Despite an Albany City Council vote earlier this month to raise a Pride flag outside of City Hall for the month of June, the rainbow banner may not fly after some city leaders advocated for first putting a flag policy in place.
On May 10, the council voted to raise the progressive Pride flag outside city offices for Pride month. The action passed with four yes votes, one no vote from Councilor Marilyn Smith and one councilor, Matilda Novak, declining to register a vote.
Now it may not fly after all.
City Manager Peter Troedsson, who had been on vacation when the motion passed, said there ought to be a flag policy in place to manage requests before flying any additional flags.
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“We need to develop a policy that allows for other requests for flags or other political statements to be flown or displayed,” Troedsson said in a Monday, May 22 work session with the City Council.
Troedsson said without a flag policy, the city could open the door for requests for other flags that may be political in nature. A policy would ensure there was no unequal treatment, he said after the meeting.
Troedsson has already received questions about maintaining fairness. He forwarded an email from a resident inquiring about other flags and who reviews such requests. He did not indicate which flags he would like to receive equal time on the pole.
Troedsson also sees flying the Pride flag as a logistical problem.
Right now, there are only two flags flying outside City Hall: the United States flag and the Oregon state flag. In fact, the city is out of compliance with state law because it's supposed to fly the POW/MIA flag as well, he said.
The problem is the flagpole can’t support more than two flags, Troedsson said. A third flag would snag against the building and get torn up from the wind over time.
The city could set up a temporary flag pole, but that wouldn’t be a speedy solution, Troedsson said.
He suggested displaying the Pride flag “prominently” inside City Hall instead.
But for Councilor Steph Newton, who made the motion on May 10 to fly the Pride flag, that defeats the point, she said in an interview after the Monday meeting.
“The message of unity isn’t getting to the entire community,” Newton said.
If the flag was in the lobby, only city staff would see it because not many residents enter the building, she said.
Newton received support from families of LGBTQ+ individuals and felt that the symbol was important to make people feel included and safe in Albany.
“It’s frustrating that there is an unwillingness to come up with an additional solution to honor what was voted on,” she said.
Newton did her own math on wind velocity using estimations on flag size to determine how strong the wind would have to be to tear up the flag, she said.
It doesn’t even get very windy in June, she said. And it’s only up for a month and shouldn’t get that damaged.
Both Newton and Councilor Ray Kopczynski offered to buy the hardware to place the additional flag, she said.
Other cities have done it, Newton said, so she questioned why a flag policy was necessary if the City Council had already voted on it.
Newton is disheartened, she said, but she isn’t giving up. She’s got a couple ideas even if the flag can’t go on the main flag pole.
There are temporary flag poles that may be able to go into planters, or even other mechanisms to fasten a flag at City Hall, she said.
As for the flag policy? She’s planning on drafting that too, she said.
“The meaning is lost if the flag isn’t seen,” she said.