Harvey Milk-SFO renaming inspires letter-writers

San Francisco International Airport activity is at a record high — a recent report says more than 44 million people traveled through the hub last year. As a supervisor in 1977, Harvey Milk objected to SFO expansion, so he might not be pleased with this frenetic pace.

Still, Supervisor David Campos has proposed renaming the airport after Milk, and folks have been writing to the Board of Supervisors to voice their opinion. It’s not a scientific study or a poll, but the letters have been against the idea of Harvey Milk San Francisco International Airport. Here is a sampling:

  • “San Francisco Airport has long been a destination known internationally. For us natives it is in our history and our hearts. Find another public structure to honor Supervisor Milk.”
  • “Harvey Milk, Moscone, Willie Brown, Cesar Chavez are all bigger than life people. But none of them is bigger the San Francisco itself or what that means. … Mr. Campos is more concerned with sparking ‘international conversation’ than fixing the problems that plague our great city.”
  • “I can assure you that many gay, lesbian, and bisexual San Franciscans — including myself — would prefer for the airport to remain San Francisco International Airport.”

About the mailbag …: People are still writing to the Board of Supervisors about Charlie the dog, the American Staffordshire terrier whose life was eventually spared after being sentenced to death for attacking a U.S. Park Patrol officer and his horse. After multiple legal challenges, his owner reached an agreement with The City to send the dog to a rescue organization.  

In fact, the city of St. Francis has always had a soft spot for dogs. As I was perusing minutes of Board of Supervisors meetings from February 1913, I stumbled upon a proposal by the Public Health Committee to give the police power to kill unmuzzled dogs. The department wrote, “Chief of Police White has informed the Health Department that the men under him are unable to compel observance of the ordinance by reason of the limited and inadequate power granted them by that law and has promised to at once rid the thoroughfares of all unmuzzled dogs running at large if authority is given to kill them.”

When a member of the board proposed giving police the power to do just that, a citizen spoke up, insisting that “the proposed amendment was uncalled for and very vicious in its character.”

The proposed law failed by 14-4 vote.

The next month, in March 1913, the Board of Health presented a resolution demanding that the supervisors reconsider their position on the grounds that “there have been several deaths in this City during the past year from rabies and that 150 persons who had been bitten by dogs have received the Pasteur treatment, and that out of 400 dogs examined by the Health Board 270 were found to be infected  with rabies.”

The Board of Supervisors still did not grant police the power to kill unmuzzled dogs.

And on the subject of well-intentioned laws that affect public health …: Reusable shopping bags may be making us sick. Law professors Jonathan Klick and Joshua Wright released a study in November that found a correlation between banning plastic bags in San Francisco and a rise in cases of E. coli, concluding that “the San Francisco County ban is associated with a 46 percent increase in deaths from foodborne illnesses.”

According to the study, the rise in deaths and illnesses is attributable to people doing what The City’s 2007 ordinance was designed to do — reuse bags — but failing to wash those bags, though the study notes that “detergents necessary to clean the bags add to the environmental costs, as does the use of water hot enough to kill the bacteria.”

And on the subject of the plastic bag ban author, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi …: March is Women’s History Month, so the Commission on the Status of Women wrote a letter asking that the Board of Supervisors publicly recognize exceptional women in its districts March 19. In the commission’s request, it provided a list of the women who have been celebrated by their supervisors going back to 2005.

That first year of recognition, then-Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi chose to recognize London Breed, who was recently elected to Mirkarimi’s former seat.

This may explain why, in the course of the campaign for District 5, Breed, who is politically moderate, consistently refused to disclose how she would vote on Mirkarimi’s reinstatement as sheriff. At a debate held at the Rasselas Jazz Club, she indicated some sympathy for the sheriff, saying, “His family has gone through some of the most horrible things I’ve seen anybody go through in this city.” Breed also said she would not comment on his “personal life.”

And on the subject of strange political allies …: On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in which he listed priorities for the federal government to “Make Life Work.” In the remarks, the fiscally conservative Republican gave a surprising compliment to the San Francisco Unified School District.

“San Francisco public schools adopted a funding mechanism according to what’s termed a ‘weighted student formula.’ Under this policy, the more students a school attracts, the more money that school, its administrators and teachers receive,” Cantor said. “Low-income students are weighted heavier in the funding formula, as are children with disabilities, and those learning English as a second language. So, there’s incentive for schools to seek the more vulnerable population, and reasons for schools to differentiate themselves and excel.

“Imagine if we were to try and move in this direction with federal funding.”

Melissa Griffin’s column runs each Thursday and Sunday. She also appears Mondays in “Mornings with Melissa” at  6:45 a.m. on KPIX (Ch. 5). Email her at mgriffin@sfexaminer.com.

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