Oak Bluffs pushing new flag policy

Updated policy requires elected officials to use their discretion in deciding which flags get to fly.


The Oak Bluffs Select Board approved some modifications to the town’s flag policy Tuesday evening, after years of lengthy talks and public hearings regarding if, and how, non-federally-recognized flags ought to be displayed on town property.

The changes come largely in response to the overwhelming demand from the public to raise the LGBTQ Progress Pride flag and the Juneteenth flag on a town flagpole, in honor of Pride Month and Juneteenth.

The amended policy will allow Oak Bluffs to utilize a flagpole solely for ceremonial flags for up to 14 days at a time.

This is in addition to the town’s official flagpole that will remain strictly for the U.S., Massachusetts, Oak Bluffs, and official military and POW-MIA flags.

Attorney Michael Goldsmith, serving as town council Tuesday, reiterated previous sentiments of attorney Ron Rappaport last year, which emphasized the legality of a municipality flying flags as a form of government speech. 

Because which flags to fly, and for how long, will be at the discretion of the select board, Goldsmith said the town wouldn’t be speaking on behalf of any particular group, but rather as the town itself.

The board will not be considering applications requesting any specific flag be displayed, although ideas of which flags to raise may stem from the public. The board is tasked with discussing and making those decisions as a group on behalf of the town. 

This was cause for concern for select board member Jason Balboni, who noted that there’s a fine line between public input and a formal request.

He said he’d prefer if there was a clear “procedure” on how to decide what flags to fly. “I want to make sure that whatever we do is done properly,” he said.

Select board chair Emma Green-Beach, who’s been involved with drafting a more inclusive flag policy for the better part of a year, emphasized that the board is elected by the people of the town, and it behooves the select board to take into account the desires of its constituents. 

The five select board members “can’t always know all the things the community wants collectively,” she said. “We must also rely on the community telling us what they want, and how they want their representatives or government to represent them.” 

The board will welcome public opinions and ideas, select board member Gail Barmarkian said. But “it [will be] a discussion amongst ourselves; not necessarily representing the person that’s asking for it.” 

On moving forward, the board must do right by the people of the town,” Green-Beach said. “We will do our due diligence.” 


One major detail that hasn’t been hammered out yet is the location of the ceremonial flagpole; as of Tuesday, it’s uncertain whether the town will be designating an existing pole as the ceremonial one, or if, in the future, they’ll vote to erect an entirely new pole.

Because modifications were made to the flag policy on the floor Tuesday, the select board plans on presenting a final version at its next meeting. It also plans on discussing further details on the ceremonial flagpole and potential flag raising at a later date. 

The board voted unanimously to accept the policy, and per the motion, “establishes guidelines for the Town of Oak Bluffs, acting through its Select Board, for the display of governmental flags, including official flags of the U.S., Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the Town of Oak Bluffs and other flags, including ceremonial flags as amended.”

Also on Tuesday, the select board welcomed Cape and Islands district attorney Rob Galibois via Zoom, who provided some updates on initiatives supported by his office.

Galibois was sworn into office in January, after winning the seat in a landslide against Republican candidate Dan Higgins. Galibois is the first Democrat in the role since 1971.

During his Tuesday update, the DA said he’s successfully opened an independent office for the Cape and Islands attorney office, located on the second floor of the Edgartown Police Station. 

A year-round Vineyard resident has already been hired to work in that office, Galibois said, to “have a daily presence.”

Upon his inauguration, Galibois appointed Jessica Elumba to assistant district attorney, making her the first woman in the Cape and Islands office history to have the job.

Under Elumba’s leadership, the first ever unsolved-homicide unit was formed, Galibois said. Through that unit, “within the first two months, we brought charges against two individuals charged with murder in a case that dated back to 2011,” he said.

The DA’s office has also launched a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee headed by a member of the Falmouth Select Board. 

Galibois shared that he’d like Oak Bluffs officials to consider taking part in that committee. 

The office is in the process of establishing a mental health court session in Barnstable, which would be able to take over Edgartown cases.

The mental health court is “a speciality court where professionals in the field would come right into the courtroom and work with the defendant to identify the issue that the defendant is struggling with, and therefore, know what to treat,” Galibois said.

“By treating the issue that someone is struggling with, it increases the likelihood of reducing recidivism, therefore making us all safer.”

Preliminary discussions regarding a new “recovery court,” formerly known as drug court, are also underway, through a collaboration among the DA’s office, local judges, the chief probation officer, and the county sheriff’s department. 


  1. How about a circle of flags?
    Leave the American flag as is and display a smaller circle of flags around it…..NAACPMV, MIAPOW, etc.

  2. Why not put the pole at the transfer station? It’s an area seen by residents on a weekly basis and doesn’t shove political beliefs down the throats of our visitors. If the Select Board decides which flag to fly based upon their perception of the community’s values then why not fly it where most of the community will see it? Let’s keep our virtue signaling local.

    • The majority of our visitors want to see the flags you want displayed at our baby transfer station.
      The Island is not a destination for Conservatives.

      • I disagree, a lot of conservatives/normal people come here. It’s not all just virtue signalers

  3. Not everyone takes their trash to the transfer station. But, most people, do go downtown to shop and get their mail. Plus the majority of tourists coming off the boats, would see the flag where it is now. Don’t go moving flags.

  4. Excellent suggestion John.
    Also, Who and when and where did this “…overwhelming demand from the public …” take place? And how many constituents make up an “overwhelming demand”: 5, 10, 50, 100 out of a town of how many? This is how progressives write articles to make folks who don’t agree with the idea feel like they are the oddballs and minority thinkers. I don’t know anybody (I’m sure there are some) who want to raise these flags.

    • Come out and meet your neighbors who are part of or support the LGBTQ+ community at the fabulous Pride celebration on June 10! Join the Federal holiday Juneteenth celebrations on June 17 & 18, including a cultural festival at the Tabernacle, Taste of Juneteenth food festival at the PA Club and special events at the Union Chapel and the MV Museum. You’ll meet a lot of people who care deeply about history and identity – and it’s a lot of fun.

    • More like 65% of the people in town on a given day 55+% of voters. .
      No one I know well is apposed.
      Keep in mind that we had a lesbian Selectperson for several terms.

  5. So in order to be tolerant you need to fly a flag? Can’t you just be tolerant and call it good?

  6. Have a “design a flag” contest.
    Entries must celebrate the tolerance of all people/races/colors/sexual preferences and identities/religions. All on ONE flag.
    All-island votes for winning entry.
    Fly the flag year round. Winning designer gets a box of apple fritters from BDD.

  7. Mike Kelfer’s idea sounds like it would quell a lot of fighting and hurt feeling and not trigger offense on any side. People, even on this saintly island, are divided. All types of people live here. Albert Hess:”Keep in mind that we had a lesbian Selectperson”. And this is relevant why? I’m sure this person would rather be known by her character and service as Selectperson than her irrelevant (to the public) sexual preference. We are ALL humans first and hopefully our ideas and understanding grow and change as we expand our minds grow our hearts in love. I see the same people contributing here and they never soften or understand each other.

  8. We should fly thousands of flags in their glorious red, white and blue.
    Super Patriots prefer them with a trashy looking gold fringe.
    Like the gold plated crappers on their airplanes.

  9. “Gave proof through the night that the Flag was still there.” Lives fought for and died for. “And to the Republic for which it stands.” No fringe…but in tatters.
    Flags that are National, State, or Town are relevant to every citizen and should be flown
    prominently. They should not be political for any side. They are American…even in our current division. All other flags are a personal statement or belief and should be displayed on our homes or lawns. This allows a State or Town not to seem to allow or favor one group over another. That causes judgement and resentment. Arn’t we divided enough?

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