Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 42 / 19 October 2017
 

Political Notebook: Web sites duel over Halloween

NEWS


m.bajko@ebar.com

The clicks are on: Dueling Halloween Web sites
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The best way to describe this year's Halloween in San Francisco is probably the infamous character, and timeless costume, of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Spend anytime listening to public officials, community organizers or media reports discuss the city's efforts to shut down the Castro street party and it sounds as if multiple personalities have taken charge of this year's holiday.

By decree of Mayor Gavin Newsom the annual "non event" event has been canceled. Yet city officials have been meeting for weeks to finalize their plans for dealing with the thousands of people expected to show up anyway looking to party as usual in the city's gay neighborhood.

The police, on one hand, say they will keep the streets and sidewalks open Halloween night, while on the other they plan to have barricades in place to close off the area in case the crowd balloons in size. No matter what happens, they will have more than 500 officers stationed in the Castro, a force said to be larger than that in place last year when a man opened fire into the crowd on Market Street, leaving 10 people injured.

The dueling Halloween messages are probably no better illustrated than browsing the Internet, where two Web sites promote very different strategies for dealing with this year's holiday. The city's official site at http://www.homeforhalloween.com encourages Bay Area residents to stay in their own communities come October 31.

The city campaign's tagline is "This year, the Castro will NOT be open for business: no party. No fun. No tolerance for bad behavior. No reason to come." The site has fliers in English and Spanish for people to download and post around their neighborhoods, and it lists those businesses in the Castro that will be closed this year on Halloween night.

Yet at http://halloweeninthecastro.com/ a citizens group says that the community tradition is "threatened to be shut down" and advises people to have a "safe and fun" Halloween whether in the Castro or elsewhere. The group, calling itself Citizens for Halloween, is "encouraging people to COME OUT, PLAY SAFE, WEAR COSTUMES, SPEND LOCALLY, and RESPECT OUR NEIGHBORHOOD."

The Web site originally had promoted the city's Castro Halloween event in years past, and up until last month, had no information regarding the city's decision to end the street party. The site only had a link to a press release from last November announcing Newsom's – since then abandoned – plan to form a Halloween task force.

According to public records obtained by the Bay Area Reporter, the owner of the site, Adam Reeves, spent months waiting to be paid for the work he did promoting last year's event. His invoices to City Hall went unanswered, and it wasn't until May, when Supervisor Bevan Dufty stepped in to pay Reeves from his own office account, that a check was cut.

Still the site remained unchanged for months. It wasn't until the citizens group contacted Reeves about using the Web address that more updated information appeared on the site.

"We approached him last month. The site was getting lots of hits and he was looking for content. In the city's absence of providing information, we decided to post information on safety and other events and encourage people to shop here," said Gary Virginia , a founder of the citizens group and a party promoter for Cafe Flore.

City officials seem unfazed about the competing Web sites. David Perry, a public relations professional and 20-year Castro resident, who is overseeing the city's $60,000 stay-at-home campaign, said, "I can't control that" when asked about the site.

Perry's sole attention is being paid to the Home for Halloween site. The site, along with a "Boo Blog," launched October 1, and as of Tuesday, October 9, listed nearly 100 events outside the Castro as alternative options for party see

kers.

But some of the choices either end in the early evening or are 21-and-over events, limiting their appeal to the teenagers and young adults who have flocked in the past to the free, all-ages Castro street party. Nonetheless, Perry said any event that draws more than two people, even those happening the weekend prior to Halloween, will be promoted on the site.

"We are listing any events that might defuse this crowd," said Perry, who has lined up KRON 4 as a media sponsor.

The local television station, which in years past had done live broadcasts from the Castro party, will instead be airing spots urging people not to come to the neighborhood this year. Perry has also convinced the Twin Peaks bar – which will close its doors at 8 p.m. – to shut off its rainbow-colored arrow signs at 6 p.m. in time for the nightly newscasts, "symbolizing the efforts to keep Castro safe and QUIET this Halloween," wrote Perry on the city site's blog.

He is also asking people to make their own YouTube spots explaining why they will be staying home this year. The best entry from a youth between the ages of 16 to 24 will receive a $1,000 cash prize.

Potty politics

To allow people to pee or not to pee is the latest conundrum facing city officials as they finalize their plans for dealing with Halloween. Some businesses and homeowners have urged city officials to allow for Port-o-Potties to be brought in, as has been done in previous years.

Other residents have said they are willing to go without the temporary toilets. According to the Eureka Valley Promotion Association's September newsletter, some area residents believe "cleaning up their sidewalks, driveways, and front steps was a sacrifice they were willing to make to get the message out that it will not be Halloween as usual in the Castro this year or in future years."

The Citizens for Halloween group has said it has the money to pay for portable toilets. But organizer Alix Rosenthal said the group's application for a permit for one toilet in front of a resident's home was denied Monday and that they plan to appeal the decision.

Department of Public Works spokeswoman Christine Falvey told the B.A.R. that since there is no official street closure request this year, the department cannot issue the permits.

"We don't just issue Port-o-Potty permits unless there is an event, such as a street closure or construction going on," said Falvey.

According to both Dufty and Martha Cohen , with the mayor's office, whether to have the toilets brought in that night is still under discussion.

"It is still a fluid process," Cohen told Castro merchants at their monthly meeting last week.

Dufty said the toilets present some problems, as those looking to cause trouble have tipped them over in years past, and their presence signals there is a party going on. Not having them could be a deterrent this year, he noted.

"If someone is urinating on the street and they are taken in that is going to send a message. It may be a tool to discourage people from coming and the word will go out," said Dufty. "There are some options and we are talking about it."

Feed your political fix

Looking for more LGBT political news? Check in Monday mornings around 10 a.m. at the Bay Area Reporter's Web site ebar.com for "Political Notes," a new online supplement to the Political Notebook. Political Notes will carry additional news items and political events of interest to the LGBT community.






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