Monday, February 13, 2012

Castro Rainbow Flag:
Rules Finally Published

Just over a year ago, I made a simple request to the control queens of the Merchants of Upper Market/Castro to lower the rainbow flag at the public Harvey Milk Plaza for one night to honor murdered gay Ugandan David Kato. After much unnecessary hassles and hurdles with MUMC's president Steve Adams, they agreed to honor Kato but made no effort to coordinate with activist for a proper flag-lowering ceremony.

Since last February, a year-long controversy has split the Castro community. Every attempt at just a public meeting or chat at City Hall to find a solution to the problems of a private group controlling an important piece of public property was killed by either Adams or Supervisor Scott Wiener.

After months of pressure from many segments of the local community, including a Bay Area Reporter editorial calling for written rules governing the public flagpole, the privately-run MUMC has finally posted their policy for wanting to make use of the flag. Would have been nice if they held an open community meeting to develop the rules.

Over at the MUMC site, the group defensively tells its side of the controversy and how the flag came to be installed on public property. They explain that one man, the flag's original creator, developed the policies for lowering the flag determined the rules and we all have to live with the creator's wishes.

Using lots of dissuasion, MUMC lays out their restrictive flag policy if you really, really, really want to request that they bend their privately-developed rules. While this is a step forward, a few unspecified hurdles are placed in front of requesters. MUMC does not bother to define what is "broad, diverse community support" behind any request, there are to be no public discussions about requests and no turn-around time is given.

If the Castro's supervisor had a commitment to holding his own open forums in the district, I'd ask him to put this policy on the agenda for public debate. Why are the supervisor and MUMC leaders so fearful of any public forums about the flag?

Here's part of MUMC's policy:
Individuals and community groups which propose that MUMC modify the Rainbow Flag’s full-staff display for a commemorative purpose are respectfully reminded of that fundamental principle.

However, if they feel that there is a compelling reason to modify the Harvey Milk Plaza Rainbow Flag display, and the proposal is demonstrated to have broad, diverse community support, they are invited to submit a proposal to MUMC’s Board of Directors (which consists of over a dozen leaders from the community, elected annually by MUMC’s Membership, which includes over 250 Members from throughout the neighborhood and community).

Given the volunteer nature of MUMC’s Board and the importance of any such proposal, as much advance notice as possible is requested. Proposals are considered by the MUMC Board as promptly as possible and while respecting the underlying principles for this Rainbow Flag’s display, as well as safety, operational logistics, cost, and other practical issues.

MUMC’s Board of Directors can be contacted by email at

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