From Cicero Ave. to Mandela Road?

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By Robert Felton

In honor of Nelson Mandela, whose death last week inspired worldwide tributes and retrospectives, Oak Park state Rep. LaShawn Ford (8th) is proposing a permanent renaming of Cicero Avenue in honor of the former South African president. 

Ford believes that the Nobel Prize winner deserves the honor of having his own street on the West Side, and not just an honorary renaming usually accustomed for such figures.  

Noted historical figures have traditionally been recognized on Chicago streets or crosswalks with the honorary brown street sign. Ford, however, insists that Mandela is too important a figure to remember in just that way.

"He made such an enormous impact on the world at large, that an honorary street just would not do him justice," Ford said.

Chicago has more than 1500 honorary streets, named after notable figures from athletes to politicians to community leaders. Streets also honor locations, such as the Magnificent Mile. In neighboring Austin, honorary streets have been named for living and deceased community leaders.   

Cicero Avenue — like the south suburban town that shares the name — is named after the Roman leader, Marcus Tullius Cicero. The avenue, also known as Skokie Boulevard, is one of the city's and suburbs' major north-south streets, which carries Illinois Route 50 from its south end to Skokie. 

Ford plans to have a bill written up this week with the name-change and will present it to fellow House lawmakers in the next session on Jan. 29.

"Naming a street after President Mandela would be a reminder to Chicagoans about the importance of his vision and what he meant to international community," Ford said. "You cannot do that with a mere street dedication."

Ford would need majority support in the House and Senate. Once approved, it goes to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature. A joint resolution in the General Assembly could also result in a street name change. In either option, the Illinois House and Senate would have to sign off on it. 

Ford has set up a petition at asking for signatures in support of his proposal. The lawmaker says he's already secured more than 550 signatures, as well as verbal support from the Illinois House Legislative Black Caucus.

Cicero Avenue derived its name from the Roman philosopher and statesman who was born in 106 B.C. The town of Cicero was first incorporated in Illinois in 1869. This would not be the first time that the street has undergone a name change. It was originally referred to as 48th Avenue, in reference to its City of Chicago address of 4800 West.

When asked whether the Roman leader deserved to lose his street dedication, Ford says his proposal will honor each man equally.

"There will still be a village of Cicero. That would not change," Ford said. "I am only talking about changing the name on the street. If the change happens, both Cicero and Mandela will actually intersect. I want to honor president Mandela while also being respectful of the legacy of Marcus Cicero as well."

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Jim from South Oak Park  

Posted: December 12th, 2013 9:31 AM

Huge pain for thousands with a Cicero Ave. address. Change drivers license (for a fee), auto registration, every account you have, IRS records, title to property, mortgage, etc., etc. For businesses, change incorporation papers, stationery, all advertising, web sites (all will cost you). CTA change all transit maps through out system. If you have a Cicero Ave. address, this is government sticking it TO you. No wonder Illinois is seen as worst governed state in U.S


Posted: December 12th, 2013 6:21 AM

Why spend the money to change a street name? It will probably cost thousands of dollars, tax-payers money. The money would be much better spent on something Mandela would have wanted, education or hospital.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 11th, 2013 12:04 PM

Brian - Great Initiative!

Ethan Christopher from Oak Park  

Posted: December 11th, 2013 11:24 AM

I think this is a greta idea! Mandela is a lot more relavant than the ancient Roman leader.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: December 11th, 2013 11:14 AM

pledged and placed in the hands of the South African "nation and its people" for the sole purpose of building the only childrens hospital in South Africa. This is not a question as how we wish to remember Nelson Mandella. This is a question of making the last dream of Nelson Mandella come true. this is what he wanted, not what we wanted.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: December 11th, 2013 11:09 AM

Wed 11 Dec @1100Am hrs. Just returned home from the South African Consulate @200 S. Mich. I spoke to .Karabo Letlaka cosul. I presented w/ a letter showing the desire of Rep. Ford to rename Cicero and my request for an educational fund be raised in the name of Nelson Mandella.I was told that it was a wish of Nelson Mandella to build the only childrens hospital in S.A.I therefore withdrawl my proposal for an educational fund and place into consideration that all funds raised, state and private be


Posted: December 11th, 2013 5:39 AM

Ford should be thinking about what to call his cell mate rather than Cicero avenue. Get this crook in jail and out of office already!

Real List  

Posted: December 10th, 2013 11:10 PM

What's interesting is that due to all the redistricting and gerrymandering of borders by the Democrats recently, Cicero Ave barely touches the eastern edge of Ford's district. Mandela crossed national borders...Ford can't even cross the alley just west of Cicero Ave.

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