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No DuSable Drive vote until Friday, but 30 aldermen will likely support name change

6:23 PM CDT on June 23, 2021

Clockwise from top left: Ald. Daniel LaSpata (1st, undecided), Syvana Tabares (23rd, likely opponent), Roberto Maldonado (26th, supporter), Gilbert Villegas (36th, undecided.)

There was some last-minute drama before this morning's planned vote on Far South Side Ald. David Moore's (17th) ordinance to rename Chicago's Lake Shore Drive for Black city founder Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable. Yesterday evening various news outlets reported that Mayor Lori Lightfoot offered Moore a compromise of renaming the highway "DuSable Lake Shore Drive." And downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), who's allied with the mayor in opposing the change, floated the idea of renaming Millennium Park for DuSable instead. However, the DuSable advocates from the group Black Heroes Matter asked Moore to reject these compromises and hold out for "DuSable Drive," and he respected their wishes.

That left Lightfoot in a tight spot. Moore said he had enough votes lined up to pass the ordinance with a simple majority of at least 26 votes, although he wasn't sure he had the two-thirds majority of 34 votes needed to override a veto by the mayor. Streetsblog's previous research backs that up: By my tally as of yesterday there were 17 confirmed supporters and 12 likely supporters; five confirmed opponents and nine likely opponents; plus seven aldermen who said they were undecided or whose positions were unknown. So the mayor has the power to block DuSable Drive. But the optics of cancelling an effort to honor the Black pioneer, supported by the vast majority of African-American and Latino aldermen, would be rather awkward for Chicago's first African-American female and LGBT mayor.

It appeared that this long-simmering controversy would finally be resolved at today's Council meeting, but such was not the case. Due to a completely unrelated controversy over the appointment of Celia Meza as Chicago’s corporation counsel, and procedural maneuvers by aldermen to delay the approval of Meza, the meeting was cut short in a chaotic finale before Moore could call his DuSable Drive ordinance for a vote. Check out my thread on the meeting for more details about what went down.

However, the meeting wasn't a total wash, in that I got some more intel on how aldermen are planning to vote on DuSable Drive. With this latest info, I'm putting the tally at 18 confirmed supporters and 12 likely supporters; five confirmed opponents and ten likely opponents; plus five tossups. That is, the ordinance will probably pass with about 30 votes, but Lightfoot will still be able to kybosh it – if she dares.

Current map of likely aldermanic support for DuSable Drive, along with the Racial Dot Map of Chicago. The 22nd Ward, where Alderman Michael D. Rodriguez is a confirmed supporter, has not been colored in yet. Click to enlarge. Left image: John Greenfield
Current map of likely aldermanic support for DuSable Drive, along with the Racial Dot Map of Chicago. Click to enlarge. Left image: John Greenfield

Ald. Daniel LaSpata (1st), whose Near Northwest Side ward is about 45 percent non-Hispanic white (henceforth referred to as "white") and 43 percent Latino, is a Democratic Socialist and a member of the City Council's Progressive Caucus, so I assumed he was for DuSable Drive, but he told me today he hasn't made a decision yet. Here's his full explanation, which suggests he's at least somewhat sympathetic to the DuSable Drive cause, so I'm keeping him in the "likely supporter column."

"I'm trying to really weigh all the feedback that I'm getting from constituents, some of it substantial, some of it not so substantial. There's folks who talk about the cost, and we're trying to give them the most accurate sense of what that is and what that isn't. [The city's most recent estimate is about $1 million, in contrast to Lightfoot's $40 million counterproposal.] There's folks who have an emotional and cultural attachment to what Lake Shore Drive means to them. I've heard more references to that song from the Seventies in the last two weeks than I have in the last 20 years.

It's the folks who say that it's not necessary who I kind of want to have a longer conversation with, because I think they might miss what symbolism and representation mean to a lot of folks. Like I can look around this city and see hundreds of things named after people who look like me. I know that that is not true for a lot of our Black and Latino neighbors, and particularly a lot of my Black and Latino colleagues."

Ald. George A. Cardenas (12th), whose Mid Southwest Side ward is about 82 percent Latino, told me he is undecided on the issue, so he remains in the tossup category.

Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd), presides over a Far Southwest Side ward that is about 67 percent Latino and 30 percent white. Moore told me, "I think Tabares is a no," so I've moved her to the "likely opponent category" and colored in her ward pink on my map.

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), whose Near Northwest Side ward is about 66 percent Latino, 20 percent white, and 13 percent Black, told me he plans to vote for the name change, so I've colored in his ward blue.

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), whose Far Northwest Side ward is about 67 percent Latino and 26 percent, told me he hasn't made up his mind yet, explaining that he waiting to see if one of the proposed compromises materializes. He stays in the tossup column.

Ald. James M. Gardiner (45th), whose Far Northwest Side ward is about 65 percent white and 25 percent Latino, said he is undecided. However, Gardiner tends vote relatively conservatively so I'm still classifying him as a likely opponent.

Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) presides over a Far North Lakefront ward that is about 54 percent white, 17 percent Black, 14 percent Latino, and 14 percent Asian. Said Moore, "Overman was wavering. He was for it. He's talking about a compromise so I don't know. I talked to him today and he didn't say yes and he didn't say no." So Osterman stays in the "tossup" column.

Will the "DuSquabble," as the Sun-Times cleverly put it, be resolved on Friday? We shall see....

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