Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dull Leadership:
Dufty to Face Castro Flag Flap on Nov 9

(From the left, Dufty, Mark Leno aide Anna Damiani with a pink scarf, and Tom Ammiano, at Milk Plaza on September 11, 2011. Credit: Bill Wilson.)

For more weeks than I care to recall, I waited for mayoral candidate Bevan Dufty to keep his promise to get back to me about his position on the iconic rainbow flag at Castro and Market Street on city property. I had spoken with Bevan twice when I ran into him at public events, for no more than a total of ten minutes, and as far as I know this was his only communication with any activist working to make the control of the flag transparent and community-driven.

After Labor Day, his press representative finally sent a statement for Bevan, one that illustrated his style of dull leadership beholden to the powers-that-be, and giving San Franciscans a small look at how he would kick an issue down the road instead of addressing it head-on. Bevan's statement:

Thanks for entreating me to become involved in the issue around control of the Rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza. I have enormous respect for your advocacy on issues of international human rights, transparency in government decisions and accountability to the community.

During recent months I have initiated conversations with friends on both sides of this issue. There are leaders within MUMC [Merchants of Upper Market/Castro] who feel that the advocacy around this issue has become personal and directed at their employees and workplaces. This does not create an environment that lends itself to compromise.

On occasions I have contacted MUMC leaders to support flagpole flexibility to recognize major events involving our community. From reading the BAR, it appears there has been movement in this direction.

After November 8th I will revisit the situation.

Let's unpack this statement.  It's laughable for Bevan to claim he initiated conversations with the activist side of this controversy, when it was I who broached the subject with him and there is no proof he's reached out to any other activist.

He goes on to cite only MUMC's side of alleged problems with activists. Bevan fails to admit MUMC bars the public from attending their meetings and public comment is not allowed either, that every step of the way with the flag lowering for murdered gay Ugandan David Kato and the broken promise to raise the New York state flag in July, that MUMC threw up petty barriers to communication and cooperation with every activist trying to work with them.

Additionally, the lies from MUMC about a supposed contract with the city granting them control of the flag, and MUMC failing to deliver on their promise of open dialogue are omitted by Bevan. Other examples of MUMC duplicity could be cited, but for brevity's sake will be left unsaid.

He claims he's spoken with MUMC to urge flexibility, and despite his communication with them goes to state he learned from a local gay paper that the policy may be changing. So much for his dialogue with the merchants. And he is naive to think vague assurances of working behind the scenes are going to placate transparency activists. In short, he lacks a public trail about finding a compromise.

Bevan's note ends with a commitment to look at the matter two-months down the road, after the election. Too bad he lacks the political and personal courage to address the concerns now. This episode should serve as warning to voters about his executive skills, or lack thereof, he'll bring to the office of the mayor, if he's elected to that office.

To be clear, Bevan has not worked to bring warring Castro stakeholders and factions together for direct communication to work toward compromise and resolution. Considering he represented the district for eight-years as a supervisor, one might think he's got the skills and friendships necessary to build bridges of cooperation and discussion in his backyard.

If he can't address a relatively small neighborhood matter such as the flag and pole on public property in the Castro, over a seven-month period, which is how long this controversy has been raging, bring diverse factions to the table and began begin public communication toward solutions, it does not bode well for all of San Francisco neighborhoods and the issues that divide us, should Bevan become mayor.

Finally, while he's done nothing transparent to create opportunities to bring the community together for a flag lowering and observance, he did show up on September 11 for the activist-organized ceremony honoring Mark Bingham and all who died on 9/11. Nice to see him present last Sunday, enjoying the fruits of pushy activists.

Maybe he'll bring transparent boldness before November's election to create a solution that leaders to more events involving the flag at Harvey Milk Plaza, and potentially earning one of my three votes.

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