The Petition & the Campaign
On 12 June 2013, Isadore Hall — the California State Assemblyman who represents the 64th Assembly District, south of Los Angeles — introduced Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 65 (ACR 65).
The nonbinding Resolution called for the Western crossing of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge — the section from Yerba Buena Island to San Francisco — to be named the “Willie L. Brown, Jr., Bridge,” for the former Speaker of the California State Assembly and former Mayor of San Francisco.
The Resolution’s lead sponsor was the California NAACP.
When the Assembly's Committee on Transportation recommended two months later, on 13 August 2013, that the full Assembly pass the measure, good-government advocates and Bay Area newspapers and news sites objected that the proposal was in conflict with the Legislature’s own rules for naming facilities like the Bay Bridge. These rules required, among other things, that:
“The person being honored must be deceased.” But Willie Brown is alive.
“The author or co-author of the measure must represent the district in which the facility is located....” But none of the Resolution's authors or co-authors represents the Assembly or Senate district in which the Western span of the Bay Bridge is located.
“The proposed designation must reflect a community consensus and be without local opposition.”
Clearly, ACR 65 was at odds with the first two of these requirements. But the Resolution’s compliance with the third requirement, too, already appeared to be in jeopardy.
A little more than a month earlier, on 8 July 2013, Sacramento-area resident John Ginn had published an online petition calling for the Western crossing of the Bay Bridge to be named instead for Emperor Norton. This petition attracted more than 500 signatures by the time it closed that September.
On 1 August 2013, San Francisco writer and urbanist John Lumea published a Change.org petition calling for the entire Bay Bridge to be named for the Emperor.
This petition caught fire.
Aided by social media, the Change.org petition went from fewer than 100 signatures to more than 1,000 in its first few days of media coverage — coverage that eventually included SFist, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED (Bay Area NPR affiliate), the Los Angeles Times and Laughing Squid.
By the time of the Senate transportation committee’s 9 September 2013 hearing on ACR 65, the petition’s signature count was just shy of 3,800.
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As it turned out, the Senate committee did what its counterpart in the Assembly and, later, the full Assembly had done: It ignored the Legislature’s naming rules and recommended that the full Senate approve the measure.
On 12 September 2013, the Senate consented to this recommendation and the California Legislature adopted the nonbinding Resolution to name the Western crossing of the Bay Bridge for Willie Brown.
But the Change.org petition — today at nearly 6,100 signatures (and counting) — continued to grow, and became the impetus for the 28 September 2013 launch of The Emperor’s Bridge Campaign at a Twitter-mobilized party held at Emperor Norton's Boozeland, a new Emperor-themed bar in San Francisco. The original idea was to provide organizational "ballast" and focus to the movement to name the entire San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge for Emperor Norton — something that we continue to believe can and should be accomplished, independent of any separate namings for the bridge’s constituent crossings, or "spans."
The Campaign quickly established itself on Facebook and Twitter, where our friends and followers include a diverse and growing list of kindred spirits who share our love for the Bay Bridge and the Emperor, and who — like us — want to see the two kept together in the minds and hearts of people everywhere.
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The Emperor's Bridge Campaign remains "on task" in the effort to name the Bay Bridge for Emperor Norton.
But, in the five years since our launch, we've built out a larger cultural-historical mission of research, education and advocacy designed to honor the life and advance the full legacy of the Emperor. The bridge-naming effort now is a "campaign within the Campaign" — one of a variety of Projects intended to give voice to this larger mission.
In October 2014, the Campaign became a California nonprofit public benefit corporation. Currently, we are in the process of seeking federal tax-exempt status as a 501(c) organization.
To return to the Overview of our bridge-naming project, click here.