The passing of Ron Santo has Chicagoans thinking of fond memories the popular personality gave them. So why not honor his life by renaming a street? Not honorary, but a full-fledged rename? This is not my idea. It's the idea of Chicago Tribune Columnist Eric Zorn, who in 2008 wrote about how there were more deserving Italian-American Chicagoans than Italo Balbo. He was suggesting a more suitable replacement for the Italian general, whose name replaced 7th Street 77 years ago. Zorn did a poll and Ron Santo was the readers' choice. We remembered that movement and I G-chatted up Mr. Zorn today to ask if he still thought Ron Santo would be a good name for that street:
Justin: So in 2008 you did a poll about renaming Balbo street. Why?
Eric: It's a major street in Chicago curiously named for a leader of the fascist thugs who brought Benito Mussolini to power. I thought Italian Americans could do better.
Justin: And by better, you mean Ron Santo?
Eric: Santo was one choice. Enrico Fermi was another popular suggestion. The late Cardinal Bernardin. Florence Scala. There are a lot of famous Italian Americans who weren't on the side of the Nazis in WWII
Justin: Your readers voted overwhelmingly for Santo, 73 percent!
Eric: Ron is -- or was, rest his soul -- pure Chicago (though he grew up in Seattle) -- a man of great talent, courage and passion who beat on against the twin currents of disappointment and disease.
Justin: How possible is it to rename a street? Do we have to get IDOT involved in this chat? And we aren't talking about that "honorary" bullsh*t. Full rename.
Eric: I'd like to get rid of ALL those honorary street names (even Justin Kaufmann Way) but don't get me started. No, it's a city function, renaming streets.
Justin: Do you think the city or the Italian-American community would be down with this thought? You proposed it when Mr. Santo was alive in 2007. Now that he has passed...
Eric: The Italian American community is strangely loyal to Balbo (who, to his credit, was a notable aviator when he wasn't doing his fascist thuggery). They've resisted every effort to re-name East Balbo Drive over the years. I'm not the first to propose it.
Justin: But you are the first to propose renaming it Ron Santo Way. Balbo is only like, what, 3 blocks? Let's just get a team together, go to the novelty shop and get a couple green and white street signs made and go rogue. I would just need an invesment of like $2k. And I'll have that street renamed by the end of the weekend.
Eric: I will visit you in jail.
Justin: Well, you should start a petition or at least, start the process with IDOT. That's what Trib columnists are good for. Document it, create a FB page and tweet out your phone call transcripts.
Eric: Do you know any homeless people who could pass the petitions for me? Cuz I know a guy who could "notarize" them, if you know what I mean.
Eric: You're laughing. Am I a clown? Do I amuse you?
Justin: Yes, you do. Well, tough day in Chicago. Thanks for chatting about the prospect of giving Mr. Ron Santo a piece of Chicago, forever. We'll see if it catches on.
Eric: Thanks. I am serious that I think this would be a great idea.
Justin: Me too. Talk soon.