Who is Dan Ryan to have a Chicago expressway named after him? Does anyone younger than 70 have a clue about who this jamoke is?
That’s basically the question that Chicago mayoral candidate Billy Daley was asking when, in a brazenly transparent grab for black votes, he suggested that the Interstate highway on the South Side be renamed after Barack Obama.
The suggestion has raised enough objections to demonstrate, again, how Chicago always has to have something to argue about.
Chicago is Obama’s hometown, Daley noted. And, in fairness, Chicago already has expressways named after a bipartisan set of dead presidents–Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy–he added.
Obama apparently is still with us, but we ought not to wait for his demise to honor this demigod. Reflected glory being what it is, Senior Pastor Bishop Larry Trotter of the Sweet Holy Spirit Church gathered “hundreds of signatures” supporting the name change, saying that “it’s about time” to honor Obama with “something permanent”
Not that Obama is lacking in the name recognition department. He already has a stretch of Interstate 57 named after him. Then there’s that ugly, unwelcome (by me and lakefront preservationists at least), 13-story-high homage to Himself that’ll befoul Jackson Park. What more does He need; what more do we need to remind us that Obama once left his sainted tracks in Chicago?
Turns out that this stunt may have backfired on Daley.
Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times columnist, thought the idea was wrongheaded for a number of reasons, including that it was an insult to Obama and African Americans. “…Daley ought to know that the Dan Ryan’s link to the city’s segregation makes renaming it for Obama an unfitting tribute,” she said, referring to how the expressway was built to wall-off white neighborhoods to the west of Ryan from the public housing to the east.
But State Rep. La Shawn Ford, (D-Chicago), who proposed the legislation that led to part of I-55 being named after Obama, slammed Daley’s proposal as a “political stunt” and a “ploy to try to cater to black voters.”
Furthermore, Ford, who is also running for mayor, said renaming the Dan Ryan actually cannot be done.
“This just speaks to Daley’s inexperience in the process,” Ford said. “After you have a street dedicated to someone you can’t change it, otherwise we’d be doing it all the time. That’s one of the reasons we didn’t do the Dan Ryan, because it was already taken.”
Obama can call this his hometown, but while he has a home here, it’s fair to ask when was the last time he was in it and for how long. After
all, Dan Ryan is not a former Confederate general whose name insults many and qualifies for oblivion. Dan Ryan Jr. was a Chicago Democratic Machine politician who championed the construction of the expressway. In the same manner, the Edens Expressway was named after William G. Edens, an early pioneer of paved roads in Illinois.
So, in the spirit of bipartisanship (a virtue that expired years ago in Illinois), perhaps there as a compromise. Daley Plaza, named after the primogenitor of the clan–Richard J. Daley, father of William and Richard M.–should be replaced with Obama’s name. Former Ald. Bob Fioretti, another player in the scrum that wants to be mayor and God only knows why anyone would, made the suggestion tongue-in-cheek. Getting serious, Fioretti called the Ryan renaming a “ludicrous” and “shameful” pandering to African Americans.
While we’re at it, why not just call O’Hare Airport or Midway Airport, named after a war hero and a significant World War II battle, Obama International Airport?
Well, as Northwestern University demonstrated in the renaming of Dyche Stadium as Ryan Field, nothing is forever when it comes to honoring past noteworthies. As Obama’s descendants will find out when someone suggests renaming the Barack Obama Expressway after a 22nd century figure.
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