The city is paying public-relations maven David Perry $40,000 to relay a curt message to the public about Halloween in the Castro this year: Keep out.
Of course, that's not exactly how Perry puts it. "It's not so much 'stay away' as 'find something in your neighborhood to do,'" he explains.
Other than word of Perry's upcoming media blitz and a leak to the Chronicle stating that the Castro will be saturated with cops, discerning the city's strategy for averting a Halloween meltdown has been impossible. S.F. Weekly's calls to the police and offices of the mayor and District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty — the party poopers behind the nixing of Halloween — didn't net answers. Meanwhile, numerous Castro activists report being "blown off."
But this week the city will have to lay its cards on the table: Police Commission President Theresa Sparks has summoned Chief Heather Fong for a command performance at its Oct. 10 meeting. "I've directed the chief to give us a full overview of her plans," Sparks says. "I'm president of the commission, so she pretty much [had] to say yes."
Incidentally, whatever plan the city has, it doesn't appear to have gestated it long. A Sept. 17 e-mail penned by Police Capt. John Goldberg thanks city officials for attending "the initial Halloween planning meeting" — the prior week. "Everyone is acting as if they were caught with their pants down, even though they knew for a year this was going to happen," says former supervisorial candidate Alix Rosenthal, the cofounder of Citizens for Halloween.
Groups in the Castro are divided over this year's nonevent. A recent Eureka Valley Promotion Association newsletter stated it would be better to clean excrement off the streets on Nov. 1 than tacitly sanction Halloween visitors with outhouses. Businesses in the area, however, have a different perspective. The vast majority of the hundred-plus members of the Merchants of Upper Market & Castro are refusing to close shop on Halloween, one of the year's most profitable days. And even the businesses that will shut their doors don't seem to be doing so out of civic-mindedness. "A lot of bars are closing because of permits," one bar manager said. "There's a negative impact the city will put on you if you complain too loud."
Full disclosure: I plan on covering this year's nonfestivities. As for a costume, well, I think I'll dress as a piece of shit and say I'm the 49ers offense.