CHICAGO — After a long, winding road full of obstacles, a compromise to rename Lake Shore Drive after Jean Baptiste Point du Sable appears in sight, unless a last-minute delay sends everyone to the exit.
On Thursday, members of Black Heroes Matter and Ald. David Moore (17th), agreed to a hybrid plan to rename the roadway DuSable Lake Shore Drive, but only if a vote on the matter is held during the second City Council meeting this week on Friday.
Moore and the group have been pushing to rename the roadway Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Drive since 2019, and they appeared to have the votes to do so if the proposal was called for a vote at Wednesday’s Council meeting. But the meeting was abruptly adjourned amid a cloud of confusion over procedural rules.
A day ahead of the vote, Moore rejected the compromise, saying he would “stay the course” and call a vote on his ordinance.
The name change would affect 17 miles of outer Lake Shore Drive from Hollywood Avenue to East 67th Street.
After the meeting, Moore conceded the two-day period before the council meets again Friday at 1 p.m. could have splintered his coalition of aldermen prepared to approve the renaming.
On Thursday, Black Heroes Matter held a press conference where leader Ephraim Martin said the group was prepared to accept the compromise — so long as a vote was held Friday.
“But if we can’t get it to the floor, if what it’s going to take for us to get it to the floor is, with the mayor saying ‘OK, this is what I’m going to allow on the floor, this is what I will support,’ then that’s where the compromise came in,” said Martin, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Moore couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, but told the Tribune the vote must happen Friday.
Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) supports the renaming and said he and others will defer to Moore on the compromise.
“When you have a community in a city as segregated as Chicago that’s advocating for that recognition, we’re going to have their backs. So whatever Ald. Moore decides, I’m happy to support,” he said.
But, as of Thursday afternoon, Mayor Lori Lightfoot hasn’t committed to holding an up or down vote on the ordinance. Lightfoot has opposed the name change, instead offering her own package to honor DuSable.
The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Without confirmation that the compromise will be called for an up or down vote, Friday’s meeting could be an extension of Wednesday’s chaos, which erupted after two aldermen used a procedural maneuver to block consideration of Lightfoot’s nominee to head the city’s Law Department and a mayoral ally subsequently sought to end the meeting.
On Thursday, 22 aldermen sent a letter to Lightfoot expressing their frustration with the way she has presided over City Council meetings and urged her to follow the rules of order.
Normally, when the procedural move that blocked the nomination, known as “defer and publish,” is called, debate on the matter ends and the Council must move on to the next order of business.
That was the case last month when Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) worked with the Mayor’s Office and Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) to defer and publish the proposal to rename outer Lake Shore Drive. As supporters of the renaming sought to speak on the matter, Lightfoot ruled them out of order and continued the meeting.
That’s a sharp contrast from Wednesday, when Lightfoot allowed several aldermen to take the floor in an effort to persuade Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) and Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) to drop their motion.
Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) then further surprised everyone by making a motion to adjourn the meeting, prompting some aldermen to plead with him to drop his motion. During a roll call vote to accept Sposato’s motion, Lightfoot briefly recessed the meeting, and walked to the back of the chamber to argue with Taylor.
When she returned, Lightfoot ignored the roll call, instead moving on to the nomination of Annette Nance-Holt as the city’s first Black woman Fire Commissioner, further confusing the chamber on which rules were being followed.
The letter calls on Lightfoot, in her role presiding over City Council meetings, “to honor and consistently follow the 2019-2023 Rules of Order and Procedure of the City Council.”
The aldermen say they’ve “witnessed numerous occasions in recent meetings where the various rulings made by you as Presiding Officer have been inconsistent and/or in direct contradiction with the Rules of Order and Procedure.
“The Rules of Order and Procedure were adopted by the body to ensure a fair and transparent process for legislative movement. Any deviation from them is not only unacceptable and illegal, but also a manipulation of our democratic process,” it said.
Notable among the 22 signatories was Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), who previously served as Lightfoot’s chosen floor leader — a position charged with advancing the mayor’s agenda through City Council.
“There has to be some order or we’re going to continue to have these meetings that are just, just really chaos,” he said. He urged Lightfoot to “take the letter seriously.”
Wednesday’s meeting highlights the need for an independent parliamentarian to determine if the Council’s rules are being followed during meetings, he said.
“What we don’t want to do is continue to have rules determined and changed on the fly and risk a lawsuit coming out of some of the decisions,” he said.
The push for an independent arbiter during meetings is not new. Some members of the Council have also been pushing for their own legislative counsel to advise aldermen on legal matters and rule on whether proposed legislation is in line with the municipal code.
“You know, we are not a division of the Mayor’s Office, we are an elected co-equal branch of government,” Villegas said.
Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) agreed with the call for a separate City Council legal counsel and an independent parliamentarian. He also signed the letter.
“What we’re saying is please make sure you’re following the rules of order so we can have a civil discussion and a functioning democracy, and also maybe we need our own parliamentarian, or at least someone who’s actually impartial,” he said.
Vasquez rejected the idea that the current Council tension is similar to the infamous Council Wars of the 1980s, when a coalition of white aldermen, led by current Ald. Ed Burke (14th) and former Ald. Ed Vrdolyak (10th) formed to thwart the legislative agenda of the city’s first Black mayor, Harold Washington.
“We’re not the Vrdolyaks and she’s not Harold,” he said.
But, he said the tension is giving rise to an “independent Council” that will assert itself if the relationship between aldermen and Lightfoot doesn’t improve.
There’s no shortage of big ticket items that must pass through Council in the second half of the year, including a new budget, determining how to spend federal stimulus dollars and determining what the city’s ward map will look like for the next decade.
“I think with the bigger contentious fights that are coming, I don’t see an end in sight, unless there’s actual relationship building and communication between the mayor and the City Council,” he said.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.