Now that Rahm Emanuel, former President Barack Obama’s one-time Chief of Staff, has declined to run for a third term as Chicago’s mayor, other candidates for the city’s top office are rushing to court fans of one of the city’s most famous (former) residents.
Bill Daley, also a former Obama White House senior adviser — and relative of the notorious Daley family, which has ruled over Chicago from the mayor’s office on-and-off for decades — declared his candidacy for Chicago mayor earlier this month, and immediately set about to wooing Obama fans, even suggesting last week that the city could rename one of its major highways, the Dan Ryan Expressway, after the former president.
NBC News Chicago’s Ward Room reports that Daley wants to make the honorary renaming one of his first acts as mayor.
“Renaming the highway for President Obama will be a daily reminder for all of us that America’s first African-American president was shaped by Chicago,” Daley reportedly said in a statement. “We were part of history.”
“Barack Obama is from Chicago. He owns a home here. This is where the Obama library is based,” he added. “I’d like to see the legislature act on this early next year.”
There are some logistical issues with the plan: Chicago already named part of I-55 the “Barack Obama highway,” and Dan Ryan, whom the road is already named for, was a key player in developing the interstate highway system. There’s also a “Barack Obama highway” in California.
The Illinois Department of Transportation is also reluctant to sign off on the new name. “As a general policy, IDOT discourages naming two roads near one another for the same person because it causes confusion for motorists,” an IDOT spokeswoman told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We are not aware of any existing resolutions or dedications being rescinded in order to rename a road.”
And then there’s the matter of murder.
While Barack Obama might find it flattering to have a highway named after him in his adopted home town, the Dan Ryan is an odd choice. Over the course of the last year, the expressway, which cuts through some of the most violent areas on Chicago’s south side, has been the scene of multiple murders.
Back in October, when the city was suffering through a spate of violence, the Dan Ryan was the scene of at least four shootings, which left at least one person dead. In August, two men were shot and one was killed during an altercation between two cars, both heading southbound on the freeway. A similar incident happened in September.
In just the past week, two men have been shot on the Dan Ryan, one in the early hours of Sunday morning.
If they’re going to name a street after Barack Obama, they may want to pick one with slightly less bloodshed.