A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany council to consider a flag policy

Written June 10th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

On the pole and in the window: The flags and banners at Albany City Hall on June 1, 2023.

Albany city officials have worked up a policy on displaying flags, a policy that allows for the gay-pride flag the city council voted to display for the month of June.

The proposed policy is in the form of a council resolution. It’s on the agendas of the council’s Monday work session June 12 and the regular Wednesday meeting June 14, when the council can adopt it.

The proposed resolution declares that city flagpoles are not a “forum for free expression by the public.” Instead, they are a “non-public forum” to fly flags that are “either required by law or as an expression of the city council’s official government speech.”

Oregon law says public buildings must show the U.S. and Oregon state flags and, when possible, the National League of Families’ POW/MIA flag.

Also, the proposal says, “As an expression of the city’s official government speech, the city council may authorize the display of a commemorative flag to fly at city-owned or city-maintained properties.”

That’s what the council did last month when it voted to display the rainbow flag meant to commemorate “Pride Month.”

Requests to fly other commemorative flags would have to be made to individual council members or the mayor. It would be up to them whether to pass any requests on to the council for a vote.

What’s a commemorative flag? The policy says it is a flag “that identifies with a specific historical event, cause, nation, or group of people that the city council chooses to honor or commemorate consistent with the city’s mission and priorities.”

Flags of any religious movement or creed would not be allowed. Also not allowed: Flags of a political party or advocating the outcome of an election.

Whether this policy would prevent future arguments about flags commemorating this or that cause is unknown. The only way to know is for a council member to receive such a request and feel motivated to put it to a vote. (hh)

Update: On Monday the council voted to make two changes in the wording of the flag policy. The changes appeared to me to be minor. Mayor Alex Johnson II spoke up on the flag issue for the first time. If I heard him right, he thinks the city should fly the U.S. and Oregon flags and no others. He also suggested that if the council votes to fly any other flags, a unanimous vote of the council should be required. The charter, though, says four votes are all that’s needed for most council actions. The flag policy will be part of the consent agenda at Wednesday’s session.

23 responses to “Albany council to consider a flag policy”

  1. Anony Mouse says:

    This policy is a First Amendment landmine.

    When private speech (like the Pride flag) can be passed off as government speech by a majority of the city council, a majority of the city council can also muzzle expression of private viewpoints it doesn’t like.

    The policy sounds broad. So broad that it’s application could be considered acts of political favoritism or censorship.

    • ConcernedLocal says:

      I totally agree. You can’t allow one flag to be raised and deny another. That WILL be discrimination. I don’t advocate these but just wait till someone wants the Dixie flag, Warlocks & Witches, Trans and every other fringe group flag flown. If the Council denies them, then comes the expensive lawsuits to fight and pay out. It would have been easier to say the US and State flag only. Patriotic and safe for the city. I have gay friends and support them. That said, even many of them do not agree with this leftist push and in-your-face activism.

    • Bessie Johnson says:

      I agree. The proposed Resolution is way too broad and will open the city up to litigation because if you fly theirs, you will fly mine.
      First, only the 3 flags need to be flown. Second, there was an Albany flag created many years ago. That should be flown before any others.
      Flag fling subjects need to be kept unbiased. The Council is elected as non partisan positions and that should be practiced. They represent ALL Albany citizens, not just a handful.
      This could lead to security issues because many people are ok with gay pride etc., but don’t appreciate it being shoved in their face.
      Let’s not pass this resolution and keep our city safe.

    • Bessie Johnson says:

      I agree. The saying goes ” If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

  2. Hartman says:

    Give it a rest, Hering. Your pathetic pretense of “covering the news” is a sham. There is NO controversy in the Council’s flag-flying action. Yet you continue to stoke the fire under the pretense of, “Hey, I’m just covering the News for the benefit of my readership.”

    Gay persons have always been here and will continue to be here despite your wishes. Gay persons possess the same rights as do white, male, cis-gender christians. Your thinly-disguised contempt for gay residents is out of touch…just as are the attitudes of the Luddites who pledge to rid Our Fair City of any and all who fail to meet the White christian standard you hide blindly behind. The two principle groups you consistently show contempt for are LGBTQ and homeless persons.

    Please stop this sham. Publish your true beliefs up front so that all your readers can know with certainty as to who and what it is you actually represent – the bigoted and the intolerant. Stop hiding. Come out and show your true colors.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Seems to me only an intolerant bigot with a fevered imagination would see bigotry and racism where none exist.

      • Al Nyman says:

        Finally, you react to most bigoted person on this site. If you don’t agree with him, you are a right winger even if the subject is graffiti or some other innocuous subject.

      • Shel says:

        Exactly! They yell hate and racism and it them with the hatred hust because we won’t pretend theres all these other genders and dumb names like cisgenders! This world has become little entitled people making up names to call one another and because the rainbow flag isn’t on all of our wish lists we are somehow causing hatred. The rainbow by the way is Gods promise not to flood the Earth again. That is pure blasphemy!

    • Shel says:

      This Cisgender thing is so stupid! There are MEN and WOMEN!!!

  3. Katherine says:

    Live and let live.
    Better yet love thy neighbor as thyself.
    There are 12 months of the year if flags show something positive. I say give them the opportunity to fly their flag.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      How many months are “of” a year if the flags show something negative?

      Who determines what is positive or negative.

    • Anony Mouse says:

      If the council is asked to fly the Polyam Proud flag, would they do so under their “government speech” power?

      What about the MAPs flag: “no matter what age, no matter what gender, love is love”.

      Why not?

      See the problem?

  4. Carolee Gascoigne says:

    It seems to me that it would have been prudent to develop a flag policy BEFORE flying ANY flags
    The City Council has now opened a huge can of worms
    I see lawsuits in the future

  5. TLH-ALB1 says:

    Those are city owned citizen’s property and not your council’s totem poles to cram your idiotic crap down peoples’ throat…!!!

  6. TLH-ALB1 says:

    PS: put it to a vote of the people and not an edict by the ruling class.

  7. Sandra Wang says:

    I agree with Concerned Local.
    Best to stay strictly to our American flag and our state flag. Giving privilege to one and not another is discrimination. Don’t even go there…
    People that want to fly flags can do it on their own property.

  8. Abe Cee says:

    I have more issue with the statement that the flag pole is a non public forum when it’s installed at a public facility using tax dollars. How can that not be public?

    • Anony Mouse says:

      “Nonpublic forum” has a specific legal meaning and the courts use it to decide First Amendment cases.

      According to Hasso the council’s policy will formally designate the flag poles as a “nonpublic forum”, but allow the poles to be used as an expression of the city council’s official “government speech.”

      This is where the council will probably run into a problem, and hopefully a legal challenge concerning viewpoint neutrality.

      Designating the Pride flag as government speech is nothing more than communicating political favoritism. And the brush the council intends to use is extremely broad, but equally restrictive at the same time.

      In other words, using the cover of “government speech” a majority of the council will pick and choose their political winners and losers.

      So much for a ‘non-partisan’ council….

  9. Hartman says:

    I propose that all residents of Albany concerned with this issue urgently write to Albany State Representative, Shelly Boshart Davis. Express your concern that the City Council is being harassed and badgered by bombastic nonsense from the Right about something as innocuous as flag-flying. If the Right can do this to our elected leadership, then who knows what else the Right might demand. Talk about your slippery slope. Shelly Boshart Davis – she’s here for ALL of Albany, not just the Right Fringe. Her email is:

    Thanks in advance to Boshart-Davis. She understands just how dangerous the Political Right actually is. Remember, these are the same folks who will tell you that Donald Trump declassified everything simply by “thinking about it.” Magical Realism worthy of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel.

    • Anony Mouse says:

      Y’know, Hartman, on a few occasions I’ve enjoyed your strange, weird, ramblings.

      But oftentimes reading your comments feels like listening to a Yoko Ono song with lots of screaming and shrieking. It gets old after about two seconds.

      The issue is the city’s flag policy, not state government, not Donald Trump, not the “Political Right”, not some novel nobody has read.

      You’re losing your audience with the Yoko Ono stuff…

  10. Bill Kapaun says:

    After the Mayor/City Council’s shown “expertise” in the real estate market, they now are going to interpret 1st Amendment Rights? And where speaketh the CITY ATTORNEY? His silence is deafening!

  11. MarK says:

    Leave it at two flags. Quit wasting time and energy on this and start working on issues that affect ALL of us (crime and city streets). Forget about trying to appease a few and neglecting the rest of us! That’s what you were elected for. Just do your job and stay away from these “woke” issues.

  12. Dave says:

    Flags are ridiculous anyway, lazy virtue signalling by whomever is flying them. Pride flag, American flag, State Flag, Trump flag doesn’t matter. What a colossal waste of fabric.


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