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Hello Willie Brown Bridge; hello lawsuit

Thursday, September 12, 2013

No sooner than the state Senate gave its blessing—26 to 7—this morning to rename the historic west span of the Bay Bridge the “Willie L. Brown, Jr. Bridge,” two things happened in quick and predictable succession.

a) Willie Brown, via the Matier & Ross blog at the Chronicle, issued a victory statement saying: “I didn’t push for it, and I can’t say I enjoyed the pounding it got, but I am honored.”* (Cue laugh track.)

b) Longtime former San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance Task Force member Bob Planthold became the first person to file a lawsuit in Superior Court “on behalf of the citizens of the state of California” challenging the lawmakers’ action as illegal and seeking to enjoin the state from attaching Brown’s name to the bridge. (Press release from attorney Whitney Leigh follows after the jump.)

The release:

On Thursday, September 12, 2013, Plaintiff Bob Planthold filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court on behalf of the citizens of the State of California, challenging the enactment of Assembly Concurrent Resolution 65 (“ACR 65”), which proposes to re-name the western span of the Bay Bridge after former Mayor Willie Brown. Mr. Planthold formerly spent over 7 years on the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance Task Force and is a four year veteran of the City’s Ethics Commission. The legislative history of ACR 65 shows that on more than one occasion, key legislative bodies have unnecessarily suspended procedural safeguards designed to ensure public awareness and participation in the legislative process.

The Bay Bridge is an iconic and cherished California landmark. Construction on the Bay Bridge began in 1933 and was completed in 1936, and for the first time provided an immediate connection between San Francisco and Oakland, opening a route for travel and commerce that had been conceived over 60 years prior. For 77 years, the bridge has been commonly referred to both locally and internationally as “The Bay Bridge” and is a stunning landmark of industrial prowess. Aside from an unofficial dedication in 1986, ACR 65 would mark the first time that the official name of the Bay Bridge has been changed since its construction in 1936.

This lawsuit alleges, among other counts, a violation of Plaintiffs’ due process caused by the arbitrary suspension and violation of legislative rules and policies that have effectively fast-tracked ACR 65 through committee and toward the Senate Floor, where it reached its final vote of approval this morning. Despite policies mandating the investigation of community consensus and opposition, little or no effort has been made to dignify the swelling tide of public opposition to the plan to rename the Bay Bridge or to dignify the legislative processes that exist to ensure transparency and open debate on matters of public concern. Defendants have displayed an errant disregard for legislative standards and, in so doing, have detrimentally undermined the public’s trust.

Following the approval of the Senate’s approval of ACR 65 this morning, the lawsuit seeks to enjoin any further enforcement of ACR 65 until the adherence to parliamentary rules is discharged and until the public is afforded the right to weigh in on any resolution to rename the beloved “Bay Bridge.”

*As quoted at the Matier & Ross blog.


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