Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Council Delays Flag Decision

Delegates Milwaukee Arts Board to decide if new flag needed and how to proceed.

By - Jul 19th, 2018 03:40 pm
Peoples’ Flag of Milwaukee. Photo from

People’s Flag of Milwaukee. Photo from

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.

An amendment from Alderman Robert Bauman, which moves the issue to the Milwaukee Arts Board, was adopted by the council’s Steering and Rules Committee after an hour of debate.

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.

The Milwaukee Arts Board is required to report back their findings to the council by December 31st.

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.”

Milwaukee Flags (original on left)

The two versions of the current Milwaukee flag (original on left)

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.

Council members Bauman, Mark Borkowski, Donovan, Coggs, Nik Kovac and Russell W. Stamper, II voted to send the measure to the arts board, while Hamilton and Rainey objected.

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.

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.

More about the People's Flag of Milwaukee

Read more about People's Flag of Milwaukee here

4 thoughts on “City Hall: Council Delays Flag Decision”

  1. Joe says:

    These god damn people could screw up a box of macaroni and cheese: putting it together!

  2. Barbara Richards says:

    Yes, too bad. I very much like the new “People’s Flag” I did not stay up to date and send my Alderperson my opinion. I will do so.


    Hey everyone message the arts council tell them to move this project forward. Overall this is an effort of the people. If you have not been involved or contacted your common council representative do it. The comments that I am reading in this article on perceptions seem selfish and absurd. As a POC I have issues with the symbolic expletive of this flag, and I think that could change and I think that the People’s Initiative could do a better job campaigning in neighborhoods of color.

  4. DAG999 says:

    A bar code raised on a flagpole would look better than this thing does. About the only “statement” that this so called City Icon is symbolic of is the concept of blaaaaaaaa.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us