Monday, December 19, 2005

Arnold says if you can't beat 'em, at least beat 'em to the punch

All this ruckus over the execution of Tookie Williams (who's funeral is tomorrow). His home town of Graz was preparing to rename the stadium and was being petitioned to have the ring of honor rescinded by Arnold fellow Grazians. But Ahh-nold was too quick for them...

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut his honorary ties to his hometown in Austria on Monday after officials in Graz criticized him for denying clemency to a death row inmate.

Schwarzenegger demanded that Graz stop using his name on a sports stadium and in promotions and returned a "ring of honor" he had been awarded by city officials in 1999, saying politicians in his hometown appeared to have rejected him.

A petition drive had been launched in Graz to have the town rename a stadium that has been named after Schwarzenegger because the Austrian-born governor allowed the execution of death-row inmate Stanley Tookie Williams this month.

Williams, an ex-leader of the Crips gang who supporters said had redeemed himself by campaigning against gang violence, was executed by lethal injection on December 13 after Schwarzenegger and the courts rejected all of his appeals.

The city council of Graz had been due to rename the local stadium on January 19, according to Schwarzenegger's letter to Graz Mayor Siegfried Nagl.

"The reason for this action is apparently a decision I reached as governor of California," Schwarzenegger said. "I rejected the clemency of a rightfully convicted four-time murderer after thorough review, and as a result, he was executed according to the laws of this state."

"In all likelihood, during my term as governor I will have to make similar and equally difficult decisions," Schwarzenegger wrote. "In order to spare the responsible politicians of the city of Graz further concern, I withdraw from them as of this day the right to use my name in association with the Liebenauer Stadium."

Schwarzenegger, a former body building champion and Hollywood star, trained at the stadium as a young man. It was renamed in his honor in 1997.

He said he was returning the "ring of honor."

Since "the official Graz appears to no longer accept me as one of their own, this ring has lost its meaning and value to me," he said. "It is already in the mail."

Schwarzenegger said he still considered himself a native of Graz and an Austrian. "I look forward to visiting Graz again as soon as time allows," he said in the letter released by his office.

Take that! He didn't want your stupid ring anyway!