Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Mayoral challengers disagree with ending Halloween


Former Supervisor Tony Hall speaks during a mayoral debate organized by the lesser-known candidates. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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The debate Friday, August 17 among most of the lesser-known candidates for San Francisco mayor featured a lot of agreement on issues like crime, homelessness, and transportation. Most of the candidates also agree the city should continue supporting Halloween in the Castro.

Eleven of the 14 people running for mayor participated in the debate, though Mayor Gavin Newsom was not among them. Most of the candidates told the Bay Area Reporter they disagree with the city's recent decision to stop supporting Halloween festivities in the Castro, and several suggested spreading the event out. The candidates also suggested ways to cut down on violence, and feel that asking businesses to shut down that night is unfair.

Grasshopper Alec Kaplan, a taxi driver, said, "Rather than trying to contain Halloween, make the whole city a part of it ... there's nothing that more epitomizes the spirit of San Francisco than being able to become something different."

Violence has been a recurring problem at the Halloween event. Last year, 10 people were injured following a shooting. Candidate Josh Wolf, an independent journalist, said Halloween "has gotten too large" and no longer represents the culture of the Castro. He said individual neighborhoods should hold Halloween events that represent their communities. That "would cut violence to almost nothing," he said.

Lonnie Holmes, manager of the city's juvenile probation department, said the city should step up police enforcement and block off a couple more streets to give people more room. Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, a neurological surgeon, shared this view. She said this would make it easier to prevent and control violence.

Billy Bob Whitmer, an educator, suspects out-of-town visitors cause much of the violence at the event. In an e-mail, George Davis, a nudist activist, said he would ban off-site alcohol sales that night on Upper Market and Castro streets "to diffuse the violence."

Supervisor Bevan Dufty held a meeting last week to ask Castro businesses to shut down that night. Stating that some of those businesses depend on Halloween for their survival, Holmes said, "It's not fair to make businesses suffer."

Harold Hoogasian, who co-owns a flower shop, agreed. "I don't think the city should be telling businesses they should close," he said.

Tony Hall, a former city supervisor whom Newsom named to oversee Treasure Island's redevelopment but later fired from that post, said the decision is typical of Newsom's administration.

"This mayor hasn't got a clue about what people want," Hall said. He said incompetence has led to inadequate security for the event.

Wilma Pang, a music teacher, said she would miss Halloween in the Castro, and that the city shouldn't "throw the baby out with the bath water."

In an e-mail Tuesday, candidate Harold Brown said, "Were I a Castro merchant, I'd decorate plywood and put it over all my windows, then leave doors open for business."

Quintin Mecke, program director for the San Francisco Safety Network, said the city doesn't have the ability to stop the festivities from happening, and more needs to be done to address crime in general.

As with many of the candidates, crime is a top concern of his. During the debate, Mecke cited statistics from the mayorÕs office that state that since 2004, there have been more than 330 homicides in San Francisco. Sixty percent of the victims were black, even though blacks represent only 7 percent of the city's population, he said.

"If this were happening to any other population, we'd be terming it as a crisis," Mecke said.

Many at the debate said Newsom has neglected many of the city's problems, and they wondered why he wasn't there. After asking what the mayor had to fear and clucking like a chicken, Brown, one of the debate's organizers, said, "The city is being run as a developmental jewel for rich people."

Mecke told the B.A.R. he questioned why, if the mayor's policies are working, he wasn't at the debate to defend them.

"I'm sure he's thinking of higher office, but he needs to manage San Francisco in the meantime," he said.

Eric Jaye, Newsom's campaign manager, said that the mayor "looks forward to debates, but he just can't go to hang out with [Brown] and the naked guy any time they want." The "naked guy" refers to candidate Davis, who's focused on making Golden Gate Park clothing optional. Jaye said Friday's event was not a debate, it was a "hootenanny."

Whatever one chooses to call them, the next event will be Friday, August 24 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in front of City Hall. The debates are planned to take place each Friday until the November 6 election.

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