A much-smoother City Council meeting took place Friday than the disordered meeting two days before that, with alderpeople, including Alds. Sophia King (4th), Leslie Hairston (5th) and Jeanette Taylor (20th), voting to include Chicago founder Jean Baptiste Point du Sable's name onto Lake Shore Drive.
South Side Ald. David Moore (17th) led the renaming charge with King, who argued for the change during a speech from the council floor.
"Names have significance, as renaming Lake Shore Drive has surely shown us," King said. "It's been argued not to change Lake Shore Drive because it's so iconic. I argue just the opposite. Let's change it because it is so iconic. Let's be leaders, as the City Council did when renaming South Park Way to King Drive, Aug. 1 of 1968."
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated that April; former Ald. Leon Despres (5th) had aimed to rename streets downtown after him, but former Mayor Richard J. Daley moved instead for a street to be renamed that ran through Black parts of Chicago.
"Despres and others felt that having King Street that only ran in the Black community was demeaning, because King was a national hero," Ald. King said, observing that most streets named after Dr. King are today in Black neighborhoods.
"Why are we spending so much time on this issue when we have bigger fish to fry: gun violence, COVID recovery, true racial disparity?" King asked. "First of all, we can do both. We can chew gum and walk. It isn't either-or," she said. "But really, names are important. I've seen the pride from the recognization of naming Ida B. Wells Drive." (King led that effort.)
"What we choose to celebrate or not celebrate tells a story and helps to shape our conscience," King said. "I hope our story is that we chose a name that's about racial healing and reckoning, that we chose to honor our founder who happens to be Black and of Haitian descent. So I ask, what's in a name? History, education, pride, healing, racial reckoning and hopefully unity.
After the council voted 33-15 to change the name, King called Friday "a wonderful day and a historical moment on so many levels."
The renaming to "Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Lake Shore Drive" has been controversial.
"I think it's emotional because there's a struggle over a street naming after the founder of our city, who happens to have been Black," King said. "While I believe there are some people who really feel that 'Lake Shore Drive' is nostalgic, as said before, I think for that very reason that's why we need to shift the paradigm and say that a nostalgic street can be named after a Black man."
She acknowledged that people refer to Sox Park and that people will call the lakefront expressway whatever the want. But she said what matters is the education implicit in the when the new signs go up and restoration of pride to DuSable the man.
Two neighborhood residents enjoying the Sunday afternoon sun near the Hyde Park Boulevard exit had mixed feelings about the renaming.
"I do understand the contributions and the acknowledgement, but to me, it's always going to be Lake Shore Drive, just as well that the Willis Tower will always be the Sears Tower," said Brianna Parker. "I understand the motive behind it, but it's still going to be Lake Shore Drive. If we teach the new generation, maybe, but we're all kind of stuck in our ways."
"I also understand the motive behind it, but maybe give du Sable a day, or give du Sable a festival or something or a portion at the Taste of Chicago. Actually have some education behind it. It's an honor — we would all want a street behind us — but what's the history behind a street name?"
Lucy Salenger said she has mixed feelings about the renaming: she understands the desire to honor du Sable, "but Lake Shore Drive has been in the public eye for many, many years, and that's what people and tourists think of."
"We can try say it, see how it works," she said, referring to the now eight-word mouthfull of a name for the lakefront expressway. "I think I'll try the whole name for awhile and see what it's like."
The three also voted with a bare majority, 25-24, to buck Mayor Lori Lightfoot's attempt to strike a bulwark of aldermanic prerogative — requiring a full council vote for any business putting up a sign in the city — before voting with all their colleagues to pass her business recovery package.
Lightfoot said after the meeting that she would try again to effect what had been a key platform of her 2019 mayoral campaign.
That package, the "Chi Biz Strong Initiative," includes a wage theft ordinance, minimum wage protections and an expansion of the paid sick leave law. It also includes an expedited restaurant licensing process, a 15% cap on third party delivery fees, the legalization of sidewalk signs and the city legalization of cocktails-to-go, after the state government legalized them this last session.
But the package also outlaws the sale of alcohol at midnight citywide instead of at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., as had been the case before the pandemic. Lightfoot had originally pushed a 10 p.m. ending time before encountering broad pushback.
At a post-meeting news conference, the mayor said she would not support changing the city policy from the uniform time.
"We had extensive conversations about that issue, and there were, I think, a lot of opinions about what the right time should be. There were many aldermen who were very concerned about quality-of-life issues, that some of these packaged liquor stores are not good actors when it comes to making sure that people don't linger and loiter, that they are respectful of their neighbors. And so this was the thing that was made at length."
After the ugly June 23 council meeting, in which South Side Alds. Raymond Lopez (15th) and Taylor blocked a confirmation vote on Lightfoot's nominee for corporation council, the city's top lawyer, Celia Meza, she was confirmed unanimously on Friday.
When Southwest Side Ald. George Cardenas (12th) admonished Taylor by name for having blocked Lightfoot's nominee for corporation counsel, Celia Meza, Taylor defended herself, saying she had done it to bring attention to the wrongs Anjanette Young survived during her botched raid.
"This was never about this appointment, period," Taylor said. "I've had to explain to the community what happened between myself and Mayor Lightfoot, and I have. And I'm not one to apologize, ever, for standing up for a Black woman. And if you've got a problem with that, you've got the wrong job. At the end of the day, Ms. Young is one of us. So is this appointment. She is no different. This was not disrespect to the Latinx community. Not at all."
Taylor and the mayor also got into an argument on June 23, over Taylor blocking the confirmation vote. Lightfoot said she had seen the alderwoman twice over the previous weekend and that Taylor had not raised the issue over Young's treatment with her. But Lightfoot did say she would meet with Taylor.