The next time you drive down Route 34 in New Haven, you might unwittingly be paying homage to the current president of the United States.
State Rep. Themis Klarides, a Republican from Derby, is sponsoring proposed in a bill renaming a section of Route 34 which runs through New Haven the “President George W. Bush Highway.” Klarides said she does not see her actions as at all politically motivated, but instead perceives the bill as a way to record history.
“It’s not political to me at all. It’s part of this nation’s history,” she said. “Whether you support the president or not, whether you like him or you don’t, he is the president of our country.”
Klarides said she proposed the bill in response to a suggestion made six months ago by a constituent. She also backed a similar request two years ago to change the name of the West Rock Tunnel to “Heroes Tunnel” to honor the firefighters who perished in the Sept. 11 attacks — a bill that ultimately passed, she said.
Both President George W. Bush ’68 and his father, former President George H.W. Bush ’48, have connections to New Haven as Yale alumni. The current president also claims New Haven as his birthplace — his father was attending Yale at the time of his birth.
But Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 said if it were up to him, the bill would not make it through the Connecticut General Assembly. He said he feels it is inappropriate to honor current officeholders in such a fashion, particularly one who is “not a guy who proclaims his New Haven heritage with sound and fury.”
“It is ridiculous to name public works after a sitting public officeholder. You would think that the honor and respect of the office should be enough,” he said. “If Rep. Klarides wants to do this in Derby, that’s fine. Don’t go try and do it in someone else’s backyard, so to speak.”
Healey said that the passage of time might make the plan more palatable, but he still had his doubts.
“The truth is that 20 years from now, I probably wouldn’t have a problem with it,” he said. “No, that’s not true. I would.”
The Connecticut State House is meeting tomorrow to discuss this issue, and Klarides said she does not anticipate any protest, although she said that she “wouldn’t be surprised if there was.”
“We’ll see how New Haven responds to this,” she said. “It is certainly everyone’s right to respond to things like this.”
Yale College Democrats President Alissa Stollwerk ’06 said honoring Bush in New Haven is ironic.
“I was a little surprised to see this proposal given President Bush’s reluctance to discuss his roots in New Haven and his family’s roots in New Haven,” she said.
Yale College Republicans President Al Jiwa ’06 said that he supports the plan but thinks that there might be better ways to honor the President.
“I’m all for it, although I’m sure there are other things that could be done that are more appropriate,” he said.
This is not the only bill to try to bring Bush’s name to New Haven. In August 2002, Republican members of the state’s General Assembly successfully passed a bill that placed signs on Interstates 91 and 95 honoring the president. In January 2003, Republican state Sen. Win Smith Jr. proposed another bill to rename Tweed-New Haven Airport after Bush.