Update: Sacramento's collective indifference has chosen to rename the bridge.
On Monday, the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee voted 8-1 to move forward with a proposition to rename the western span of the Bay Bridge for Willie L. Brown Jr. All that remains between us now and a dystopian future where Willie Brown's presence is constantly floating over the bay for all of eternity (or at least until the next replacement bridge) is a vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee and the full state Senate on Thursday.
Whether or not you support the effort to rename the bridge in favor of Emperor Norton I (the petition has nearly 3,800 signatures as of this writing), voices from around the bay are coming out hard against Willie's Span.
The legislation flew through the Assembly on three speedy rounds of voting, culminating in a 68-0 vote in the full Assembly. Not a single person spoke out against it and it seems likely that we're headed for an equally speedy performance in the Senate. Critics were given mere hours to lodge formal opposition with the Senate Transportation and Housing committee when the bill hit the fast track last week. At this point, it's not really a question of whether there is any opposition. It's whether or not Sacramento, in true Willie Brown fashion, even cares to listen to it.
Before Monday's vote, San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos filed a formal letter against the plan. On Tuesday, the Chronicle (which, again, employs Willie Brown) ran no less than three pieces decrying the plan: In one, the editorial staff of the Bay Area's paper of record implored legislators in Sacramento to "wake up and listen", saying "the letters to the editor keep flowing in, overwhelmingly against the proposal to name the western span of the Bay Bridge after Willie L. Brown Jr." On the other hand, the paper has received exactly one letter in support of the Brown Bridge.
Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders, meanwhile, dismantled the argument that the bridge would be a testament to the Ayatollah of the Assembly's three terms in Sacramento:
[The bill's sponsor Assemblyman Isadore Hall III, D-Compton] you see, was acting at the behest of state NAACP President Alice Huffman, who thought it would be nice for California to honor its first African American Assembly speaker by naming a postcard landmark after him.
Hall and the NAACP screwed up - they picked the wrong edifice. They picked the bridge against which Brown had built roadblocks. And Brown, I surmise, never warned them away from this reckless act of tribute.
Then, and perhaps the most damning, there's mustachioed duo Matier & Ross, who got a representative from Jerry Brown's office to give us the Governor's opinion on the whole thing:
"Gov. Brown believes that the iconic Bay Bridge should keep the name that it has had for nearly 77 years," Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor, said Tuesday. "It's a name that lives in the hearts and minds of all Californians. And he feels the same way about the Golden Gate Bridge."
Even down in Los Angeles, where the population is normally indifferent to whatever it is we're quibbling about up here in the fog, has taken notice of the spectacle.
On the other side of the argument, there are the Brown Bridge apologists at S.F. Magazine whose argument basically boils down to the vain: "He's the face of the City" (which: no) and the nonsensical, "We already have a Golden Gate — why not a Brown Bridge?" (Which: huh?)
Finally, there's what we'll call the "fuck it, whatever" argument, also from the Chronicle, wherein we are reminded that no one actually calls things by their official names. After all, when was the last time you told someone to take the exit for the John T. Knox Freeway to get to Berkeley? Never probably.
Anyhow, the bill goes before the full Senate Thursday. There's still time to tweet clever things at Senator Ted Gaines or Mark DeSaulnier the chair of the Transportation and Housing committee, but we think Chronicle Editorials editor John Diaz really put it best on Wednesday afternoon: