San Francisco Politicos Really Don't Want to Name Bay Bridge After Willie Brown (Update)
Update, Thursday, 11:14 a.m.: The State Senate Housing and Transportation Committee will hear the Willie Brown Bridge bill on Monday, Sept. 9.
Update: Good news, guys. Assemblyman Phil Ting can't bat for Team Brown, since his district doesn't include the Bay Bridge.
You may recall that fateful day in June when a group of state assemblymen in Sacramento floated a resolution to name the flashy western span of the Bay Bridge after San Francisco's flashy former mayor. And if that group has its druthers, "The Willie L. Brown, Jr. Bridge" may go down in history as San Francisco's tawdriest vanity project.
It gets worse.
Democratic Assemblyman Issadore Hall III, who introduced the resolution, suggested we name the new eastern span after a prominent East Bay politico. One suggestion: use another person with surname Brown. The prospect of a Willie Brown Bridge going west and a Jerry Brown Bridge going east created a veritable explosion in the blogosphere.
And journalists weren't the only ones crying foul. This morning three former San Francisco supervisors submitted a letter to Senator Darrell Steinberg, requesting that Sacramento not Brown-out two beloved pieces of local transit architecture. Not surprisingly, the people behind the letter -- Aaron Peskin, Matt Gonzalez, and Quentin L. Kopp -- are all staunch critics of Willie Brown.
And they make some good points. For one, Assembly Concurrent Resolution 65 wasn't authored or co-authored by a legislator whose district encompasses the western span, which lies entirely within San Francisco. Rather, the idea generated from members of the NAACP, who enlisted Assemblyman Hall to introduce it. At least, that's the story according to San Francisco Chronicle, where Willie Brown is employed as a columnist.
The prospective Willie Brown Bridge also defies Senate rules that require legislators to only name transit architecture after dead people, the trio says. But most importantly, the Brown Bridge does not "reflect a community consensus. And that's when they really bring on the pain:
"While we respect Mr. Brown's years of public service, Mr. Brown remains a very controversial figure in San Francisco and there exists significant concern in our community that naming the Bay Bridge for him is not appropriate," the ex-Supervisors write.
In a phone interview, Matt Gonzalez acknowledged that he does, indeed, hold a lot of respect for Willie Brown, even if the two have been sworn adversaries at times, and even if -- as our office gadfly noted -- he'd probably rather swim than take the Willie L. Brown Bridge. Gonzalez remained coy. "I've always felt that the naming of a public monument should be done after somebody is gone, when you can have a real fair and open discussion about it," he said.
But Peskin, Gonzalez, and Kopp might be out of luck, because ACR 65 does, indeed, bear the imprimatur of San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting, which could help Brown win on a technicality -- although a quick review of district lines revealed that Ting's district doesn't include the Bay Bridge. And not surprisingly, Brown is bolstered by a fervent Brown Bridge lobby -- though granted, an equally fervent group is campaigning for the Brown Bridge's demolition.
A spokeswoman from Steinberg's office says that the Senate Rules Committee referred ACR 65 to the Senate Committee on Housing and Transportation today, although a hearing date for the name is still pending.
Update: It warrants mentioning that the Bay Bridge already has an unofficial name, for former San Francisco mayor James B. Rolph (1912-1931). We're not sure how his descendants feel about the proposed rechristening.
Also worth mentioning: a vigorous Change.org campaign to name the western span for Emperor Norton.
And: Per our office Gadfly: "The preferred nomenclature is 'wag.'"
Here's the letter: