Bonilla's Move to Rename D.C. Street Rankles Lawmakers
||San Antonio Express-News (TX)
||Saturday, August 13, 2005
A San Antonio lawmaker started a firestorm in the nation's capital as Congress ran out of town for a five-week break.
Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, dropped a bomb when he filed legislation to rename 16th Street in Washington after the late President Ronald Reagan.
"Regardless of your political affiliation," Bonilla said, "most people agree that Ronald Reagan was an American icon."
Bonilla said the late national leader deserves recognition in the nation's capital, where John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Theodore Roosevelt have buildings, thoroughfares and islands in the Potomac named after them.
But the Reagan/16th Street campaign is fizzling like a bad bottle rocket on July Fourth.
Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican, has called it ridiculous. And D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams thinks Bonilla ought to spend his time taking care of South Texas, not the Washington metro area.
"I'm sure the people of El Paso and San Antonio would love to see their streets named after Ronald Reagan," Williams suggested.
According to Williams, renaming 16th Street, which runs from the White House to the Maryland border, would disrupt the city's layout, designed by the famous Frenchman Pierre L'Enfant in 1791.
It would also cost the city more than $1 million to change maps and signs.
"It's been a long time since I've heard a plan that made so little sense," Williams said of Bonilla's proposal.
Washington is already home to the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, and Republicans recently pushed through a measure that renamed National Airport after the late president from California.
Consequently, no major highways or buildings in San Antonio carry the Reagan moniker. Why not rename Bandera Road, which is Bonilla's congressional district, after the late president? Why Washington?
"It's the nation's capital," Bonilla said. "It's not the capital of Virginia, it's not the capital of Maryland. It belongs just as much to someone in Texas as it does California."
Bonilla dismissed Williams' criticism, saying it's "not the first time I've been in disagreement with someone from Washington."
As for the riff with Davis, Bonilla said, "It's not the first time we've had disagreements between Republicans."
Bonilla has a home in Washington and pays property taxes, but his residence is San Antonio, where he maintains a home, pays property tax and enjoys the state's lack of an income tax.
And while local Washington officials, both Republican and Democrat, have shunned the congressman's idea, conservative ideological groups have endorsed it — wholeheartedly.
"We have heard from conservative groups," Bonilla said. "This seems to have started a whole new wave."
That kind of support could come in handy for Bonilla, who has aggressively raised more than $2 million for his political ambitions.
His dreams were dashed this year when Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, decided not to challenge Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary, a move that would have created a Senate vacancy.
But Bonilla can still use the money to help Republicans in congressional races next year. Those chits would be invaluable if he seeks higher office or chairmanship of an influential subcommittee on the Appropriations Committee.
As for the legislation, it appears headed toward a quick and painless death.
Davis, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, which has jurisdiction over the legislation, told WTOP radio in Washington that he would place the bill in the "appropriate file."
Bonilla, meanwhile, seems stunned over the reaction to the bill he filed quietly in the waning hours before the House began its August recess.
"It's been interesting — all the coverage it has received. We didn't quite expect that. It's probably a lot slower news time than we anticipated," Bonilla said from his home in San Antonio.