Thursday, January 23, 2014

WeHo Debates Rainbow Flag on Public Land, While SF Stifles Dissent
Many thanks to my friend Patrick Connors, who Tweets as UppityFag, for alerting me to this development in Southern California.

As you know, for three years myself and lots of other grassroots activists including Bill Wilson, Clinton Fein, Melanie Nathan and Veronika Fimbres, have pushed Castro leaders and queer and straight elected officials, and the Human Rights Commission which notoriously backed off a promised town hall after the District 8 Supervisor threatened their budget, to hold open meetings about the rainbow flat on public land at historic Harvey Milk Plaza.

We've also heard numerous and empty promises from leaders of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club and the Bayard Rustin Coalition that they would challenge the control of the public flag by the private Merchants of Upper Market and Castro, after requests to lower the flag to honor Nelson Mandela were rejected by MUMC.

Thank goodness for Blacklight editor Sidney Brinkley for recently taking queer electeds Tom Ammiano, Mark Leno and David Campos for wimping out about returning the flag to community and public control, after MUMC raised the usual b.s. excuses why Mandela's death was not reason to lower the flag.

Long and short of it, is that dissent over the flag's control is stifled in the free speech bastion of San Francisco. But down in West Hollywood, according to an LA Times story by Hailey Branson-Potts, the local council has had several public meetings about their rainbow flag on City Hall. Not only have they held open hearings for all to attend in WeHo, they also flew the Trans Pride Flag for an entire month and still more meetings are planned:

The West Hollywood City Council will reconsider the recent removal of a rainbow flag from atop City Hall. After months of public debate over the flag — which was raised above City Hall in June — city officials this month removed the flag, which symbolizes gay pride. During a meeting Tuesday night, council members said the removal should be discussed again at an upcoming meeting. [...]

The council in November unanimously voted to maintain the city’s practice of displaying only the United States, California and City of West Hollywood flags on public facilities. At one meeting, Councilman John Duran said the city “belongs to all of us.” [...]

The City Council in November voted to allow City Manager Paul Arevalo to decide when and whether other flags could be flown at City Hall for special occasions, such as LGBT Pride Month in June. The blue, pink and white transgender flag was flown on a City Hall flagpole for the month of November in recognition of Transgender Awareness Month.

Maybe the Castro leaders, Milk and Rustin groups, the Human Rights Commission and San Francisco queer electeds will look to the WeHo situation and finally give us what they have down there: transparency and accountability over public space of great importance to LGBT people.

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