OPINION: Southington flag ordinance needs some work



An ordinance about what type of flags can and can’t be flown on town property in Southington was supposed to make things straightforward but instead is making things more complicated.

Take, for example, the upcoming Italian-American Festival. Italian flags have flown on lampposts as part of the celebration, but that is not going to happen any longer. So they were up, along Center Street, and then they were down, as the R-J reported. Down because of the ordinance passed in April.

The Italian-American Festival is as closely associated with Southington as any celebration I can think of, a special event on par with the Apple Harvest Festival. Sponsored by Unico, Sons of Italy and Sorelle d’Italia, the festival is set for July 29 to 31.

Is it a big deal that there won’t be Italian flags the way there used to be? Probably not, as far as enjoying the festival is concerned. Local businesses are being asked the show the flags because the town-owned lampposts cannot, so it’s possible people won’t even notice. But this whole thing about flags shows how things can spiral away from the best intentions.

The majority Republicans on the Town Council passed the ordinance. The complaint was that flag discussions were taking too much time and distracting from more urgent council business. There was also criticism after the town allowed a Pride flag to fly on town property in coordination with a celebration a year ago, and earlier this year there was a proposal to fly the Ukrainian flag. There have been other flag proposals as well.

It seemed like a simple enough solution: Just limit flags to those that represent government and the military.

But things spiral. During deliberations a month ago, Democratic Councilor Chris Palmieri noted that the restrictions now keep the town from showing support for the Apple Harvest Festival, so a policy was proposed and approved to fly banners. Banners also allow the town to show support for Southington sports. As the R-J’s Jesse Buchanan reported, the town can show support for the Apple Harvest Festival with a banner, but can’t do the same for the Italian-American Festival because it’s not town-sponsored.

So you can see that if the aim was simplifying we’re not getting there yet. And you have to wonder, how many more modifications are going to be needed? And, how many modifications will it take to add up to what Democrats wanted in the first place, which was to come up with a process of determining what flags are appropriate to fly on town property?

You can also look at it this way: Did the Town Council really intend to end tradition, which is what the ordinance does to the tradition of flying flags at the Italian-American Festival?

“If they thought about it a little more, they might have been able to figure a solution concerning national flags,” offered David Zoni, Unico’s representative on the festival committee.

At this point it’s hard not to agree with Tony D’Angelo, an ordinance committee member who called the ordinance “unwelcoming.”

Is all of this really worth it to end the council’s burden of dealing with flag proposals? Are there really that many of them? And, if the aim was to limit distraction, the ordinance is not working. Months later, we’re still talking about flags and have added banners to the mix.

Maybe it’s time to rethink this.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at jkurz@record-journal.com.

 



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