Thursday, October 25, 2012

Huff Post: Tensions Ignited
Over SF's Rainbow Flag Management

(The leather flag about to be raised in Sept. 2011. Those transit cables in the background are more than half a block away from the flag, whatever position the flag is in. Credit: Bill Wilson.)

Need more proof this story has legs? Check out this Huffington Post story by Robin Wilkey yesterday:

Controversy has erupted in San Francisco's LGBTQ Castro District over the management of its historic rainbow flag, igniting tensions throughout the district and questions about how to honor the many faces of the community . . . 

In the denial [to hoist the trans flag on Nov. 20, Merchants of Upper Market Castro] Terry Bennett noted the board's policy to fly the rainbow flag at full-mast at all times with few exceptions, "symbolizing the strength and pride and the community, even in times of sadness, anniversaries of important events, etc." Bennett also noted the safety hazard of flying the flag at half-mast, potentially entangling its rigging with the city's Muni busses . . . 

According to Supervisor Wiener, the flag management isn't an issue of inflexibility, but of an overwhelming number of requests.

There will be no end to the controversy over who controls the rainbow flag on public land in the Castro until there is a fully transparent process establishing a public entity to determine when to modify what goes up on the flagpole and at which position.

A few questions need answers, after the latest spate of attention and anger regarding MUMC and their inconsistent and unequal flag policies.

Whether the flag is at half or full staff, it's the same distance away from Muni cables, and there were no problems when the flag was lowered for friends of MUMC leaders and on Sept. 11, 2011, when Mayor Ed Lee spoke at the base of the flagpole. Why, all of a sudden, is the position of the flag a danger to public safety?

Where are all of the supposed requests to modify the flag's display? Wiener is the latest person to tout this MUMC claim of an "overwhelming number of requests", and I believe he and MUMC have duty to produce the requests. 

Why is permission granted to fly the leather and bear pride, without excuses, but hoisting the trans pride flag required almost two weeks of controversy?

Why was it OK for MUMC and AIDS Inc to display a red ribbon on top of the rainbow flag for World AIDS Day last year, without any safety concerns raised? Was it because participants at a remembrance ceremony were encouraged to "Shop, Eat and Drink" at Castro businesses and increase profits with a portion going to AIDS Inc and spending money is the theme again this year?

One day, when the public reclaims this piece of public property and a transparent process is in place, we'll look back at this controversy, just like we'll eventually view the opposition to gay marriage, and say, "Why was there so much unreasonable opposition?"

This comment, by Castro resident Roy Steele, at the Huff Post article makes valid points that need extra attention:

Both sides have to be reasonable. MUMC bears the cost - and then MUMC also acts like a dictator as far as the flag goes. There is no appeal process and their decision is final. Therein lies the rub. If they would have an open process where an impartial mediator or disinterested party could hear any appeals, it would go a long way toward appeasing the community.

An open process? Yes, it was needed yesterday and it's not too late to develop such a process.

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