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Willie Brown Reflects On Naming Of Bay Bridge Western Span In His Honor

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Formor San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown (Trisha Leeper/Getty Images)

Formor San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown (Trisha Leeper/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — The Western Span of the Bay Bridge is going to take on the name of one of the Bay Area’s most recognizable politicians. But it didn’t happen without controversy and a fight.

When it comes to California politics, it would be tough to find someone more controversial than the flamboyant former San Francisco mayor and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown. In fact, Brown is so controversial, that even he was against renaming the bridge in his honor.

“I didn’t think they could succeed and I frankly didn’t want to be embarrassed,” Willie Brown told KPIX 5.

His supporters, however, had bigger ideas. “The NAACP, in its own wisdom, decided the State of California needed something that African-Americans could point to other than a school or a playground or community center. In that regard, they looked around to see what African-American they thought could merit such an honor.”

But not everyone thought brown was the right choice, including three former presidents of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who felt Brown represented many things that are wrong with government.

“They were not interested in input from the neighborhoods, they were not interested in input from the little guy,” said former San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin. “Water flowed uphill to money in that administration.”

Gov. Jerry Brown also came out against it.

“I don’t think it was personal with (Gov. Brown). I think he’s just opposed to anybody’s name being attached to anything,” Willie Brown said.

But in the end, Brown and the NAACP had the votes that counted.

“We lost fair and square,” Peskin said.

Oddly enough, if Willie Brown had succeeded in his first dream, none of this would have happened. Believe it or not, as a young man Brown had a completely different career in mind: Becoming a math teacher instead of a lawyer and eventually one of the most powerful politicians in the country. “So I failed,” Brown said, laughingly.

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