When Donald Trump’s honorary street sign outside his downtown hotel disappeared, Mayor Rahm Emanuel didn’t seem too upset. He jokingly provided his alibi to reporters: “I was in synagogue.”
Less than a week before the sign was stolen, Emanuel and a group of 47 aldermen pushed to take down the brown Trump Plaza sign in response to the Republican presidential nominee’s negative remarks about Chicago. They cited his "hateful and racist campaign against immigrants and minorities"—and this was all before his sexist remarks bragging about sexual assaulting women, which led to a huge protest outside Trump Tower this morning.
But let’s be honest, Trump, isn’t the only public figure whose name graces a brown (or green) street sign in Chicago. Here are four other familiar names that might deserve some City Council scrutiny.
Ziaur Rahman Way
When 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore backed the street sign honoring the Bangladeshi former President Ziaur Rahman, he didn’t expect to have an international diplomatic squabble on his hands. Shortly after the 2014 announcement, the Bangladeshi ambassador contacted the U.S. State Department; he said that Rahman didn’t deserve the honor due to his involvement in the 1975 assassination of Bangladeshi former President Sheikh Mujib Rahman and his subsequent treatment of political opponents. Despite the State Department request, Moore went ahead and put up the signs along North Clark Street, deeming Rahman “one of the good guys.”
Hugh M. Hefner Way
There was plenty of controversy shrouding the street sign honoring the founder of Playboy Enterprises, who opened the original Playboy Club in Chicago. Female aldermen and women’s groups voiced their opposition to the original proposal in 2000, calling Hugh Hefner “the world’s biggest pornographer.” The sign, however, still went up at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Walton Street, only to be stolen a few days later by two men—unlike Trump’s sign, which remains AWOL, it was replaced soon thereafter.
After Italian Air Force Marshal Italo Balbo led a squad of airplanes from Italy to Chicago for the World’s Fair, Seventh Street was renamed Balbo. You might otherwise know Balbo as a man who served under fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, whose government later allied with Adolf Hitler in World War II. A petition to remove the name was submitted in 2011 to no avail.
Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer credited with “discovering” America, would most likely be sitting on Death Row if he were alive today. His crimes? Enslaving natives, supervising human trafficking, enforcing cruel punishments (burning people alive and cutting off body parts), among others. Those trying to rectify the glossed-over history of colonialism say he doesn’t deserve the north-south street that bisects Grant Park named in his honor, much less a national holiday.