Anti-DuSable Drive aldermen paid for survey showing most Chicagoans are fine with DSD

Aldermen Brendan Reilly and Brian Hopkins
Aldermen Brendan Reilly and Brian Hopkins

A recent survey commissioned by WGN News revealed that most Chicagoans don’t have a problem have a problem with South Side alderman David Moore’s proposed ordinance to rename Lake Shore Drive for Black city founder Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable. 58.5 percent of respondents said they either support the proposal or don’t have an opinion on it.

However, the responses to the WGN survey showed that viewpoints on DuSable Drive are heavily divided by race. Of Chicago voters with an opinion on the issue, 55 percent of Latinos, 57 percent of Asian-American / Pacific Islander individuals, and 61 percent of African-Americans are in favor of the name change. However, 66 percent of their white counterparts are opposed.

The breakdown of support for DuSable Drive by race from the WGN survey.
The breakdown of support for DuSable Drive by race from the WGN survey.

That racial split reflects the breakdown of public figures who have voiced support or opposition to Moore’s proposal. Aside from Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has proposed a $40 million package of tributes to the Black pioneer (park, riverwalk renaming, annual festival, three monuments) as an alternative to the highway renaming, estimated to cost upwards of $853,500, here’s the current breakdown.

Supporters

Opponents

Needless to say, there’s nothing inherently racist about being opposed to the renaming, but there are various possible explanations for the lack of support for the proposal from most white Chicagoans. Residents of color may be more likely to see value in creating a citywide tribute to the Black man whose key role in founding the city was ignored or downplayed by local leaders until the mid-20th Century. Whites may place a higher priority in maintaining the Lake Shore Drive name, viewing it as an important local tradition.

Another likely factor is that most people who live in high-rises with Lake Shore Drive addresses are white. These folks may fear DuSable Drive would mean they’d have go through the inconvenience of an address change. However, since the inner lanes of Lake Shore Drive will keep the name, and almost all residential buildings on the drive are on the inner lanes (more on that in a minute), that worry is baseless just about every case.

Most people who live on Lake Shore Drive are white. (South Lakefront neighborhoods are predominantly African-American, but have far fewer addresses on LSD. Image: The Racial Dot Map, based on 2010 Census data.
Most people who live on Lake Shore Drive are white. (South Lakefront neighborhoods are predominantly African-American, but have far fewer addresses on LSD.) Image: The Racial Dot Map, based on 2010 Census data.

Unsurprisingly, downtown aldermen Brian Hopkins and Brendan Reilly, whose districts include many LSD high-rises, are leading the opposition to DuSable Drive. As of 2015, their wards were about 69 percent and 77 percent white, respectively.

Last month Hopkins, along with Northwest Side alderman Ariel Reboyras, helped the mayor block a City Council vote on Moore’s ordinance. Moore will probably try to call a vote at the next Council meeting on Wednesday, June 23, at 10 a.m.

Reilly’s opposition to DuSable Drive is rather ironic, because a few years ago he cosponsored an ordinance with Near South alderman Sophia King that renamed Congress Parkway for another Black hero, journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells.

King (2nd from left) and Reilly (middle) at the renaming ceremony for Ida B. Wells Drive. Photo: John Greenfield
King (2nd from left) and Reilly (middle) at the 2018 renaming ceremony for Ida B. Wells Drive. Photo: John Greenfield

In contrast to Reilly’s previous advocacy, he and Hopkins are so dead-set against DuSable Drive that they spent $12,000 of their own campaign money on another survey, trying to prove that most residents are opposed to the name change. Instead, the poll of Chicago voters did the opposite, reaffirming the WGN findings that most residents have no issues with Moore’s ordinance, with a nearly identical 59 percent figure for the total percentage of supporters and respondents with no opinion. (Unsurprisingly, Reilly and Hopkins are promoting a glass-half-empty view of the data as showing that most Chicago voters “do not support renaming Lake Shore Drive.”

Moreover, the new poll confirmed the racial divide in support for DuSable Drive. While only 25 percent of white respondents said they were in favor, Latinos were 28 percent more likely to be in favor, and African Americans were a full 98 percent more likely.

bust of DuSable on Michigan Avenue. Photo: John Greenfield
Bust of DuSable on Michigan Avenue. Photo: John Greenfield

The poll results Reilly and Hopkins released also indicated that most Black residents with an opinion on the issue support the name change. (Unlike the WGN report on its poll, the aldermen did not provide a breakdown of support / opposition / no opinion by race, and they’ve ignored multiple requests for this data.)

In other words, Reilly and Hopkins paid $12,000 for a survey that once again showed most Chicagoans don’t have a problem with DuSable Drive, and reaffirmed that the ones who do are largely white folks like the ones who overwhelmingly make up the aldermen’s own constituencies. That’s something of a self-own.

In fairness to these Council reps, Hopkins recently explained this mostly legitimate logistical concern about the name change, albeit one that ultimately should be no big deal.

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Tweet from Alderman Hopkins from Sunday night.

“400 North Lake Shore Drive” isn’t actually an issue, since that address is currently a giant hole in the ground that, assuming that Moore’s ordinance passes, will eventually be replaced by a building with the address 400 North DuSable Drive.

However, with the other buildings Hopkins mentioned, plus the iconic, cloverleaf-shaped high-rise Lake Power Tower, 505 N. Lake Shore Drive, he does have a point. (These are all in Reilly’s ward, but Hopkins has been the one making noise about this issue.) Since they’re not on inner Lake Shore Drive (although they can’t actually be accessed directly from LSD proper either), if the highway is renamed, they’ll either have to change their addresses to DuSable Drive, or else keep their LSD addresses while actually being located on DuSable.

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Six buildings on Lake Shore Drive between Ohio Street, where the inner drive ends, and the river, might have their addresses affected by the DuSable Drive name change. Image: Google Maps

If the buildings go the former route, the city could subsidize the expense with some of the tens of millions of dollars that will be saved from not doing all of Lightfoot’s $40 million anti-DuSable Drive plan.

But if they choose to keep their LSD addresses, contrary to what Hopkins claims, it’s not going to result in mass confusion. “To say they’re not affected by losing the roadway that their address is named after is just pure nonsense,” he recently recently told WBEZ. “It affects deliveries. It affects GPS directions, it affects telling people where you live and how to get to your house. It would have a profound impact to have your mailing address not reflect the road that you live on.”

His argument would hold more weight if there weren’t already multiple examples of Chicago buildings that have vanity addresses. For example, there are a few buildings in the West Loop on the west bank of the Chicago River that would normally have Canal Street addresses, but instead have the vanity address Riverfront Plaza.

These buildings would normally have Canal Street addresses, but instead they have the vanity address Riverfront Plaza. Image: Google Maps
These buildings would normally have Canal Street addresses, but instead they have the vanity address Riverside Plaza. Image: Google Maps

Back in the 1990s when I was a bike messenger, before the advent of smart phones, that was a little confusing at first, but I soon soon memorized those and other vanity addresses. In the age of Google Maps, locating them would be a non-issue.

Likewise, in practice, anyone with a smart device, including basically all delivery personnel, would have no trouble finding those six potential vanity Lake Shore Drive addresses, even if the buildings are located on DuSable Drive. Sure, once in a while someone without one may have a bit of trouble finding them, so residents would want to give them directions in advance. But, hey, currently these six buildings aren’t super-easy to find anyway, and that kind of thing helps keep life in a big city interesting.

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