Proposed renaming of SFO should go to the voters 

Supervisor Harvey Milk’s name to San Francisco International Airport, his proposal hit strong headwinds of opposition. Some have suggested that the idea be grounded before San Franciscans have a chance to formally weigh in on it.

In fact, the best outcome would be for the full Board of Supervisors to submit the measure to the voters of San Francisco, who could then hear the arguments for themselves and make an informed decision. After all, it’s not like this largely symbolic proposal would deprive anyone of their rights or infringe on their civil liberties.

For several reasons, it is too early to fully debate this proposal, which Campos introduced in January. But the idea of adding Milk’s name to the transit hub, which would make it the first known airport in the world to be named after an openly gay person, deserves thorough vetting, debate, consideration and then a vote by the people.

For starters, one argument against the renaming is cost. Campos and others who support the legislation, including Supervisor Scott Wiener and Milk’s nephew Stuart Milk, say the cost issue is a red herring. Instead, they say, the discussion should focus on whether the airport’s name should include that of the slain supervisor and civil-rights icon. Campos suggests that private fundraising could offset costs, and that signage could be phased in as old signs need to be replaced, eliminating many of the possible costs.

But even if cost isn’t of concern to voters, the actual price needs to be fleshed out. Current estimates range from $500,000 to $4 million. The actual price tag is likely somewhere in the middle, and it is only fair to know the real facts before jumping to any conclusions.

Also, there should be more talk about why Campos and the co-sponsors of this legislation want to add Milk’s name.

Too much of the debate has been about the loss of identity for SFO and the implications for The City as a travel destination — even though Campos wants to add Milk’s name, not change the name of the airport or its three-letter code of SFO.

Campos and Stuart Milk told The San Francisco Examiner that they want Harvey Milk’s name to be a beacon of hope for travelers across the nation and world who live in places where being gay is simply illegal or which are less tolerant of LGBT people. Supporters of this legislation say Milk’s notoriety as an LGBT icon could foster dialogue around gay-rights issues.

Opposition to the legislation has focused on whether Milk’s name is the right one to add to the airport, and whether any name at all should be included.

Both sides of the debate have the right to make their arguments. This is not a decision that should be approved or dismissed lightly. But after sound and rigorous debate, the final decision should fall to the voters.

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