Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Best Location? Herrera at Milk Plaza;
Occupy SF at Herman Plaza

(Herrera at the mike. Credit: Bill Wilson.)

Last Thursday, gay supporters of City Attorney Dennis Herrera and a few of his competitors in the race to become San Francisco's next mayor, staged a rally and presser at Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro to protest an article in the previous day's Chronicle slurring him as not fully favoring gay marriages in 2004.

A friend back east asked why the presser was held so far away from the institution - the Chronicle - that triggered the protest. He pointed out that Herrera and his backers would have been smart to register their anger at Mission and Fifth Streets, the headquarters for the publication.

I mentioned no TV cameras were at the Milk Plaza rally and said it might have attracted TV coverage if the protesters had the SF Chronicle behind them, instead of a banner for a local LGBT Democratic political club. Seems to me an opportunity was missed to challenge shoddy journalism, by not bringing the protest to the paper's front door.

Several rally speakers deplored the Chronicle's anonymously sourced story about meetings 7-years ago, with state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano succinctly expressing the sentiment of many protesters by asking the simple question, "WTF, Chronicle?" But the paper's editorial team was downtown, not within earshot of Ammiano.

I contacted Herrera's spokesperson Matt Dorsey about the choice of Milk Plaza and not Mission and 5th. His response:

For us, it's not about the Chronicle. I don't make editorial decisions for publications, and I'm uncomfortable faulting any news organization for what they decide to cover. Public slander is an occupational hazard for politicians, and I'm frankly glad to live in a democracy where that's the case. So long as we have the chance to respond proportionally and substantively, that's fair enough for me. I have no hard feelings about the Chronicle.

If it's not about the Chronicle, then why was the publication denounced by practically all speakers at the rally? Something's not quite right.

That being said, permit me to disclose that Herrera may get my second or third vote on November 8. Except for my first choice for mayor, John Avalos, my mind is weighing who should get my two other votes.

And speaking of optimal targets and locations for demonstrations, I'd like to know why the Occupy SF encampment is at Justin Herman Plaza at the foot of Market Street, far away from City Hall, the State Building and the two federal buildings. Yes, I know the local Occupy effort began a block-and-a-half from Justin Herman Plaza at the Federal Reserve Bank and when the police raided the original encampment protesters settled on the nearby plaza.

But that location, while certainly attracting the concerns of the mayor, supervisors and municipal health and safety agencies and lots of media, just seems to be lacking in terms of having a bigger impact if the encampment was located like the Occupy Oakland protest, in a public plaza abutting a government building.

(Credit: SF MOMA blog.)

What would be so wrong about setting up camp at the Federal Building on Mission and 7th Streets, with its spacious courtyard? A post the the SF MOMA blog in 2009 by Adrienne Skye Roberts, This Land Wasn't Made for You and Me, provides fodder arguing for establishing an Occupy presence there:

[The land the courtyard occupies] is owned by the federal government and therefore the government of San Francisco (let alone its residents or SOMA neighbors) had no say in the design or use of the space.  An explanatory text on the website assures that the building was designed to empower the “local and regional community with a sense of ownership” of this federal property. This text continues, stating that the San Francisco federal building is “a functional and symbolic manifestation of government that people sustain through exercising their freedom to physically take control of it.” 

Sounds fine with me, this sense of ownership and encouraging the people to take control of our federal property and land.

In the real estate world, the wise mantra is location, location, location. The Herrera campaign and Occupy SF, two wildly divergent entities, would be smart to rethink where they stage their public actions and learn a key lesson from realtors, and co-opt that lesson for greater impact.

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