A recent proposal to rename San Francisco International Airport after former San Francisco supervisor and gay rights activist Harvey Milk means well, but could prove to be problematic.
First, let us say that Milk was legendary and the work he did to move gay rights forward is certainly noteworthy. His legacy is enduring and we should be proud to have such a man in the Bay Area's collective history.
However, San Francisco International Airport, or SFO, is a fine name as it is. There have been other efforts to rename it after a notable figure, including former mayors Joseph Alioto and Willie L. Brown. Even the late congressman Tom Lantos had an effort to rename the airport after him, but a hub in the new international terminal was settled upon. Alioto, Brown and Lantos all had ties to the airport and worked on its behalf on a number of renovation/expansion efforts.
There is no link between Milk and the airport aside from the fact that he lived and worked in San Francisco. The airport may be owned by the city of San Francisco, but its location in San Mateo County should give residents here some say in changes to it. While there have been plenty of noteworthy people on the Peninsula who have been involved with the airport in one capacity or another, none rise to the level of having it renamed after them.
There are other instances of airports around the country being named for people, most notably LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy in New York City, O'Hare in Chicago and Mineta in San Jose. But those are more the exception to the rule. For the most part, naming an airport after a person is rare, and should remain that way unless that person had strong ties to it or to transportation, as Mineta has.
We understand the rationale behind the effort by San Francisco Supervisor David Campos. There is no international airport named after an openly gay person, and the change would certainly elevate Milk's international prominence. But that doesn't mean this particular effort is the right one. The airport name now represents this area's best asset, and that is the city of San Francisco. It should remain as it is.