San Franciscoís cancellation of its flamboyant, yet controversial Halloween "street party" in its Castro neighborhood has sparked headlines and interest across the country, providing a bit of a PR pinch for the city (one headline suggested the city "killed" Halloween for its residents).
An estimated 200K people have attended the bash in recent years, but after nine people were shot last year the cityís mayor decided to pull the plug for 2007.
Whether you agree with that move or not, the cityís PR agency hired to get out the word about transportation closures and barricades in the wake of the cancellation, David Perry & Associates, has been blogging about its work and providing an interesting read.
Perry has strong ties to San Franís arts community and is a resident of the Castro neighborhood where the annual bash is centered. He has been blogging since being hired in early October and his posts provide an objective commentary on the trials and tribulations of running the public information effort and staying focused on the safety aspect of the cancellation. It's rare that PR pros acknowledge criticism (or in this case admit being called a "fascist"), but Perry writes about it all on his blog. Here are a few excerpts:
Spent the day talking up the "HomeForHalloween.com" campaign with journalists, neighbors and business owners in the Castro: all supportive. Bottom line from everyone I spoke with - what can we do this year to keep the Castro friendly and safe? Taped a video in the afternoon with a Castro business owner THRILLED that the party has been cancelled.
"Halloween isn't what it used to be," he said. "I'm tired of feeling unwelcomed in my own neighborhood."
Today, most everyone I spoke with agreed. We distributed 4,000 fliers for the "Home For Halloween" effort, touting our tagline of "This year, the Castro will NOT be open for business: no party. No fun. No tolerance for bad behavior. No reason to come. " With the exception of one person who called one of our helpers "a facist" the response was OVERWHELMINGLY supportive.
Later in the day, fielded interview requests from the "Examiner" and "Chronicle" (check your front stoops and computer screens tomorrow). That delights me -- means our efforts are WORKING. The more our colleagues in the Fourth Estate track and write about the "No Party in the Castro / Home for Halloween" Campaign", the better.
I can understand people not wanting the party to be cancelled (I'm not happy that the increased violence in years past, including 9 shootings last year have led it to be cancelled). I can understand people not liking the campaign. I can even understand people debating how we should deal with NEXT year's Halloween. However, what I do not understand are people and groups who fly in the face of official city policy and the advice of every public safety official in San Francisco and still "encourage" people to "come on down" to an event that has been deemed unsafe and which the vast majority of Castro residents do not want.
Personally, I've always thought that "controversy" was just another word for dialogue. So...if the "controversy" about cancelling a party that most people I know don't want to continue as it has in the Castro generates dialogue, then "here here" for controversy. It's led people to talk about the Castro they remember, the Castro they want and the Castro they love FAR more in the last month than in the 20 years previously I've witnessed.