If Tuesday night’s State of the Union address left you wanting a little less George W. Bush ’68 in your life, too bad: The 43rd president may soon hit New Haven in the form of a new name for Tweed-New Haven Regional Airport.
At least, that’s what Republican state Sen. Win Smith Jr. recently proposed to Connecticut’s General Assembly.
Smith, whose district encompasses Milford, Orange and West Haven, said the proposed name change would be a great way to honor Bush for what he has achieved as president.
He said the idea for the bill, which is currently under review by the state Senate’s transportation committee, was suggested to him by a constituent.
“I hope people will consider it on its merits,” Smith said.
But New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said because the airport — named for World War I Navy pilot John Tweed, who became its first manager — is owned by the city, state legislators should not have the authority to change its name.
“I can’t but think it’s an academic exercise because I can’t understand how a state legislature can rename a building a city owns,” DeStefano said.
The mayor said he thinks the responsibility for changing the name lies with New Haven’s Board of Aldermen.
“The airport is named for somebody and any change in that ought to be made by the legislative body of the city of New Haven,” he said.
In addition, DeStefano noted, Bush “doesn’t seem to make it a point of note” that he was born in New Haven and spent four years here as an undergraduate.
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 also questioned the reasoning behind renaming Tweed after a president who has little, if anything, to do with the city.
“I’ve got great respect for the office of the president, but I’ll start talking about naming an airport in New Haven after him when he starts helping address the problems New Haven faces,” Healey said.
When asked about the proposed name change, Democratic state Sen. Martin M. Looney, one of two state senators representing New Haven, said he is dealing with budget negotiations and had not given the proposed name change much thought.
However, Looney said he doubts the proposal has much momentum. If anything, Bush emphasizes his Texas roots and not the time he spent in overwhelmingly Democratic New Haven, Looney said.
“I don’t believe the proposal has a great deal of support because the president never emphasizes his connection with New Haven,” he said.
That fact has not stopped some Connecticut legislators from trying to reinforce Bush’s ties to the city.
Smith’s proposal is actually the second attempt at honoring the president on a local level. The first came last August, when a bill proposed by Republican members of the state’s General Assembly resulted in the placement of three highway signs on Interstates 91 and 95. The signs, which cost a total of $2,700 to erect, proclaimed: “Welcome to New Haven: Birthplace of George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States.”
They were all vandalized in the past few weeks and will be replaced by Connecticut’s Department of Transportation for another $2,700.
Meanwhile, Rick Lamport, the manager of what remains, for the moment, Tweed-New Haven Regional Airport, said he has no opinion about a name change. But he said he is in favor of anything that would help the struggling facility — currently negotiating with Delta Airlines about offering service to Cincinnati — take off.
“If it makes the airport work, that’s great,” Lamport said. “I’m keeping an open mind.”