Council Delays Flag Decision
Delegates Milwaukee Arts Board to decide if new flag needed and how to proceed.
The Milwaukee Common Council has delayed a decision on adopting a new flag. The unofficial “People’s Flag” will have to wait until at least 2019 if its to be adopted as the official flag.
The measure instructs the board, made up of part-time members appointed by Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton, to answer three questions. One: is a new flag warranted? Two: what should that new flag be? And finally: what is the likely cost of installing a new flag?
“For all I know they will come up with the same design,” said Bauman. He cited the potential cost concerns involved in not just buying flags, but updating the design that appears on the side of every city-owned vehicle and many city buildings.
But should the same flag come back, Bauman indicated he’s still not likely to be pleased. “It should be unanimous or we should be punting,” said the alderman.
Multiple council members raised the issue that they didn’t believe the design contest that selected the “Sunrise over the Lake” flag in 2016 was inclusive of the whole city, and they had not received substantial support for its adoption.
“Some are outright offended by the design,” said Bauman of communication with African American constituents in his district.
Ald. Khalif Rainey, an African American and sponsor of adopting the new flag, rejected that notion. “Right now we have an exploitive Native American,” said Rainey of the Milwaukee Braves logo on the current flag.
Graphic designer Steve Kodis, who created the contest, challenged that assertion. Kodis said that the contest drew 1,006 entries from across the world, ten times the number of the 1954 contest that created Milwaukee’s current flag.
But how many people submitted flags? Winning designer Robert Lenz told the committee he submitted five different versions of the same flag with different color palettes. Another submitting designer in the meeting was revealed to be Ald. Robert Donovan.
Donovan praised the adoption of the new flag: “My hats off to you, you have galvanized parts of this community in a way that I haven’t seen in a long time. I applaud that.”
Kodis gave a brief presentation that outlined five principles of good flag design. Those principles include a design that is simple, uses meaningful symbolism, includes only two or three basic colors, has no letter or seals and is distinctive or related to another flag. Praising Lenz’s flag, Kodis said “the reason why it won is that the narrative is very clear. It is the sun rising over the lake.”
Ald. Milele A. Coggs raised concern with Reno, Nevada’s recently adopted flag and how it resembles Milwaukee’s flag. Kodis quickly responded: “Their flag just came out, so they copied us. That’s very flattering.” But both Coggs and Bauman said the people wouldn’t understand that and said it was a reason they would have trouble adopting the new flag.
Describing what happened to a suddenly quiet audience, Hamilton said “It’s not a no, it’s a pause.”
For background on how a council member created the current city flag in 1955 and what people see as wrong with it, see our earlier coverage.
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