Former President Barack Obama may get a famous stretch of highway named for him, if a Chicago mayoral candidate -- who once worked for Obama -- gets his way. But the descendants of the late Dan Ryan, for whom the city expressway is named, are not happy about the idea.
Democratic candidate Bill Daley, who was Obama's White House chief of staff in 2011, proposed Friday that the Dan Ryan Expressway on Chicago's South Side be renamed for America's 44th president, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
“Barack Obama is from Chicago. He owns a home here. This is where the Obama library is based,” Daley said in a statement. “I’d like to see the legislature act on this early next year.”
A section of Interstate 55, leading in the direction of Springfield, the Illinois state capital, was already named for Obama last year, the report said. But Daley wants an additional roadway honor for the former president.
“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 said. “We were part of history.”
History may also play a part Daley's decision to run for mayor. Daley's father was former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, who served as the 38th mayor of the city for 21 years from 1955 to 1976. Later, the current candidate's brother, Richard M. Daley, served as mayor for 22 years, from 1989 to 2011.
Democratic state Rep. La Shawn Ford of Chicago, who is also running for mayor and led part of the already passed legislation for I-55 to be named after Obama, said Daley's proposal was a "political stunt" and a "ploy to try to cater to black voters," according to the Sun-Times.
The Dan Ryan Expressway opened in 1961, not long after the death of its namesake, a longtime Cook County commissioner who worked to advance road projects in the city. Ryan's descendants, including grandson Dan Ryan III, were upset by Daley's idea, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“It was a very great honor for our family to have that name,” Ryan III told the paper. “And I can’t imagine why anyone would want to change part of his own father’s legacy to begin with, but also take away an honor from one person to honor another person.”
“It was a very great honor for our family to have that name. And I can’t imagine why anyone would want to change part of his own father’s legacy to begin with, but also take away an honor from one person to honor another person.”
Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) expressed concern about potentially having a second stretch of road named for Obama.
“As a general policy, IDOT discourages naming two roads near one another for the same person because it causes confusion for motorists,” IDOT spokeswoman Jessie Decker told the Sun-Times. “We are not aware of any existing resolutions or dedications being rescinded in order to rename a road.”
The Dan Ryan Expressway was chosen for the proposed Obama honor because of its association with racial segregation in the 1960s. It was also the location for a large anti-violence protest over the summer.
Thousands of protesters shut down lanes on the highway as part of a movement to increase pressure on public officials to address the gun violence that has claimed hundreds of lives in the city.