Daley’s primary motivation is obvious: He’s trying to score points with African-American and liberal Democratic voters. But Daley also was once Obama’s White House chief of staff, so it’s only natural that he would champion Obama’s legacy.
And, frankly, what matters more than where the idea came from is the idea itself — and it’s an appealing one.
With all respect to the descendants of Dan Ryan, almost nobody driving that South Side expressway today knows who he was. Nor should they. Cook County board presidents, which is what he was, come and go.
It makes entirely good sense, whatever the hassles, to rename the expressway for the only American president ever to call Chicago his hometown — and an admired and historic president at that. It’s just a matter of time before Chicago honors Obama in some big way, really putting his stamp on the geography of the city, and renaming a major expressway would be one appropriate way.
* The state should rescind the naming of a stretch of I-55 — outside Chicago — for Obama. Two roads with the same name within proximity of each other makes no sense.
* A full airing of the renaming proposal should be conducted in both Chicago and Springfield. Let’s hear all arguments for and against it. Let’s be sure it reflects the popular will. Let’s avoid a replay of the closed-door process by which the Obama Presidential Center found a home in a city park.
Once that’s done, though, it’s apparently a straightfoward matter to rename an expressway. As Alexandra Arriaga reported in the Sun-Times, it can be done by gubernatorial proclamation, legislative resolution or designation from the transportation secretary.
Chicago expressways, as Daley said in a press release, should be named for “towering figures” such as President John F. Kennedy and Gov. Adlai E. Stevenson.
Barack Obama belongs to that club; Dan Ryan not so much.
Daniel B. Ryan was president of the county board from 1954 to 1961, dying while in office. His good pal, Mayor Richard J. Daley — Bill Daley’s father — arranged to have the expressway named in his honor the next year.
As it happens, there also is a Dan Ryan Forest Preserve in Chicago. It was named for the father of the expressway Dan Ryan, who also was a member of the county board.
Maybe the Southwest Side forest preserve, as a sort of consolation prize, could be renamed — for both the father and the son.