VIENNA, Austria – The mayor of Graz, Austria, the hometown of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Tuesday he wants to reassure the governor that most locals there remain proud of him despite a city council proposal to drop Schwarzenegger's name from the sports stadium.
"I hope that very soon we'll hear you say, 'I'll be back,'" Mayor Siegfried Nagl wrote in a letter to one of Austria's most famous sons.
Nagl's comments came after Schwarzenegger wrote the mayor telling him that he is rescinding the city's right to use his name, effective immediately.
Schwarzenegger sent the letter after the anti-death penalty politicians in the city launched a petition drive to rename the stadium to demonstrate opposition to the actor-politician's refusal to grant clemency to executed prisoner Stanley Tookie Williams.
Williams, the founder of The Crips gang, was lethally injected last week after nearly 25 years on death row. He was convicted in 1981 of murdering four people. Williams claimed innocence.
Death penalty opponents argued the prisoner's authoring nine children's books detailing the dangers of gang life meant he deserved to have his sentence commuted to life in prison. Schwarzenegger said he found no legal grounds for changing the sentence, particularly since Williams did not show any remorse for the killings.
Schwarzenegger's name was put on the former Liebenauer Stadium, where he used to train for bodybuilding competitions, in 1997. In a letter to Nagl, Schwarzenegger said he wants his name removed from the stadium ahead of the Jan. 19 vote by the council on whether to strip the stadium of the governor's name.
"I rejected the clemency plea of a rightfully condemned four-time murderer after thorough review and as a result, he was executed according to the laws of the state," Schwarzenegger wrote.
"In all likelihood, during my term as governor, I will have to make similar and equally difficult decisions. 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. ... I expect the lettering to be removed by the end of 2005, and in the future, the use of my name to advertise or promote the city of Graz in any way is no longer allowed.
Schwarzenegger added that the city's ring of honor, which he received in 1999, is "already in the mail" ahead of the council's vote on a proposal to rescind it.
"Since, however, 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 wrote.
Despite the conflict with city officials, Schwarzenegger said he remains proud to hail from Graz. In turn, Nagl lashed out at Schwarzenegger's critics for orchestrating an "embarrassing farce" and said he hopes the governor will keep the ring.
Nagl said that he will write a letter to the governor telling him that he still is in the hearts of most of the city's residents.
Still, local politicians were unrepentant. Social Democratic party member Kurt Flecker said Schwarzenegger damaged his image by refusing to spare Williams' life. There is no point, he said, in "glorifying anyone who supports the death penalty."
Walter Ferk, the deputy mayor of Graz, said Schwarzenegger's decision to allow executions to go forward makes him "an unsuitable godfather for a public building."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.