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Wiener Threatens $ Cut If HRC Holds Rainbow Flag Meeting
Our previous post reignited interest in the ongoing controversy about community access to the flagpole located on public property at Harvey Milk plaza whose access is controlled by the Castro Merchants (MUMC). Yesterday we saw how a gay Police Officer lied when he claimed to be off duty at last November's MUMC about the flag controversy. Now we see clearly how Supervisor Wiener uses bullying tactics to intimidate the City's Human Rights Commission (HRC) from doing its job. Clearly this problem with community representation in the Castro is not going away. Today's HRC meeting is certain to feature this raging debate.

In November of last year, the flagpole issue was brought before San Francisco's Human Rights Commission by Michael Petrelis and Bill Wilson. Both had attended MUMC meetings to discuss their concerns but were met by a battalion of SFPD officers. Minutes from the HRC's meetings, which are available on their website, alarmingly illustrate Supervisor Scott Wiener's dangerous control over political discourse in San Francisco, wielding his fiscal power at any agency that step into his territory.

Here are the disturbing excerpts:

November 8, 2012 HRC meeting

Theresa Sparks' report: re:  Raising other flags on the Castro flagpole. Mentions she and Mr. Petralis have had several conversations over the past weeks. They have opened a preliminary case while investigating a potential discrimination complaint. Overall evaluation by city attorney has not been reached. Note: Initially, the flag was an art exhibit. Merchants of upper Market and Castro have been funding the pole upkeep for years. What looked like a very simple issue in the beginning has now turned into a very complicated issue; City Attorney’s office is working on the issue now. Results will be presented at a future meeting.

Commissioner Pio Roda asks about is there ever was a policy on the Rainbow Flag. Discussion follows. Director Sparks gives brief history of the Flagpole and states that originally, there was no funding to take care of the flag. The Merchants Association came forth and has been taking care of the cost for years. Director mentions that she is meeting with Supervisor Wiener and the City Attorney to investigate whether or not any discrimination has occurred since the flagpole is city property. She also met with the association including member, Cleve Jones. The Merchants Association has mentioned safety concerns when lowering the flag, although the flag has been lowered in the past. She reiterates that the City Attorney is looking into the issue since the city owns the flagpole.
(emphasis added.)

Commissioner Todd Mavis: Recommends that HRC holds a public hearing on the issue of the Flag Raising in the Castro and invite the stakeholders and other interested parties as part of our attempt to hold more meetings in the community. States that he thinks it has been about a year since they last met in District 8. Director states that there are two issues: What is the legal issue of flag can/can’t go on pole and the other issue is the control of the flagpole and what goes on it.

Commissioner Mavis strongly recommends a community meeting on this issue. Also comments that disability claims in discrimination are rising; he wants to know what can be done to help staff.

Public Comment: William F. Wilson Thanks Commissioner Mavis profusely for advocating for a meeting re: Flagpole. Strongly in support of a meeting to discuss process of who decides what flag can fly. He tells story of what has happened when he has tried to communicate with the Merchants Association. He states that he was greatly angered by treatment received at the meeting.

Public Comment: Michael Petralis States they have been battling since 2011 for transparency about how the flag is chosen and taken care of; states that they have been thwarted by Supervisor Wiener; states that it is not helpful for meetings to be held “behind closed doors.” Wants everyone to have equal access to the pole and is in support of a town hall meeting in the Castro.

Commissioner Mavis calls for a public hearing on legal issues revolving around raising the Rainbow Flag at Harvey Milk Plaza. He mentions that the end of January may even be too aggressive. Director states it will be scheduled as soon as possible in the New Year. Commissioner Mavis states he would like to be assigned to this issue per Commission Sweet’s comments earlier.

At the February 2nd meeting, the discussion continued with Commissioner Kelleher inquiring about contacting Supervisor Scott Wiener whose represents the Castro district. Commission Director Sparks relates this shocking development:

Director: I’ll tell you the issue ... specific to Supervisor Wiener and this has happened on other issues ... the issue about the flag. We were involved because a complaint was filed ... we got involved and we continued to mediate it; (Michael) Petralis continued to want to have a public meeting. Director Sparks talked to Scott Wiener and suggested that maybe we would (hold a meeting); she said, “Scott Wiener went crazy...and he does not want a public meeting. He ... called me and (Commissioner) Pappas the night that it was suggested at the commission.” He said, “I don’t care what you do,” “don’t have it” and that this is “my territory; this is my neighborhood” ... “stay out.” Commissioner Mavis asks why this “wasn’t communicated to us?” Director states she told the Chair. Commissioner Mavis asks again why he was not told. Director says it was her opinion.......inaudible.... (emphasis added.)

Commissioner Mark Kelleher says “so obviously we have a disconnect"

Commissioner Mavis: So we are reacting, as a voice for the people, we are reacting to that kind of hammer, and saying I guess we can’t help the people of the City and County of San Francisco because we are more worried about our funding than we are about doing the right thing. And we are also not even concerned about what the Commissioner who requested to have the hearing. We don’t even really care about that to communicate at the basic level. This is very disrespectful.

Director: Let me give you a timeline. Commissioner Pappas was involved in that issue because he expressed concern because he’d seen something in the paper and he called me and asked to be involved....he was my Commissioner contact with that...we had already had the discussion with Scott Wiener... then ...out of the blue, based on Michael called for a hearing...without even talking to the Director or your fellow Commissioner... if you had even consulted me before you made that comment I could have given you the background...but you had not expressed an interest in the past...Commissioner Pappas had been involved all along. Consequently, that’s how it unfolded.

Commissioner Michael Pappas: We were trying to determine if it was a discrimination issue...we were waiting for feedback to see if they had jurisdiction.

Commissioner Mavis: Folks this is not how this Commission operates...we do not have to go to the Director every time we want to have a suggestion for a hearing - that is the purpose that we have a public hearing and an opportunity on the agenda to make suggestions for public hearings ... we have a discussion about it - in open – not behind closed doors where we decide things and reach a conclusion and we don’t even tell the person who made the suggestion for the public hearing – because it looks bad for us? ... because we’re worried about losing funding?...That is not one of the goals and not how the Human Rights Commission works. Folks, Commissioner Woo Lee had the right idea when she said that there is a crisis here....When it comes to issues like this, I am very offended.

Chair to Commission Mavis:...I hear your frustration...I don't want to walk out of here on that note...we need to address that; we will have a conversation. We'll figure out what we're going to we're going to deal with Supervisor Wiener.

Director: To be clear, I was not the one to make the decision that we were not going to have a public meeting. The Chair made that decision.

Commission Mavis: ...this should be done in public... let's be clear.

February 28, 2013 HRC Meeting

Commissioner Mavis asks for change to minutes on page 8 under Item 7 – Open Discussion with Commissioners on Ideas for Advisory Committees. At the bottom of the page, there’s a line item “discussion of suggested meeting in District 8 and the flag issue.” His recollection, and he may have misheard this, at the meeting on February 2, 2013 when they discussed this issue, he understood the Director had said the Chair had decided we were not going to hold a public hearing regarding the raising of the Rainbow Flag as he (Commissioner Mavis) had suggested at the November 8, 2012 meeting, and that there were several meetings that had already taken place about this issue and these meetings were held outside the public hearing environment, and the Chair decided not to hold that hearing.

Furthermore, it was his understanding from this hearing on February 2, 2013, that the Director had said that Supervisor Wiener pointed out that if we were to hold a hearing on this issue, there might be a reduction in our funding or budget, so therefore he would like to reflect in the minutes that these issues are relevant and thinks it would be important to note the details accurately. Director Sparks said we can go back to listen to exactly what was said and we would be happy to note those details more accurately.

Commissioner Mavis mentions that there is a calendar of hearing from the beginning of the year and that there was supposed to be a hearing in District 8 in March. He wants to hold that hearing and states that he volunteers to be chair. He thinks it would be advantageous for the Commission to set a date.

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