like King, he is determined to get it done — sooner, not later.

“People care about this. People know that this is the right thing to do,” he told the Sun-Times.

“When I introduced it, a number of kids from [local elementary schools] became aware of Jean Point Baptiste DuSable. All of those kids — when they called me — it was important to them. Even more young people began to learn about him. Even more people up north began to learn about him. That’s what this is all about.”

Across the street from City Hall, a group of activists gathered outside the Thompson Center. They were not happy with the delay.

“Our Mayor had a chance, an opportunity, to bring unification to the greatest city on the face of the earth,” said Paul Pearson, founder of the DuSable Community Coalition.

“And she did what? She neglected us, she didn’t want to hear our voices, and now we will bring our voices to her.”

The coalition also wants a DuSable holiday in Chicago, as well as a monument to the settler in Grant Park.

“We want to send a message straight to the mayor that we are not going anywhere. ... If we have to close down Lake Shore Drive this weekend and every weekend, we’re going to do that,” said Ephraim Martin, president of Martin’s International, a Chicago-based organization that promotes African, Caribbean and Latin American cultures.

“This was supposed to be the day to start the process of healing of Chicago, to show the world that systemic racism is coming to an end in Chicago by honoring the founding father, a Black man, who founded this great city. So I wanted you to know, you’ve deferred the vote today, but you’re not going to stop us.”

Contributing: Zinya Salfiti