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Merging traffic: Willie Brown, Bay Bridge

Willie L. Brown Jr.

Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown made it official Tuesday, hosting a ceremony celebrating the western span of the Bay Bridge bearing his name.

Brown, who turns 80 on March 20, chose the day because it would have been the 105th birthday of his mother, Minnie.

“I’m deeply honored,” Brown said a at a podium in front of Treasure Island’s Administration Building with “his” bridge over his left shoulder and San Francisco’s’ skyline behind him.

Brown, Newsom said, is “outsized…sometimes outrageous…impeccably outfitted…outspoken… (and) outstanding.”

“You’ve made it possible for me to begin to brag – legitimately,” he told the crowd of more than 300, which included Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Kamala Harris, sitting and former state lawmakers, former legislative staffers, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other San Francisco elected officials.

Brown was praised by Assemblyman Isadore Hall III, a Compton Democrat, who carried ACR 65, the 20913 resolution naming the suspension bridge after the former San Francisco mayor.

“Willie Lewis Brown Jr. is the bridge that makes the ends connect,” said Hall, adding that Brown is the only African American with a bridge or public edifice named after him in California.

A more jocular Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Brown was like the bridge that now bears his name:

“The bridge brings people together. It casts a big shadow. It’s very, very expensive to maintain and when there’s good luck it’s the first thing we complain about.”

He said he was accosted by a “cat on the street” who was a “tea bagger guy” that didn’t share the liberal Democrat’s political outlook but told Brown he’d “enjoy rolling over you every day.”

Brown, Newsom said, is “outsized…sometimes outrageous…impeccably outfitted…outspoken… (and) outstanding.”

Taking the podium, California’s longest serving Assembly Speaker thanked governor Newsom. To laughter from the audience, Brown quipped: “That’s what he thinks he is, why deny it?”

Joking that he got the ”wrong end of the bridge” because tolls are collected on the eastern span, Brown said:

“That’s what happens to black people in America. You get the achievement, they change the rules.”

Brown said naming the bridge after him had bipartisan appeal. He said he was accosted by a “cat on the street” who was a “tea bagger guy” that didn’t share the liberal Democrat’s political outlook but told Brown he’d “enjoy rolling over you every day.”

Concluding, Brown said his life had been “a work of art,” then turned to George Zimmer, founder of Men’s Wearhouse, standing on the left of the stage, who intoned: “I guarantee it.”


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