Changing the mayor, changing the signs

September 14, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Much has been made so far of the political scramble that has followed regarding who will run to replace him. However, his departure also brings up a much more practical matter: signage.

For the past 21 years, if you forgot who the mayor of Chicago was, there were always a few reminders around town placed at strategic locations such as the airports, major civic attractions and many large public gatherings.

Myriad signs - nobody at city hall could actually tell us exactly how many - feature the printed name: Richard M. Daley, Mayor, City of Chicago.

With Daley's tenure about to end, each and every sign will have to be changed.

Daley has welcomed millions of travelers to Chicago in the airports during his six terms as mayor.

Signs inside both O'Hare and Midway and outside on the roads leading toward downtown all say, "Welcome to Chicago, Richard M. Daley Mayor, City of Chicago," or some derivation of that message.

Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Brian Steele said that the city doesn't know the cost of replacing or updating these signs, though Steele says it is anticipated to be minimal.

The last time so much signage had to be dismantled was when Governor Rod Blagojevich was thrown out of office in 2009.

Then, 32 tollway signs put up at a cost of nearly half-a-million dollars were replaced, along with all the other state government signs bearing the Blagojevich name.

For Chicago mayors, it has become a city tradition - and not just at the airports.

The Chicago Skyway features Daley's name even though he leased the seven-mile South Side shortcut to a private company for 99 years.

The signs at fairs, festivals and construction sites will have to be changed.

Of course, his late father sometimes sported less expensive signage to remind people he was the mayor, but also plastered his name on bigger things.

If they had served back-to-back, only their middle initial would have been changed, from J to M, but there were several mayors between them, and their names were swapped out too.

One place where Daley's name will probably not be removed: some of the city's green alleys that he championed, and the Daley name is etched in concrete.

At a time when Chicago is broke, some city workers are taking forced furlough days and events have been cancelled, there has yet to be any discussion of just doing away with mayoral signs.

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