SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday told officials in his hometown in Austria to remove his name from a sports stadium and stop using his name to promote the city.
The governor's request came after politicians in Graz began a petition drive to rename the stadium, reacting to Schwarzenegger's decision last week to deny clemency to condemned inmate Stanley Tookie Williams. Opposition to the death penalty is strong in Austria.
In a letter that began "Dear Mister Mayor," Schwarzenegger said he decided to spare the Graz city council "further concern" should he be forced to make other clemency decisions while serving as California's governor. He faces another such decision regarding a 75-year-old inmate scheduled to be executed Jan. 17.
"In all likelihood, during my term as governor, I will have to make similar and equally difficult decisions," Schwarzenegger said in the letter. "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."
The stadium had been renamed for the former Hollywood star in 1997. He said he wanted the lettering removed by year's end.
Schwarzenegger initially declined to respond to the political backlash after he denied clemency for Williams, the co-founder of the Crips gang who was convicted of four 1979 murders. Williams was executed shortly after midnight Dec. 13.
The Graz city council was expected to take up the matter on Jan. 19. The proposal to rename the stadium had support from the Greens party and the Social Democrats, giving it majority backing.
Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson said the letter was faxed to Graz city hall on Monday.
In it, Schwarzenegger also said he would no longer permit the use of his name "to advertise or promote the city of Graz in any way" and would return the city's "ring of honor."
The ring was given to him in a ceremony in Graz in 1999. At the time, Schwarzenegger said he considered it "a token of sincere friendship between my hometown and me.
"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. It is already in the mail," the governor wrote.
The letter notes that city officials will receive a follow-up letter from Schwarzenegger's attorney.
Despite the dispute with Graz officials, Schwarzenegger said he "will remain with all my heart a Grazer, a Steierer and an Austrian."