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DuSable compromise back on again, sponsor says

Ald. David Moore said the compromise that collapsed earlier this week was revived after the Black Heroes Matter Coalition offered to accept the hybrid name — as long as it is voted on Friday and not sent back to committee,

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

The on-again-off-again compromise to rename Chicago’s most iconic roadway Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive is back on again.

Ald. David Moore (17th), the City Council’s champion for renaming Outer Lake Shore Drive in honor of DuSable, said the compromise that collapsed earlier this week was resurrected after the Black Heroes Matter Coalition reversed field and offered to accept the hybrid name change, if they can be assured it will be voted on at Friday’s rescheduled Council meeting and not sent back to committee.

That’s a promise Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s allies refused to make Tuesday, prompting the compromise to fall apart late that day. A mayoral ally confirmed an up-or-down vote on the hybrid name change would be taken when the Council meets again Friday.

“They’ll take that compromise as long as there is a vote Friday. Otherwise, they’re moving forward with the Jean Baptiste DuSable name” alone, Moore said.

During a virtual news conference Thursday, Ephraim Martin of Black Heroes Matter explained why the group decided to accept the compromise even though its members firmly believe they have the 26 votes needed to approve the original name change to DuSable Drive, removing the words “Lake Shore.”

“Because it’s been pushed aside by the mayor and it seems there are all kinds of tricks they’re playing [that] they will use to keep delaying back and forth and keep pushing it [off]. We have been asking from October. It has been pushed aside and been promised, ‘Next month, next month’ and we haven’t gotten anywhere,” Martin said.

“We are fighting to get it to the floor. But if we can’t get it to the floor — if what it’s gonna take us getting it to the floor is with the mayor saying, ‘This is what I’m gonna allow on the floor. This is what I will support’ — that’s where the compromise came in.”

Martin acknowledged there was “almost 50-50 resistance.” to the hybrid name change. The group’s “first choice was to vote on the original ordinance as just DuSable Drive,” Martin said.

But most group members are “on board” with the compromise.

“Just to get this out the way so we can move on. Just to make sure that everyone can be happy — the right and left can come together, and we all can live together as one people,” Martin said.

“This would send a serious message to the world that Chicago is on the road to make a difference and on the road to end systemic racism by renaming Lake Shore Drive as Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive. We can accept that, so long as it can be done this Friday in the full City Council.”

If Black Heroes Matter is willing to settle for the hybrid name change to honor DuSable — a Black man of Haitian descent who was Chicago’s first non-indigenous settler — then Moore said he is, too.

“I listen to the people. … I wouldn’t fight against it,” Moore said.

“You know what they say in a situation where you feel you don’t get what you want and other people feel like they don’t get what they want, that’s usually a win-win situation.”

Wednesday’s Council meeting had dissolved into chaos — delaying a showdown on the Lake Shore Drive renaming — after a pair of aldermen used a parliamentary maneuver to temporarily delay Lightfoot’s appointment of Celia Meza as corporation counsel.

Moore was asked whether he still believes he has the 26 votes needed to approve the name change for DuSable — without the name “Lake Shore Drive.”

“Honestly, I don’t know anymore. After yesterday, a lot of things got crazy. I just don’t know anymore,” Moore said.

“There were people just saying, ‘I don’t know.’ Nobody said, ‘No.’ Many said, ‘If you go with the hybrid, then I will do it. But we’ll see about the other one. It’ll be an easier vote for me with my constituents.’ That’s what they were saying.”

Does that mean Moore believes he’s better off taking a bird in the hand, instead of taking his chances?

“Absolutely,” he said.

Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, agreed.

“If I was them, I would take the hybrid and work with the city to do all of other things,” Harris said, referring to Lightfoot’s $40 million plan to build and complete DuSable Park, rename the downtown Riverwalk in honor of DuSable and build statues, monuments and other exhibits along the Riverwalk to educate Chicagoans and tourists about DuSable and his Native American wife.

“That works for the entire city. Everybody in the City Council agrees with that. Everybody. So that [hybrid name change] will pass. The hybrid is a good compromise for everybody in the entire city.”

Ald. Sophia King (4th), Moore’s co-sponsor, could not be reached for comment.

Moore said a last-minute offer to rename Millennium Park for DuSable would not be part of the compromise.

“That was a unilateral thing by Brian Hopkins [and Brendan Reilly]. The administration never brought that to me, and Alderman Hopkins never brought it to me,” Moore said.