The Outer Drive would be renamed for Jean Baptiste Point DuSable under a measure endorsed Thursday by a Chicago City Council committee. | Sun-Times file
If the full council approves the measure, the Outer Drive would be renamed from Hollywood Avenue to 67th Street in honor of Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, a Black man who was Chicago’s first non-indigenous permanent settler.
Chicago aldermen on Thursday endorsed renaming Outer Lake Shore Drive from Hollywood Avenue to 67th Street in honor of Jean Baptiste Point DuSable — over Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s objections — during a profanity-laced meeting that fueled charges of racism.
Ald. David Moore (17th) unleashed the tirade in response to a substitute ordinance proposed by the Lightfoot administration that sought to clarify which sections of the Outer Drive were or were not impacted by Moore’s proposed name change.
“This is racist bulls–t,” Moore said at one point.
Moore only became more incensed when Deputy Transportation Commissioner Tom Carney argued it was “not uncommon to clarify from a legal standpoint” what portions of a roadway would be impacted by a name change and that Outer Drive is “not a legal designation.”
“That’s f—ing bulls–t,” Moore responded.
At that point, Transportation Committee Chairman Howard Brookins (21st) called for a momentary recess.
When aldermen returned, Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) sided with Moore.
Taylor called the substitute ordinance “very disrespectful” to Moore and his co-sponsor, Ald. Sophia King (4th), and the proposal they have “worked very hard on” for two years.
“This is important to the Black community. How hard is that? … This is crazy,” Taylor said.
“You expect us to go along to get along. That’s not gonna happen. This is what the community is asking for. If you can afford to live on Lake Shore Drive, you can afford to spend $20” for an address change on stationery, driver’s license and other legal documents.
Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) branded the 11th-hour substitute that Carney called a “technical” correction “absolutely racist.” Vasquez accused the Lightfoot administration of playing, what he called, “the okey-doke.”
“Once again, the administration is finding ways to obstruct or change things that people introduced. If people want to find out why this government isn’t working, it’s because the executive branch does not have any respect for the legislative one to get work done for this city,” Vasquez said.
Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) countered that Moore’s original ordinance “may have been been a little too vague on the definition” and inadvertently impacted Inner Lake Shore Drive.
“A number of my colleagues are concerned about the costly implications for homeowners, police and fire. … That has an impact on tens of thousands of voters — not just on the North Side, but the South Side. And it’s not a $20 fix. It’s a very time-consuming and costly fix” to change mailing addresses, legal addresses, 911 addresses, Reilly said.
When the dust settled, the technical correction was put off for another day, but the name change in honor of Chicago’s first permanent non-indigenous settler was approved.
King, who joined Moore in co-sponsoring the name change, likened the resistance to renaming Lake Shore Drive to the blowback she got before Congress Parkway was renamed in honor of Ida B. Wells.
“These are just all, kind of, unconscious biases that come out. Individuals strategically put fear about money and about marketing and about all things that really aren’t that important, but do change the minds of people,” King said.
“We had no problem changing White Sox park. Very iconic. And several other Chicago icons. So marketing should not stop us from taking this moment of reckoning — in our world, in our country and in our city — to do what’s right. We should be leaders and do what’s right and turn Lake Shore Drive into DuSable Drive, which will set our city aside in a very distinct way by celebrating its true diversity and making our city even more iconic.”
Prior to the final vote, Moore apologized for using profanity in anger.
He acknowledged it set the wrong example for the young people he hopes to educate about the contributions of DuSable, “this great man, the founder of our city.”
“This will connect us. This will bring people together even more,” Moore said.
“This is history-making. It’s impactful for our young people.”
Moore assured his colleagues his intent was to have the name change impact “only three or four harbors along the Outer Drive.” If a technical correction is needed after the fact, Moore said he would spearhead that move.
Earlier Thursday, Lightfoot touted her alternative plan to invest $25 million to complete DuSable Park, create an exhibit honoring DuSable at the “most traveled part” of the downtown Riverwalk and rename the entire Riverwalk in honor of DuSable.
“There are gonna be three iconic statues that will tell part of the story of DuSable. I’m very enthusiastic about the proposal,” Lightfoot said.
“DuSable has not been properly recognized, in my view, as the founder of the city. We don’t exist if he doesn’t come [and] set up a trading post with his wife…And what we’ve done to date historically is woefully inadequate.”
Moore considers all of those plans a “great complement” to the revised plan he champions to rename the Outer Drive — not a replacement for it.