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Media Coverage
Richmond Name-Change Request Draws Laughs
November 20, 1998




Friday, November 20, 1998
Section: news
Page: A09
Shawn Masten

RICHMOND - A controversial proposal by Councilman Tom Butt to change the city's name to Richmond-by-the-Bay was greeted with jokes but little enthusiasm by the City Council on Tuesday.

Undeterred, Butt vowed to press on with the proposal, saying he thinks it has public support.

"I've talked to hundreds of people about this," Butt said Wednesday. "Almost nobody has said it's a bad idea." He came up with the idea as a way of improving the city's image and of touting its 32-miles of shoreline and historic landmarks.

Critics say it will take more than a name change to transform Richmond's image from violence prone and drug infested to wholesome.

Butt acknowledged that the idea has been criticized in an editorial and two columns in the Times and the weekly Richmond Post; otherwise it has been well received, he said.

"We're right on track here," Butt said. "One thing I'm finding out is there's a lot of interest in this in the community."

Mayor Rosemary Corbin said none of the people she's encountered have said they like the idea.

"Of all the people I've talked to, they think it's a frivolous idea," Corbin said. "I think they think it's sort of funny. It's usually brought up in kind of a light vein.

Council members pretty much laughed their way through Tuesday's short discussion of Butt's proposal.

Some cracked jokes and all agreed that, if it comes down to it, residents ought to be given a chance to vote on a name change.

"Let's call it The Butt Stops Here,'" Councilwoman Donna Powers quipped.

Butt even joined the fray. "I was gonna suggest we name it after Councilman (Nat) Bates and I, but I knew that wouldn't fly."

Despite the council frivolity, Butt says he's going full speed ahead.

He said his resolve was bolstered this week by a Newsweek article that characterized Richmond as a dumpy suburb of San Francisco.

"It just emphasizes the need I've been trying to convey that we need to do something dramatic to change the image of the city," he said.

Butt asked City Attorney Malcolm Hunter what would be required to initiate a change. Hunter said it would need a charter amendment, which would require a vote of the people and could be expensive and time consuming.

Butt also said he's reviewing other options, including recommending that the name be changed in spirit only.

"Another way of approaching this which might be more politically palatable would be to reach some kind of consensus among the city leaders that they would informally use the description for marketing purposes but not actually change the name of the city," he said.

Powers commended Butt for coming up with the idea, "He's trying, so that's very good."

But she said she wouldn't support a name change.

"I think the name is fine. I think there's other ways that we can improve our image."

Corbin agreed.

"He somehow thinks there is no significance to the name Richmond. The city has had it for 94 years. I think there is a lot of history here. I happen to agree with people that the way you change your image is to change your situation. Window dressing isn't going to do it."

Shawn Masten covers Richmond. Reach her at 510-262-2725 or e-mail smasten@cctimes.com.