By Jim Bowman
South Oak Park's Rep. La Shawn Ford wants to rename Cicero Avenue to Mandela Road. It would be "a small gesture from our partnering communities" — Western Springs, LaGrange, LaGrange Park, Brookfield, Forest Park, Proviso Township, Riverside, North Riverside, Berwyn, Oak Park, and Austin, all of the 8th Illinois House District — to honor the late S. African leader, who has been "an inspiration to many," Ford says in a petition.
Doing this "will send a message that Illinois stands for a strong road for justice," he adds.
It would to many. But probably not to merchants who have to change their signs and letterheads. Not even, maybe, to the cash-strapped city of Chicago, which would have to change street signs etc. Not to mapmakers — wait: yes to mapmakers, who would gain much business from need for new maps. But not to the town of Cicero, for heaven's sake. Egads, what's next? Oak Park Avenue becomes Danny Davis Drive?
This is no honorarily renaming Jackson Boulevard east of Austin in honor of the late Rev. Shelvin Hall (who pastored a Lawndale church later moved to Austin) or Superior, State to Wabash, to the late Bishop Timothy Lyne.
At 120 blocks, Cicero lags only Western and five other streets among the city's longest (and only by not counting Rooselt to 39th, where Cicero is not a Chicago street) — behind Western at 188 blocks, Halsted at 171.
So with due respect to Rep. Ford and others who want to honor the admirable Nelson Mandela, renaming Cicero would be no "small gesture" and probably not a good idea.