Today, we’re going to ask for your ideas for a name for the New Gerald Desmond Bridge. But first, some background on the business of naming bridges.
There are a couple of ways to name a bridge—three if you count the internet’s Bridge Name Generator: You can name it quickly, well in advance of its opening, or you can toss it out to public discussion and argument and state legislation with more argument, and grow old waiting for a decision.
Bridge-Naming Method No. 1 was how the Gerald Desmond Bridge got its name.
In May 1965, three years and two months prior to the bridge’s opening, Harbor Commissioner William Harrington moved to name the bridge after Gerald Desmond. The balance of the board had already discussed it and were fine with it, so the motion carried and the bridge had a name.
And the action was taken, according to the Long Beach Independent, without prior announcement, “apparently to avert controversy about who should be honored.”
You might be saying, “Who was Gerald Desmond?” a question that one might answer with another question: Who were W.R. “Frosty” Martin and Eloi J. Amar, the two people who were also considered by the commission? Both were Harbor Department officials.
Desmond was born in Long Beach, attended Poly High and LBCC before earning degrees at UC Berkeley and Harvard Law. He was a two-term Long Beach city councilman in the 1950s and became city attorney in 1960, in which position he led the city’s fight against the state to retain Tideland’s oil revenues. Desmond may have sunk into semi-obscurity in the intervening years, but he was a worthy namesake for the bridge. He died of cancer on New Year’s Eve in 1964 at the age of 48.
That leads us to Bridge-Naming Method No. 2: We’ve been limping along awkwardly calling it the New Gerald Desmond Bridge, or the Gerald Desmond Replacement Bridge, and it appears we’ll have to continue to limp for several more months, because the authority to name the bridge now belongs to the state legislature, and if you’ve ever suffered through the director’s cut of “How a Bill Becomes a Law,” you can see how far we are now from the end of the nomenclature tunnel.
“We’re going to talk to Mayor Garcia and we’re going to engage the public,” said Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, who, after all that, will likely introduce a bill in January 2021, after which it will bounce around in the Assembly and State Senate before it emerges as the official name sometime in the spring of next year, at which point the name could very well sound like a platypus looks.
If you’re thinking, without a trace of humility, that the bridge might be named for you, you’re likely going to be bitterly disappointed. O’Donnell says the hope is to come up with a name that stresses the bridge’s physical appearance, so it’s more likely that it will be named Big Long High Bridge than Your Name Here Bridge.
And that’s a grand idea, because if we’ve learned nothing else in the past few years, naming something after someone will come back at you with swift brutality and cause people to wonder what you were thinking when you named a bridge after someone who would later be revealed to have been an enthusiastic proponent of human trafficking.
So, whattaya think? Are you up for coming up with majestic names for the Gerald Desmond Replacement Bridge? Think about how the new bridge looks. Bust out your thesaurus for more flowery or grander terms for “big,” “long” and “high.” Think about not just the bridge itself, but what will be under it, where it will lead to (or from). O’Donnell said some people who work in the goods-moving business are already calling it “The Bridge to Everywhere,” because that’s where all the stuff goes after it travels over as well as under the bridge.
This is not a contest. We’re not going to judge the entries and come up with a winning name and slap it on a plaque.
But your good ideas will be fed into the pool of suggested names that will be considered by Mayor Garcia and Assemblyman O’Donnell.
And it’s certainly not a democratic process with whatever name gets the most votes wins. That’s always a perilous proposition that invariably ends with a name like Bridgey McBridgester, which is amusing for a second, but soon the second passes.
Play as often as you want. Send your ideas to [email protected], and we’ll share them in a later column. Do it, it’ll be fun.
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