Since we first mentioned it last month the petition to rename the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge after Emperor Norton I has accumulated roughly 2,800 signatures in support of the effort. The Sacramento-based effort to rename the West Span after Willie Brown, on the other hand, is a steaming load of crap being forced upon the Bay by glad-handing pols in the state capitol, eager to bestow an honor on a man responsible for grossly inflating the costs of the new span. We cannot allow any portion of the Bay Bridge to be named for Willie Lewis Brown Jr.
Even the Chronicle — a newspaper that counts Willie Brown among its employees and allows Brown to post free advertisements for Subway Sandwiches with impunity — thinks renaming the bridge in their columnist's honor is a bad idea. "No way," the Chronicle's editorial team wrote earlier this week.
The Chronicle goes on:
Willie Brown (along with Gov. Jerry Brown) was a prime force in holding up the rebuild of the eastern span. He shares the blame for the enormous cost overruns that pumped the bill from a projected $1.5 billion to $6.4 billion.
Yet the state Legislature, where Brown ruled as Assembly speaker, voted 68-0 to name the western span after him. Now this measure is before the state Senate, where it should be shelved for good.
Today, the state Senate did the opposite of shelving the measure: they fast-tracked it for a hearing on Monday, September 9th, going against their own rules in the process. Per the official policies [pdf] of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, which has to approve the resolution before it can move any further, highways and structures may not be named after a living person, which Willie Brown continues to be at the moment:
Policy: The committee will not consider any measure proposing to name or designate a state highway or highway structure unless the measure meets the following conditions:
a) The person being honored must have provided extraordinary public service or some exemplary contribution to the public good and have a connection to the community where the highway is located.
b) The person being honored must be deceased.
The first point is debatable, of course, but as long as Willie Brown continues to walk this earth (or at least take cabs around it), the Senate committee cannot, by their own rules, even consider the measure.
Also invalidating the measure? The bill's author, Assemblyman Isadore Hall III, who hails from Compton and obviously does not represent the district in which the bridge stands. Assemblyman Phil Ting, who represents the Western half of the San Francisco, listed himself as a co-author and could argue that he gets a say in the matter. However, neither span of the Bay Bridge is technically within his district. (Although Ting's district does include a wastewater treatment plant that still needs a name.)
Monday's fast-tracked hearing is coming up in just five days, meaning the Senate gave the public the absolute bare minimum amount of notice before setting a date. But there remains hope for the Willie resistance: according to those previously cited committee policies, the proposition to rename a structure must also reflect "a community consensus and be without local opposition." Hi, Sacramento, here are 2,800 pieces of opposition and counting.
If that's not enough to strap a pair of cement shoes to the measure and sink it to the muddy bottom of the bay, then consider this: Willie Brown himself — the single most egotistical person currently alive in the Bay Area with the possible exception of Larry Ellison — doesn't even approve of putting his name on the bridge. As he told local PR agent Lee Houskeeper, he too would prefer to see that honor go to Emperor Norton I.