Harvey Milk airport rally draws suppor­ters

A phrase that slain San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk was fond of saying — “Give ‘em hope!” — are the same words his nephew and friends are using today to rally support for renaming San Francisco’s airport after the slain city supervisor and gay rights pioneer.

On Friday, more than 100 people gathered on the front steps of San Francisco City Hall in support of adding Milk’s name to the official title of the San Francisco International Airport.

Supervisor David Campos proposed the idea to the Board of Supervisors last month. So far, at least five supervisors have expressed support to place the initiative on the ballot for voters to decide.

Campos just needs one more supervisor to give the OK on the legislation after the Rules Committee reviews the measure someone next month, he said.

Stuart Milk, Harvey Milk’s nephew and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, stood on the very same steps his uncle did some 35 years ago and addressed the crowd of politicians and LGBT supporters —  some of who held signs that read “I Love Milk SFO.”

Milk talked about the symbols of hope that renaming the airport to Harvey Milk San Francisco International Airport would give to people worldwide:

“(It) sends a message to everyone that has ever been or is currently marginalized that here is a city that recognizes your value and your worth…it’s a message that is needed today more than ever.”

The change to rename the airport would require an amendment to the city’s charter, and therefore a ballot measure to let voters decide.

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce has publicly spoken out against the renaming, saying that the airport is not suitable for the symbolic gesture. Naysayers have said the cost would be millions to revamp the airport with new signage.

Campos’ team has estimated that it would cost about $250,000 for the name change. Campos said yesterday that estimate was based on other airports that renamed their airports. He said the cost to San Francisco however, is a red herring:

“The city spends money on a lot of things … replacing street signs that don’t necessarily need to be replaced.”

Campos said the signs could be replaced through attrition: as they need replacing over years, they can be changed with Harvey Milk’s name.

California State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) also addressed the crowd regarding those in opposition of the measure:

“This city owes this to Harvey Milk. … There are people that feel that this is a risk. Well, hello! Getting out of bed every morning is a risk.”

Campos said there are about 80 airports in the United States named after people (in California for example, Burbank Bob Hope or the John Wayne Airport) but not one is named after an openly LGBT person.

Harvey Milk won his election for a seat on the Board of Supervisors in 1977 and was the first openly gay man to be voted into public office. Mayor George Moscone and Milk were assassinated by former Supervisor Dan White on Nov. 27, 1978.

Anne Kronenberg, who ran Harvey Milk’s last successful campaign for San Francisco Supervisor in the 1970s and was also his legislative aide while he was in office, told SFBay the initiative will continue Harvey’s legacy of hope.

“He’s loving it. It sounds silly, but spiritually, he’s continuing to be with us.”