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San Francisco's national holiday in the Castro has become a heated political issue
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Dufty, who has been involved in negotiations with neighborhood residents and city officials, promised weeks ago that an outline for security measures and an entertainment itinerary would be available at www.halloweeninthecastro.com. But at press time the Web site was still empty.
"It's totally appalling that the first planning meeting was in July," Rosenthal said in an interview. "It should have been organized a year in advance.... I haven't seen any public service announcements. If you're going to fundamentally change an event like Halloween, you need to tell people what you're going to do."
Suggestions from Dufty, confirmed for us by the Mission District police station, include having just one music stage (there were three last year), keeping the Castro Muni open as opposed to previous years, and beefing up the public-safety presence at Market and Noe streets. Then, at 11 o'clock, water trucks would appear to clean the streets.
Over the last few months Rosenthal has suggested that the event be turned into a parade to keep the anxious crowds occupied, similar to what takes place in New York's Greenwich Village each year. Access would be limited to one entry gate where sliding scale donations would be taken to help cover costs, and costumed attendees, whom Rosenthal said would perhaps be less likely to cause major disturbances, would receive a discount. Other access points would be for exits only.
She said police commanders from the Mission station have taken the position that Halloween should be as unpleasant as possible to discourage large crowds in the future, but the result could be angry resistance from partygoers. Sgt. Mark Solomon from the Mission station said he wouldn't describe it as "unpleasant" but said there are certain types of visitors who can cause a variety of problems for the neighborhood.
"The outsiders who are coming in and urinating and defecating on the sidewalks and having sex and leaving the condoms behind, we're going to address those kinds of problems and make them not want to come back," Solomon said.
Rosenthal remains skeptical that Halloween in the Castro is sufficiently organized this year and properly balances honoring a long-running tradition and meeting the needs of fed-up Castro residents.
"There are a lot of people who just want to get rid of Halloween in the Castro entirely," she said. "We can make this a fun party. Making this unpleasant will only make it more violent. I fear retribution."
The Mayor's Office now appears to have taken over responsibility for the event, but Martha Cohen, whom Dufty told us is in charge of the event, wasn't available for comment.
Ted Strosser of the fun-advocacy group SF Party Party, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary on Halloween, said the outfit is concerned that allowing too many restrictions for the event would stifle the city's traditional reverence for street parties. SF Party Party plans this year to canvass the city again with 100 costumed and party-crawling Abe Lincolns. He said trying to end Halloween in the Castro altogether would cause the same problems for Gavin Newsom that Willie Brown experienced when he attempted to rub out Critical Mass in the ’90s — record-breaking participants turned out as a show of force.
"San Francisco says it can safely host the Olympics, but it can't host Halloween and deal with some San Jose teens," Strosser said. "If SF can't keep us safe and clean up trash, then that's a problem."
Dufty, for his part, told the Guardian again that maps should be up at www.halloweeninthecastro.com outlining the finalized plan shortly after we go to press. He said one of the biggest changes this year was keeping open the Castro Muni stop and admitted that the goal was to tone down Halloween. Some Castro residents still want entirely to get rid of Halloween, he said.
"I have spent so much time on Halloween," he added. "I think it's not fair I'm getting the smackdown for not wanting to have fun....

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