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Harvey Milk SFO Terminal Idea Remains Grounded

by Matthew S. Bajko
Sunday May 18, 2014

The plan to name a terminal at San Francisco International Airport in honor of the city's first openly gay supervisor, Harvey Milk, remains grounded a year after initially being proposed.

Last spring Mayor Ed Lee and gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos agreed to form an advisory committee that would recommend which of the airport's four terminals should be named after Milk, who was killed inside City Hall the morning of November 27, 1978 along with then-Mayor George Moscone by disgruntled former supervisor Dan White.

The compromise came after Campos shocked the city in early 2013 with his proposal to rename the entire airport in recognition of Milk. The idea drew widespread criticism, including from within the local LGBT community, and Campos was unable to secure the six votes he needed on the Board of Supervisors to place an amendment to the city's charter, which refers to the San Francisco Airport, before voters for approval.

Lee, who also publicly questioned the merits of designating SFO after Milk, worked with Campos to broker the deal establishing the Airport Facilities Naming Advisory Committee. The supervisors would select four members and the mayor would appoint five people to the advisory panel.

It not only would be tasked with suggesting either the airport's international terminal or one of its three domestic terminals be named in Milk's honor, it could also decide to recommend people to name the other three terminals after.

The supervisors and Lee, however, would have final approval as the board would first vote on naming the terminals and the mayor would sign the decisions into law.

Last May, Campos told the Bay Area Reporter that he hoped the process would be finalized "in a short period of time." Yet Campos's office ran into problems recruiting a diverse applicant pool, and it took the supervisors nine months to approve its four people to the advisory panel.

Meanwhile, Lee has yet to fill any of his five seats on the committee.

"We are waiting for him to appoint his people," Campos told the B.A.R. during a recent editorial board meeting. "The Board of Supervisors can't force him to do anything. The deal we struck was to create a committee; we did our part and we are waiting for him to do his part."

Tom Temprano, co-president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, expressed disappointment that the decision on a Milk terminal had yet to be finalized ahead of this year's Harvey Milk Day, annually observed in California on May 22, which is Milk's birthday.

"I think it is frustrating that a year out we are celebrating what would have been Milk's 84th birthday and the mayor is continuing to drag his heels on not only this honor for Harvey but potentially for a number of San Franciscans," said Temprano. "I would love to be flying out of the Harvey Milk international terminal someday. Hopefully, by his 85th birthday, we will be able to take a flight in his honor."

Asked Tuesday about the status of his appointments to the advisory panel, Lee at first did not appear to realize that the committee had yet to meet. He responded, "I think the groups are still meeting and going through their discussions."

After the B.A.R. pointed out that he had not announced whom he had selected for the advisory committee, Lee explained that his office "had started putting our folks on it" and would announce the names of his appointees "very soon."

In the fall the supervisors named to the panel Jon Ballesteros, a gay Latino who is vice president of public policy at San Francisco Travel, the city's tourism bureau, and Maggie Weiland, an analyst with the city's film commission and volunteer with the Harvey Milk Foundation, co-founded by her mother, Anne Kronenberg, who was a campaign consultant and legislative aide for Milk.

Earlier this year the supervisors appointed gay KGO-TV ABC San Francisco reporter Nick Smith and Alex Walker, a gay man who is the Milk club's vice president of political affairs, to the naming committee.

Acknowledging that which terminal to name after Milk is not one of the city's most pressing issues, Walker nonetheless told the B.A.R. he is eager to see the advisory panel get to work.

"I understand there are a lot of issues we need to tackle in the city and this is not the most important thing," said Walker. "But now that we are getting toward Harvey's birthday next week, I think it is something we should be revisiting and, at some point, to actually do the work that those of us who applied and were appointed by the board to do."

Second Panel

Meanwhile, the city's airport commission last year formed its own advisory group to create a policy for deciding how it should name areas of the airport in honor of individuals. The recommendations, adopted in September, say that the naming or dedicating of airport locations "should be made sparingly and only upon careful, extensive consideration and the finding of compelling reasons to commemorate" the person, according to the minutes of the commission's September 4 meeting.

This week Lee suggested that the city's advisory panel should "be working with" the airport commission as it discusses naming ideas for SFO's four terminals.

Ballesteros, who served on the airport commission's advisory body, told the B.A.R. that those discussions would be informative for the city's terminal naming committee.

"It will be helpful in the discussions," said Ballesteros, who referred questions about the delay in the formation of the city panel to Campos's office.

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