November 6, 1998
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
BY CAPITALIZING ON ITS LOCATION, TOM BUTT SAYS THE CITY MAY BE ABLE TO TURN AROUND ITS VIOLENT IMAGE
Friday, November 6, 1998
RICHMOND - Many European and some California cities have names that capitalize on their location. There's Stratford-upon-Avon in England, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in France and Carmel-by-the-Sea in California.
Now Councilman Tom Butt wants Richmond to capitalize on its waterfront heritage and change its name to Richmond-by-the-Bay. "For too many people, a lot of what they know about Richmond is usually about some act of violence," said Butt. "I think this is a way of finding something that everyone in Richmond can be proud of and trying to use it to really change the image we have of the city."
Butt has proposed a council resolution initiating the name change, but it likely would require a vote by the people, City Attorney Malcom Hunter said.
The idea has elicited mixed reaction from elected officials, residents and business owners. Some agree it would help the city's image, but others think it could be costly and wouldn't be enough to cure what ails Richmond.
"I don't think it's going to make a difference," two-year resident Roalish Harden said. "It's the people that give the city a bad name."
Fifty-one-year resident Donnie Walker says the name change would put the city on the map. "Richmond isn't known unless something bad happens. This could be something that could be good."
It wouldn't be the first time an image-impaired city has embarked on such a course.
West Pittsburg residents, hoping to polish their town's image, voted to change the community's name to Bay Point in 1993. And, after making a name for itself by filing for bankruptcy protection, the Richmond Unified School District changed its name to the West County Unified School District in 1993.
Richmond long has tried to countermand its reputation as a drug-infested, crime-plagued and poverty-stricken city.
Butt's notion of a name change ties in with a recent council decision to focus on the city's 32 miles of shoreline and historic waterfront.
The shoreline has views of the Richmond-San Rafael, Golden Gate and Bay bridges, and includes the Marina Bay, a-300 acre housing development at the former Kaiser shipyards, where 747 ships were built during World War II. It is also home to the historic Ford plant, the centerpiece of what city officials hope will be a waterfront renaissance that will attract high-tech firms and trendy residential development.
"We need a whole new remake," Butt said. "We need to show off what's best about us and sell that image to the world."
Fellow council members agree the city's image needs polishing but few think a name change will do the trick.
"Just changing the name without dealing with the nitty-gritty issues that are important to our livelihood won't make a difference," Councilwoman Irma Anderson said.
Judy Morgan, president of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, said it would be a disservice to the city's businesses.
"So much has been done recently to upgrade the image of the city, and so many positive things are coming about, we really don't need to be making name changes," Morgan said. "We need to be doing more to promote the fact that our crime has gone down and that there's all this development going on. I think that's really going to do it for Richmond."
Some older residents find the renaming idea laughable.
"I can't believe that would fly," said longtime resident Ellie Strauss. "It would be lovely to be known as something besides an industrial suburb, but I don't think that's going to do it."
"I think it's a little ostentatious," said 51-year resident Walter Fauerso. "I think it's grasping at a straw, but when you're drowning, I guess anything will help."