Chilmark’s select board voted unanimously Tuesday night to limit flags flown on town flagpoles to federal, state, and town flags. The vote comes as other Vineyard towns have chosen to fly a particular flag, the Progressive Pride flag, following requests from local leaders from the LGBTQ community.
Select board chair Jim Malkin told his fellow board members the town had received a request “to fly a flag that is not a federal, state, or town flag on the town flagpole.” Malkin didn’t specify what that flag was, or who made the request; however Arthur Hardy-Doubleday, president of the Vineyard’s chapter of the NAACP, has previously lodged requests that Chilmark fly the Progressive Pride flag.
Malkin noted there had been some “controversy” in Oak Bluffs regarding flags on municipal flagpoles. He also noted the U.S. Supreme Court recently handed down a decision in a flag case. “I have talked to town counsel, and it’s town counsel’s recommendation that we continue our practice of flying only the federal, commonwealth, or town flags on town flagpoles,” Malkin said, “until such time as more cases move through the court system and there’s a more definitive answer to the issue of what can and cannot be flown, and the issue of free speech as it relates to this.”
Malkin said that following a Supreme Court decision against the City of Boston, a “satanic group” has requested its flag be flown on a city flagpole.
“I think it’s important that our town stay well out of this fray until this gets worked through and we know what, if anything, we should do,” Malkin said. “That’s advice of counsel, and I want to bring everyone up to speed on that.”
In an email provided with other agenda material, town counsel Ron Rappaport states in part,
“Following up on our phone conversation, as I indicated, municipal governments are scrambling to come up with flag policies, given the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling. While the court stated that there is a concept called government speech, whereby the government is entitled to fly flags of causes that it supports, drawing a line is difficult and needs thought. My practical suggestion is that you limit flags on the town flagpole to flags of United States, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the town, while you thoughtfully development a flag policy. By doing that, we will also have the benefit of seeing what policies other towns develop.”
Malkin said he felt the flag restriction may also help stave off “divisiveness” in Chilmark.
“I could see a situation where one of us, or members of our community, feel one way about a flag that’s flown, and others are violently opposed to that,” he said. “There is enough divisiveness in our country at the moment, and I don’t think that our town needs that kind of a situation. So my recommendation is that we sit back and with town counsel, watch proceedings and continue the course of practice that we have.”
“I agree with that approach, and I would make that a motion,” select board member Bill Rossi said.
Select board member Warren Doty seconded the motion, and the vote was taken.
In other business, the board discussed utility poles on Middle Road. Malkin said the town has learned that several people are concerned about survey stakes positioned along Middle Road for utility pole siting. Chilmark town administrator Tim Carroll said while a lot of poles have been replaced on Middle Road, the stakes represent placement of additional poles needed to carry new higher-voltage lines. Malkin said he spoke with Eversource engineers earlier in the day, and said the pole work isn’t expected until late this year or early next year. He also said that work can’t happen until the town holds a hearing and the select board authorizes a permit, and no request for a permit has been filled yet.
At least one town has some common sense
Wow a town with common sense
Separate church and state but not sex and state for other towns..Interesting
You were right weeks ago Don when you said, keep it simple. I agreed with you then and now. Government flag pole, government flags; period. There are plenty of other places to put special interest flag. Trying to please everyone always leads to hard feelings and new problems.
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