I come here today not to praise or condemn the president. Rather, I'd like to speak on behalf of sewage treatment.
In an earlier career, I spent many years working as an environmental chemist, a good deal of which involved water quality. I worked for and with engineers and chemists from water treatment plants, and still have friends in the sewage treatment business. And let me tell you: I am hard-pressed to think of much that is more basic to civilization. I'm serious. It's a cornerstone, right up there with roads and clean drinking water. Shut down the sewage treatment plants and see how long it takes diseases we don't even remember to charge back through our communities.
So when I heard about this initiative, my first thought was that it was less an insult to Bush than to all the engineers, chemists and technicians working at that plant who've just been told their jobs are a joke. I think the initiative's a stupid misstep that just reinforces the "elitist" reputation of its backers--evidently happy to use flush toilets as long as someone else gets their hands dirty--that could and should backfire on them. If I were President Bush, I'd proclaim it a sincere honor to have a sewage treatment plant named for me. Heck, if I were Bush, I might even fly into SFO to campaign for the initiative's passage.
More irrefutable evidence that water treatment plants are cool: they can teach you how to drive a starship. Or at least the producers of "Star Trek" thought so; when they needed a location to double for the 24th-century Starfleet Academy, they shot at the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys, California.
I wonder if the ballot initiative's proponents realize that Starfleet Academy will someday be located in San Francisco? We'll see who's laughing then.