First of Champaign's honorary street names expires
CHAMPAIGN — Burnham City Hospital served Champaign-Urbana for decades but no longer exists.
Should the signs come down? Tell Tom Kacich here
Now, the "Honorary Burnham Boulevard" sign commemorating the Fourth Street facility will soon go away, as well.
On Sunday, it became the first of 41 honorary street names in Champaign to expire after the city council tightened the rules on its designation program in January.
The policy now states signs will be up for 10 years and are not eligible for automatic renewal. (Not even the part of First Street between Kirby Avenue and St. Mary's Road also known as "Lou Henson Court").
Champaign resident Rosemary Smith, vice president of the Burnham nurses alumni association, has one question for council members: Why?
"I don't know what the purpose of it needing to come down is," said Smith, part of the group that requested the honor in 2004. "There were a lot of first things that happened at Burnham many years ago. A lot of people were born there, and a lot of people died there.
"It's still amazing the number of people that you talk to that do remember Burnham. But it's going to fade away if we don't do something."
The council opted to revamp the program because it felt the number of signs — and requests — was getting out of hand.
Council member Tom Bruno was among those who supported the change — passed by an 8-0 vote — despite helping push for "Honorary Corporal Nathaniel K. Moore Road" in honor of the U.S. Marine who was killed in Iraq.
"There's an example of a young man who gave his life to his country," he said. "I don't think it disparages his memory in any way to make an honorary street name for a decade and then have it expire automatically at the end of a decade and not be renewed."
There's a silver lining for the Burnham backers: The sign won't be removed until the end of the year, according to the city, and citizens may start the process over by resubmitting applications.
But as part of the new rules, no more than four honorary streets will be approved each year. Before, that limit was 12.
At its June study session, the council endorsed its first two street designations of 2014 — naming a block of Bradley Avenue between State and Elm streets for Bishop Edward T. McGhee, pastor at the Church of the Apostolic Authority, and Plymouth Drive between Galen and Harrington drives for Keegan Bannon, the Central High School senior who died in 2010.
McGhee's honorary sign went up July 26.
"It's not a perfect world, but the net benefit of reining these in after 10 years outweighs the net benefit of letting them all go on in perpetuity," Bruno said.
"I don't think as a practical manner we want to have a system where we say 'This one for 15 years, this one for 17 years, this one in perpetuity.'"