Thursday, February 23, 2017

EXTRA: What warrants Obama brand for posterity (or maybe that long)?

Out in south suburban Markham is an elementary school named for Barack Obama, while a quickie search of the Internet uncovered schools in Dallas, Los Angeles and Milwaukee named for the nation’s 44th president.
OBAMA: Does he need a highway too?

Which intrigues me because our federal government’s current leadership seems determined to erase anything and everything that ever occurred during the Obama years. If they succeed, will students of the future attend schools named for someone who left nothing lasting behind?

WE’RE GOING TO spend the next few years, perhaps even decades, pondering the Obama legacy – between those who want to erect tributes to it in marble and whose who want to be the equivalent of the pidgeon that dumps its waste all over it.

So it will be interesting to see how things wind up this year with a pair of bills now pending in the Illinois General Assembly, being sponsored by legislators who want Obama to be something equivalent of John Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, Adlai Stevenson II or Dan Ryan.

As anybody who drives around Chicago on a regular basis knows, those men all have major highways named after them. In fact, I’d bet most people only know the Ryan as a South Side highway and don’t have a clue who the former Cook County Board president really was!

We do seem to have a split.
STEVENSON: Can he share I-55 w/ Obama?

ONE BILL SAYS we ought to rename Interstate 294, also known as the Tri-State Tollway, for Obama. It would be a major road used heavily every day by traffic in the Chicago area, and some think it cute that it connects Illinois to Indiana and Wisconsin – all of which are states Obama took in the Electoral College in his 2008 presidential victory.

Of course, the smart alecks point out that the Tri-State is the road used by traffic to avoid having to enter the Chicago city limits.
RYAN: A highway, more than a man?

But there is another bill calling for the bulk of Interstate 55 in Illinois to be named for Obama. As things stand, the Chicago portion of that highway already is named for Adlai.

In fact, I suspect most Chicago motorists would get a confused look on their faces if you speak of I-55; but Stevenson Expressway will create a slew of stories of traffic congestion they have had to endure.
FORD: Name has new freeway fame

ALTHOUGH I SUSPECT this bill is politically loaded – there will be the rural Illinois residents who will object to having one of “their roads” being used for an Obama tribute. Yet you try to dump the name of Adlai E. from the Chicago portion of I-55, and that will create a bigger stink because people will have to learn a new name for telling people what road they were caught in traffic on during the morning rush hour.

These measures are going to create quite the political brawl; particularly since I already sense how offended the “loser” (as in the one whose idea gets rejected) will take it personally.

Will we get some people out there determined to hang on to numeric designations because they don’t want to acknowledge the Obama name – similar to how I’m aware of some people who insist on using the “Calumet Expressway” name for Ill. 394 because they don’t want to acknowledge the “Bishop Ford Freeway” and the Rev. L.H. Ford whose cultural significance as international head of the Church of God in Christ apparently didn’t extend into the non-black parts of the South Side.

It is a large part of why I personally hate seeing roads renamed for anybody. The amount of stupid-talk that gets created is never worth the tribute, and it also has the effect of reducing the memory of anyone to nothing more than a future traffic jam or deadly accident.
BYRNE: She saw humor in her interchange

IN FACT, ABOUT the only renaming I ever wound up liking was the one that turned the Circle Interchange (just southwest of downtown where all the expressways converge) into the Jane Byrne Interchange, in honor of the first femme to become Chicago mayor.

It’s not that I think the Byrne Interchange moniker has all that special a ring to it.

But Byrne herself was still alive when the change was made, and I’ve heard stories about how much amusement she’d gain whenever she heard radio reports about traffic congestions that inevitably would include the line, “Jane Byrne is backed up.”


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