City leaders joined by members of the LGBT community held a noon rally on the steps of San Francisco City Hall Friday to support renaming San Francisco International Airport after assassinated city Supervisor Harvey Milk.
The rally, led by Supervisor David Campos, included calls for support from state Sen. Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, city director of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement Bevan Dufty, and Milk's nephew and founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, Stuart Milk. Other supporters included members from Equality California and the San Francisco-based Metropolitan Community Church, among other organizations. Milk, 48, was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone by former Supervisor Dan White at City Hall in 1978.
The former supervisor has been remembered as a leader of the civil rights movement and a supporter of gay equality, something Supervisor David Campos believes deserves recognition at an international airport. Last month Campos introduced a charter amendment to rename the airport to Harvey Milk San Francisco International Airport.
Today Campos said 80 airports are named after people at airports across the U.S. but there is no representation from the gay community. "Why shouldn't San Francisco be that city?" Campos said at the rally.
The proposed change has since garnered the support of four other supervisors, including John Avalos, Scott Wiener, Jane Kim and Eric Mar. One more supervisor is needed to get the issue on a city ballot. Campos said after the rally that he hopes the amendment passes through the full board and onto the ballot this fall. Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi also attended the rally with his wife Eliana Lopez, showing their support for the proposed name change.
Campos said the proposal has been called divisive, which is not the intended purpose of the amendment.
"Milk is anything but divisive," Campos said. "He continues to be a unifying force...for all communities." Milk's nephew, Stuart Milk, said having his uncle's name on an airport visited by more than 40 million annually -- including many international visitors -- is an important educational opportunity. "It is a message to anyone who has ever been diminished or marginalized," he said. Proponents of the change say adding Harvey Milk's name to the airport name will not change the airport code of "SFO."
On online petition for the change has been signed by nearly 20,000 supporters on change.org. Ammiano said he loves the idea of the renaming. "This city owes this to Harvey Milk," he said.
However, the idea has drawn some opposition -- the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce has come out against the renaming of the airport. A post on the organization's blog today titled, "SFO Should Not Be Named for Anyone," noted high renaming costs estimated at $4 million and rebranding confusion.
"Altering the name of the airport in any way will only reduce and dilute the spotlight that 'San Francisco International Airport' enjoys on the world stage," the post said. The chamber called the name change "a well-intentioned but ill-conceived plan."
Campos said the changes to the airport are estimated to cost about $250,000. He said the $4 million price tag is inflated but there will be additional finance reviews as the proposal moves forward.
Campos called the cost a "red herring," and noted that the city spends money on other name changes and sign repairs and improvements. In addition, he said there are talks of slowly rolling out the name change on various signs, marketing and promotional materials and buildings over the course of five years to lower costs.