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Poll shows renaming Lake Shore Drive for DuSable not supported by majority of Chicago voters

The poll of 600 registered Chicago voters was conducted by FAKO Research and Strategies and paid for by Ald. Brian Hopkins and Ald. Brendan Reilly. Of those surveyed, 32% support the name change and 41% oppose it.

Aerial view looking south of the East 31st Street bridge crossing South Lake Shore Drive, Tuesday afternoon, May 4, 2021.
Aerial view looking south of the East 31st Street bridge crossing South Lake Shore Drive.
Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said repeatedly she’s “heard from residents all over the city” who don’t support renaming Outer Lake Shore Drive in honor of Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable.

Now, downtown aldermen equally determined to block the change have produced a poll to support the mayor’s claim.

It shows 41% oppose the name change — including 28% who feel strongly about it — compared to 32% of those surveyed who support the change, including 19% who strongly back the proposal.

Among the rest of those polled, 24% were undecided and 3% refused to answer.

The proposal to rename the Outer Drive was highest among African American respondents, but still short of a majority — 48%, compared to 32% among Hispanics and 25% support among whites.

DuSable, who was Black, was the first non-indigenous permanent settler in what is now Chicago.

The poll of 600 registered Chicago voters was conducted June 3-4 by FAKO Research and Strategies. Aldermen Brian Hopkins (2nd) and Brendan Reilly (42nd) paid the $12,000 cost with campaign funds. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.31 percentage points, so the difference between those who oppose it and those who support it is just outside that margin.

“We were both receiving a lot of feedback from people across the city who do not support changing the name of LSD. We wanted to see if that anecdotal evidence was indicative of broader public sentiment against changing the name,” Reilly wrote in an email to the Sun-Times.

“The poll confirmed our suspicions were true: most Chicagoans oppose the name change …Nearly 7 out of 10 Chicago voters currently do not support renaming Lake Shore Drive. In fact, the measure fails to garner even 50% support in any single demographic group or region of the city.”

Reilly previously has argued the name change will require a “time-consuming and costly fix” for “tens of thousands” of Chicago voters and have “costly implications” for businesses, police and fire.

But Ald. David Moore (17th), who joined Ald. Sophia King (4th) in championing the name change, has said the combined cost to the city, state and CTA to change signs, maps and schedules totals $2.5 million.

Neither Moore nor Hopkins could not be reached for comment on the poll Monday, but King responded to the survey results with a taunting tweet at Hopkins.

“At first you were only opposed because your constituents would have to change their addresses. Now that that’s not the case you come up with some paid survey to tell you what you want to hear,” King tweeted.

Reilly noted the city has already honored DuSable by naming Michigan Avenue Bridge as DuSable Bridge; installing the DuSable Bust on the Mag Mile; DuSable Harbor; DuSable High School; the DuSable Museum; and soon, building DuSable Park.

“Supporters of renaming the Drive are passionate in their mission and I applaud them for it. However, the poll shows that most Chicagoans do not share their vision,” Reilly wrote.

“I hope the Mayor & City Council can find a different option to properly honor Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable as our city’s founder.”

Last month, an eleventh-hour parliamentary maneuver temporarily derailed the renaming plan.

Moore has accused Lightfoot’s administration of trying to block the ordinance with an alternative he views as having “racial overtones” — renaming the Dan Ryan Expressway for DuSable instead.

Lightfoot has also offered to spend $40 million to complete DuSable Park, establish an annual “DuSable Festival,” rename the downtown Riverwalk in honor of DuSable and install monuments, sculptures and other public arts projects and educational exhibits in DuSable’s honor.

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 on the Museum Campus. The Chicago City Council is poised to rename Lake Shore Drive after Jean Baptiste Point DuSable. Ald. David Moore (17th) has said the combined cost to the city, state and CTA to change signs, maps and schedules to reflect the name change totals $2.5 million.
Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

King told the Sun-Times last week that the mayor’s offer is no substitute for a name change. She has argued the votes were there last month to support the name change and that they will be there when the City Council meets again next week to forge ahead over Lightfoot’s strenuous objections.

“To come up with $45 million to not rename Outer Lake Shore Drive … is kind of insulting. It smacks of some of the same historical barriers. … It really highlights the inequity in this city,” King said.

Lightfoot fears that 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.

King doesn’t buy it.

She has noted the same arguments were made before Congress Parkway was renamed for Ida B. Wells after Italian-Americans blocked plans to rename Balbo Drive for Wells, a crusading journalist and civil rights leader.

“As a Black woman, you should understand that and know better,” King said of Lightfoot.

“In this day of Black reckoning and really trying to understand our history and stand up to all of the racial barriers of the past, this would be a great time to say that Chicago is a diverse city and we celebrate diversity and we understand that it only makes us stronger. And, oh by the way, this was our founder, who just happened to be Black.”