Tuesday, April 26, 2011

SF Weekly: Who Owns the Castro's 
Rainbow Flag at Milk Plaza?

Not only is the SF Chronicle today writing about the debate over the rainbow flag and pole control issues at the city-owned Harvey Milk Plaza, we also have Joe Eskenazi of the SF Weekly covering this story today.

Eskenazi fleshes out details regarding ownership, insurance costs and maintenance of the flag, along with sharing a 2001 three-page memo from the merchants club to the Department of Public Works laying out their plans to take care of the flag. There is no memo from DPW showing that the agency agree to the club's plans.

With several Castro businesses closing in recent months - A Different Light, Fuzio, Bagdad Cafe - and others struggling to pay the rent and keep the doors open, I would think the local merchants club might welcome the energy of activists and others who want to use the district's _public_ spaces to bring more folks to the Castro.

If there were openness and creativity afoot with the merchants, they would have worked with Liz Taylor fans to create a memorial at the base of the flag, put on a short ceremony maybe with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence offering a blessing for Saint Liz, invited the press and generated news. That news would have brought thousands of Liz fans to the neighborhood to add to the memorial around the flag, snap photos and then go out and spend money at Castro bars, restaurants and variety stores.

But no, it's more important for the merchant control queens to maintain a rigid policy they drew up more than a decade ago, apparently written in stone, a policy that does nothing to attract more crowds to both Milk Plaza and the Castro.

Let's hope today's stories finally persuade DPW to hold some public meetings with all Castro stakeholders to devise a new, more democratic process regarding the public property at the plaza. From the SF Weekly's blog:

Don't like the way the Castro's iconic rainbow flag is administered? Go get your own!

That's the message from Steve Adams, the president of the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro (MUMC). It's his group that pays for the oft-replaced flags, insures them in the event of a costly mishap, and ultimately makes the decision on whether to lower the rainbow colors to half-mast in the event of an LGBT luminary's passing.

Sorry, folks. Liz Taylor just didn't cut it.

That doesn't make sense to outspoken gay activist Michael Petrelis. He raised a ruckus in February until the Merchants deigned to lower the flag to coincide with a rally honoring murdered Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato.

By rough count, that was only the sixth time the flag has been lowered to half-mast since it was first hoisted in 1997. Other honorees include John Cook, the first openly gay San Francisco police officer to be killed in the line of duty; Castro Patrol Special Officer Jane Warner; Trevor Hailey, who was instrumental in the flagpole's installation; and lesbian rights pioneer Del Martin. The flag was also lowered when the state Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8.  ...


Stephen R. Stapleton, Sacramento, CA said...

"There is no memo from DPW showing that the agency agree to the club's plans."

While this may be true, it is irrelevant. A contract can be accepted by performance. The DPW, by following the agreement suggested in the Merchant Assoc.'s memo, have accepted their offer to operate the flagpole. For example, if you select an apartment and the landlord gives you a rental agreement, you never sign it, but you move in, you are still bound by the terms of the rental agreement because you accepted through the action of moving in.

We accept contracts by action all the time. You pull into a parking garage and it has a contract limiting its liability on the ticket. If still park in the garage, you've accepted that contract.

Thus, a written response is not the only way to accept and the actions of the DPW indicate they accepted the Merchant Assoc. control. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

Michael said...

hi stephen,

i would prefer that when a city turns over public space to a private group that there is written documentation and a full public vetting of why the space is being given to the private club.

one thing lots of folks agree on, except MUMC, is that we would all benefit from a public meeting or two about the control issues over the public space at harvey milk plaza.