King, May 26

Ald. Sophia King (4th), May 26

The City Council did not vote on a measure to rename Lake Shore Drive after two aldermen used parliamentary tactics to delay a vote on the ordinance, as Mayor Lori Lightfoot ruled Ald. Sophia King (4th), who was calling for an immediate vote, out of order.

"Wow!" King responded, exasperated, as Lightfoot recognized Near North Side Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) instead of her.

King insisted she had her hand up first for the floor. "This is just inequity playing out in front of us," she said.

The renaming ordinance, introduced by South Side Ald. David Moore (17th), would rename the lakefront expressway after the Haiti-born trader Jean Baptiste Point du Sable from Hollywood Avenue in Edgewater to 67th Street in Woodlawn. The outer drive is the expressway; the inner drive is the disconnected frontage road that runs on the North Side.

Local Alds. Leslie Hairston (5th) and Jeanette Taylor (20th) also support renaming Lake Shore Drive.

At a post-meeting press conference, Lightfoot said Hopkins had his hand raised well before King.

"I don't think there's any debate whatsoever that it's way past time that as a city we formally take steps to recognize in a permanent way the incredibly important role that DuSable played in founding this city, and his wife, Kitihawa," Lightfoot said. "On that, I think there's universal agreement."

She said her administration would propose a permanent way of honoring DuSable and Kitihawa, a Potawatomi woman, suggesting permanent fixtures, statues and markers year-round from DuSable Park — a neglected peninsula at the mouth of the Chicago River founded by Mayor Harold Washington — along the Riverwalk.

And she noted that many people oppose renaming Lake Shore Drive; Hopkins, after the meeting, tweeted that he blocked the vote because he did thought it "should not be forced upon us in an atmosphere of acrimony, anger, threats, recrimination, and revenge." Both said that the renaming proposal had been rushed, and Lightfoot pointed out the value of having "Lake Shore Drive" as a phrase that immediately makes people think of Chicago.

Neighborhood issues out of Hyde Park illustrate divides

The three area alderwomen voted in the minority against two neighborhood issues that reflected broader issues of environmental justice and equity in the cannabis industry.

The council voted 36-13 to allow construction of a low-income housing project in McKinley Park, next to the MAT Asphalt plant, 2055 W. Pershing Road. Local Ald. George Cardenas (12th) heatedly called the issue “a ward matter” and invoked aldermanic prerogative.

But the 13 opposing aldermen, including Ald. Hairston, expressed concern about the health of the soon-to-be residents of the 120 planed units at the building.

"Yes, we want affordable housing, but we don't want it at the expense of poor people and Black and Brown people — which in this city, we always seem to get our projects located on things that are environmentally hazardous," she said. "And if we don't change it now, if we don't do something different, we're still going to continue to have the same thing."

Hairston compared the 600-foot distance from the asphalt plant to the limitation on the issuance of liquor licenses within 1,000 feet of schools and echoed previously expressed concerned from the Department of Public Health. Last year, Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara also opposed the project.

The council also voted 31-18 to allow expansion on the Columbia Care Chicago Dispensary, 4758 N. Milwaukee Ave., in Jefferson Park. 

Local Ald. James Gardiner (45th) observed that it was an existing business that wanted to expand in his ward and pay taxes into the city’s coffers; he added that he believes that there should be more equity in the cannabis industry. Many Black aldermen, however, referred to their failed December 2019 battle to delay the opening of dispensaries in the city for a period of time, which they said would have given Springfield more time to get the equity piece right.

"I voted not to pass that ordinance two years ago because I knew that we were going to get played in our community," Ald. Taylor said. "At the end of the day, nothing in this city should move until the people who are are actually locked up and mistreated and died around marijuana are taken care of. Nothing should move."

Ald. King said, "We did have some opportunity to have some semblance of equity for cannabis. Right here in this city, we had the opportunity to set the standard of how cannabis should be treated going forward. The bill somewhat addressed social equity in the state, but still 'enslaved' us, really, in terms of equity equity. And the irony of it all, that all of the mainly Black but (also) Brown people who have been locked up got a 'get-out-of-jail free' card, but don't collect any money."

"I feel that we have to do what's right," she continued. "We can't continue passing the buck and saying, 'This is aldermanic prerogative, even though it's inequitable. Let's just keep going.' We've got to take a stance. This is really, really important, and we really, truly had a chance on a new industry — a new industry that harmed a lot of folks — but now it's OK that people who don't look like me make all the money, and we condone that."

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