Slain Supervisor Harvey Milk's legacy fully merits global positioning, but renaming a terminal at SFO in his honor is the wrong approach.
In May, after facing initial criticism for proposing the costly renaming of the entire San Francisco International Airport, Supervisor David Campos redirected the effort from a complete rebranding — including highway signs and other airport collateral — to just renaming a yet-to-be-decided terminal.
Campos wrote that the renaming would help spread Milk's message of hope across the world (even if it's not the International Terminal). But beyond his work in elevating the political discourse granted to the LGBT community, Milk's legacy is equally about advocating for the hard-working, lower-class people of San Francisco.
Milk — who was killed in City Hall along with Mayor George Moscone in 1978 by former Supervisor Dan White — may have had the spirit of an activist, but at heart he was a proud populist. He was against the expansion of SFO, against issuing airport bonds, against spending city funds on a convention center and against other silly expenditures designed to lure in tourists — especially when these expenditures took precedence over the needs of the residents.
Milk's name deserves to be in the international spotlight, yes, but at the expense of the man's own ideology? Drive away the towering condos and give me an affordable housing complex for queer youths and elders across from Safeway on Market Street, then I'll believe your interest in pushing Milk's priorities.
Until then, don't use Harvey's name to guilt-trip me into supporting this expensive only-in-San Francisco political gimmick. And don't make me out to be a detractor of gay heroism just because I happened to have read a history book.
And if what Campos really wants is for the world to learn about Milk, then why not create a permanent exhibit at the SFO Museum? Renaming a structure, regardless of how big or busy, does not guarantee that everyone who passes through its gates will get an instant education as to its namesake. Just ask anyone who's ever visited Paris if they know about the legacy of Charles de Gaulle.
It's not too much to ask of politicians like Campos and other cheerleaders of the gay agenda to read about Milk's very own personal and political beliefs before proposing a taxing expenditure on behalf of the proletariat.
Too much work still? Let me open up a book for you. In a speech delivered in 1973 and reprinted with permission in Randy Shilts' “The Mayor of Castro Street,” Milk is quoted as saying:
“There is no political gain in this non-monied route (of putting the people first) and, thus you do not find people with high political ambitions leading this way. There are no statistics to quote … no miles of highway built to brag about, no statistics of giant buildings built under your administration. What you have instead is a city that breathes, one that is alive, where the people are more important than the highways.”
Perhaps we can learn from Milk and make the people of San Francisco more important than its airport.
Oscar Raymundo is the head of marketing at a leading LGBT media company. Email him at email@example.com.