Butt Of Course
November 6, 1998
WEST COUNTY TIMES
Friday, November 6, 1998
A RICHMOND councilman has a response to the city's image problems: Change Richmond's name. To something "evocative." Something that says "Richmond" without causing you to think "Richmond."
His choice: Richmond-by-the-Bay. Kind of like Carmel-by-the-Sea. Except for the Carmel and sea parts.
Before continuing, let's sophomorically point out the source of this idea: A man named Butt. Councilman Tom Butt. If names make the place, why didn't Tom ever lose his Butt?
"Maybe I don't have a problem like Richmond does. I don't have a negative self-image I'm trying to overcome."
But "Richmond-by-the-Bay"? Sounds vaguely like "Richmond." Obviously, Tom needs help. That's where you come in. We're going to have a Rename Richmond Contest. Winner gets lunch on me in Tom's part of town Point Richmond.
Here are a few entries to get started. Butt chose "by-the-Bay" to remind people that Richmond has more shoreline than any city on San Francisco Bay. Fine. Let's also honor the problems in the city's Recreation Department and call it Alleged-Graft-by-the-Bay.
Nah, that's too negative. Let's evoke the city's fine weather and call it East Waikiki-by-the-Bay.
Butt says many people immediately associate violence with Richmond. So let's evoke the city's sweet tooth and call it Ice-Cream-by-the-Bay. Nobody can belittle Ice Cream. Soon Dave McElhatton will be furling his brow on the evening news and saying: "There was a double homicide in Ice Cream did you scream? We all scream for ice cream. Hohohohoho! And now here's the weather."
Or we could choose a name that we're all familiar with. One that isn't being used. How about West Pittsburg?
Newcomers to the East Bay might not know about the Lost City of West Pittsburg. It's not really lost; it's still there. A tiny incorporated area west of Pittsburg and north of Concord. Looks pretty much like it did five years ago, when its residents voted to start calling it Bay Point. The name change was a chance to start over. A rallying point for redevelopment. Not a solution.
True, since then about 400 new homes have been built, crime is down slightly and there's a BART stop nearby. But parts of Willow Pass Road are still the best place in Contra Costa to meet prostitutes.
Don't get me wrong about Richmond. It was the first place I lived when I moved to the Bay Area. They're doing a lot to redevelop the waterfront area with high-end homes, the old Ford plant is being refurbished, and crime is at its lowest point in years. For every rough part of town that makes the news, there are two safe, middle-class neighborhoods that nobody hears about. But problems there are far too entrenched to have a name change make a difference
So think of Butt's idea like a municipal nose job. A cosmetic change that makes residents feel better about their city, and might get suitors to give it a second look. "Look at Paula Jones," drawls native Arkansan Butt, referring to her makeover.
A name change won't help Richmond until after more real change happens. It will just make it the Butt of more jokes.
E-mail your Rename Richmond ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org, fax to 925-943-8362 or send to Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA, 94596.