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San Franciscans' planned 'tribute' to Bush stirs some muck

July 10, 2008|John M. Glionna | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — For many residents of this liberal bastion, President Bush's name is mud. Now activists here want to make that moniker stick.

A group calling itself the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco this week submitted a proposal to rename a sewage treatment plant after the outgoing chief executive in recognition of the political and environmental "mess" they say will be his legacy.

Supporters submitted 12,000 signatures with San Francisco election officials, hoping to place on the ballot an initiative that would rechristen the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant as the George W. Bush Sewage Plant.

"We think this is a fitting tribute to this president," said Brian McConnell, a member of the group, whose insignia shows the presidential seal with a bald eagle holding two plungers. "It's fair to say that we're going to be cleaning up a substantial mess over the next decade or more, thanks to Bush. Environmental degradation. A war in Iraq that cost $1 trillion- plus. It's going to be a big job."

Republicans aren't amused by the gesture.

"It doesn't dignify a response," White House spokesman Trey Bohn said of the initiative.

State Republicans also call the idea offensive.

"These silly stunts provide no benefit to a city that has its share of serious problems," said Hector Barajas, a spokesman for the California Republican Party. "I don't find the humor in spending government time and money on issues of no significance. It's downright foolish."

The sewage plant proposal has been picked up on blogs from San Francisco to London. San Franciscan Michael Petrelis signed the petition and then wrote about the signature drive on his blog. "It's been a frustrating eight years," he said in an interview, "and these kind of creative outlets for our anger are very healthy."

McConnell said the ballot measure was no joke.

"This is part of the long tradition of political satire," he said. "While on some levels it is a joke, the point is serious, which is to provoke a discussion about the Bush administration's legacy."

San Francisco law mandates that initiatives qualify for the ballot with 7,168 signatures. McConnell said the 12,000 already collected should be more than enough, even if some names are disallowed because of residency status.

Local utility officials said they were happy with the status quo.

"There are those who would say it would be an honor to have something named after a president," said Suzanne Gautier, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. "As for the name of our facility, I'm comfortable with Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant."

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john.glionna@latimes.com

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