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Dubious Honor for a Departing Bush

Roman Mars

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Brian McConnell, left, and Michael Jacinto
(Josh Bingham)

Maybe you're doing an "all-American" activity like hosting a barbecue, going to a ball game, eating apple pie or hot dogs this Fourth of July.

Or maybe you're being a real patriot and championing democracy by trying to get someone to sign your petition, or scurrying away from someone who's trying to get you to sign their petition. This weekend in San Francisco, one group is having no problem gathering signatures for a special ballot initiative. We sent reporter Roman Mars to find out more.

Two years ago, the people of San Francisco voted on Proposition J to make it the city's official policy to call for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. It passed with 59 percent of the vote. But that wasn't enough for some. A new group known as the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco wants to make a permanent statement about how people here feel about the Bush administration. Getting signatures has not been hard.

"This is a very rare initiative," says the commission's chairman, Brian McConnell. "People will actually line up to sign it. We can get hundreds [of signatures] in the day, no problem."

Initiative co-author Michael Jacinto adds: "You let them catch a glimpse of the sign, and they just come up to you and want to hug you."

What is the Presidential Memorial Commission's goal? Signee Pat Rogers, who was eager to support to the measure, explains: "I'm signing an initiative to rename our sewage plant the George W. Bush sewage plant. That is a great tribute to him."

The initiative co-authors are fixtures around the city now. The Presidential Memorial Commission volunteers fan out on the busy corner of Church and Market streets, blaring patriotic music and carrying an American flag. They're already well past the number of signatures required to get on the ballot, but they're getting a few more for good measure. What started as a joke over beers has turned into a movement, with a dedicated group of volunteers, weekly gatherings and costumed, street-theater-style signature drives. They're having a great time, but not everyone is. Especially San Francisco Republican Party chair Howard Epstein.

"The first thing that came into my mind was a group of nuts putting something on the San Francisco ballot again," Epstein says. "You know, there are a lot of people who don't like the president, but this isn't the way to do it. They're using the ballot for satire, and the ballot should be used for serious issues."

Epstein vows to do everything he can to defeat the initiative, including get-out-the-vote campaigns and speaking to every neighborhood group in the city. But he might want to consider joining forces with another party that's a little uneasy about the name change: the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

"The clear intent behind the backers of the initiative is to make negative statements about the president," says PUC spokesperson Tony Winnicker. "We think voters might want to ask themselves: 'Is an award-winning treatment plant that's never had a single environmental violation the right thing to name after President Bush?'"

Brian McConnell understands the utility commission's concerns, but says the opportunity for San Francisco to comment on the Bush legacy is too important.

"Fifty years from now there will be a kid in a civics class learning about Mount Rushmore, and Abraham Lincoln on the $5 bill and the George W. Bush sewage plant. They'll get it. And that will lead to a discussion about Iraq and 10 trillion dollars debt and, you know, the whole legacy that he left the country.

"One of the things we want to do is set a precedent for politicians that if you really screw up, and especially if you betray the trust of the public, there are lots of places that can be named after you," he says. "And they're not libraries."

In fact, talk has already begun about the treatment plant's renaming, set for Jan. 20 -- Inauguration Day -- next year. Spokesperson Tony Winnicker says the Public Utility Commission is going to roll with it.

"It's be quite possible that should it pass, we'll have a dedication ceremony as would be appropriate for the renaming of any major facility. And maybe we'll even invite the president, who at that time may have a little more time on his hands," he says.

So how do members of the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco imagine the scene on Jan. 20 at the formerly Oceanside Water Treatment Plant? Initiative leader Stacey Reineccius has big dreams.

"We'll make sure there's a big 'Mission Accomplished' banner," he laughs. "We'll find a flight suit."

  • Music Bridge:
    Tambo Hope
    Artist: Antietam
    CD: Opus Mixtum (Carrot Top)


  • Comment | Refresh

  • By Roman Mars

    From San Francisco, CA, 11/08/2008

    UPDATE: The renaming effort which became Prop R on the San Francisco ballot ultimately went down to defeat on election day.

    By Cliff Bridgeman

    From Chicago, IL, 07/08/2008

    I find it absolutely hillarious. I find Bush/Cheney actions over the past 8 years to be a betrayal of the trust of Americans, disrespectful of our constitutional rights and out right hatred for anyone who had an alternative plan. Bush/Cheney are abosolutely shameful Maureen Cruz.

    By L. Ruprecht Stewart

    From Topeka, KS, 07/07/2008

    A "childish" project? Perhaps. But "childish" in the best sense. Silly and simple and brutally, hilariously, honest.

    Illegal wiretapping, institutionalized environmental negligence, trillions of $ in debt, a botched war or two. After all that, why are you so angry that some people want to rename a sewer plant?

    Take it easy there, Maureen. If you're not yet willing to condemn Bush, fine. But don't get angry at the rest of us. You'll need a sense of humor (and humility) over your party's miserable leadership.

    By Sandra Eckert

    From Palmyra, PA, 07/07/2008

    Mr. Epstein's remark about the San Francisco sewer system naming is way off base. The Congress -- neither party -- has done anything to stop George Bush and Dick Cheney's total disregard for their Constitution, country and people, citizens are left with few choices to show their disgust of these two of the so-called executive branch. Naming the sewer is one of the few. Bravo to the San Francisco activists.

    By George Mercer

    From Rising Sun, MD, 07/07/2008

    As a lover of satire, it causes me some pain to say I side with those who want to stop the commemoration. The fact is that Mr Bush who has so consistently made disastrous decisions about the environment doesn't deserve to have his name on a sewage treatment facility. I recommend they find another, more worthy, way to satirize the president. Thanks.

    By Maureen Cruz

    From Chicago, IL, 07/05/2008

    What a childish project. "One of the things we want to do is set a precedent for politicians that if you really screw up, and especially if you betray the trust of the public, there are lots of places that can be named after you," What betrayal would that be? I have never seen a president treated with such disrespect and outright hated. It's absolutely shameful.

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