Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Council Will Now Make Flag Decision

Will city ever have new flag? Council punted issue to arts board and board punted it back.

By - Feb 14th, 2019 04:20 pm
People's Flag of Milwaukee. Photo from

People’s Flag of Milwaukee. Photo from

Advocates of a new Milwaukee flag will have to wait. The Common Council’s Steering & Rules Committee accepted a report from the Milwaukee Arts Board Thursday afternoon, but not did act on it.

The board report recommends the city adopt a new flag, but instead of immediately adopting the People’s Flag of Milwaukee, suggests issuing a request for proposals to administer a new flag process.

The committee spent less than a half hour discussing the report before council president Ashanti Hamilton formed an informal committee to decide how to proceed.

Alderman Mark Borkowski found himself on Hamilton’s four-person committee after advocating for a timeline be put on any action. “Even if it’s a year and a half from now, people will want to have some closure,” said the alderman. Borkowski created the requirement that the arts board complete its recommendations by the end of 2018.

Joining Borkowski will be council members Nik Kovac and Khalif Rainey as well as City Clerk Jim Owczarski. The arts board recommended the clerk’s office oversee the issuance of the RFP.

Kovac, who also sits on the arts board, said the board found many positives with the People’s Flag process. “Where there were sins they were more of omission than commission,” said the alderman. Still the board recommended a consultant administer a more inclusive process. “If you’re going to glibly summarize it, the council punted to the arts board and the arts board punted it back,” said Kovac

“I think this is one of several instances where the city is out of sync with what the people want,” said Rainey of the People’s Flag. He asked Hamilton if he could move today to have the flag formally adopted, but Hamilton cautioned that public notice requirements would negate any vote.

Milwaukee Flags (original on left)

Milwaukee Flags (original on left)

The current flag, which has been derided as the worst city flag in America, was created by then-Alderman Fred Steffan in 1954 by merging elements from a variety of design contest entries into a single flag.

The People’s Flag process, created by designer Steve Kodis, wasn’t formally adopted from the city at the outset, although both Council President Ashanti Hamilton and Mayor Tom Barrett attended and spoke at an event recognizing the finalists.

The winning flag from a new process could still wind up being Robert Lenz’s Sunrise over the Lake design that won the 2016 People’s Flag contest. “I think it’s important that we’re not excluding this flag. That could be the next flag for our city,” said Alderman and arts board member Michael Murphy in November.

The informal committee will meet to determine what comes next. Does the city issue an RFP? Does the council adopt the People’s Flag? Does it do nothing?

Whatever it decides, any further action will require a vote of the Common Council.

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More about the People's Flag of Milwaukee

Read more about People's Flag of Milwaukee here

6 thoughts on “City Hall: Council Will Now Make Flag Decision”

  1. kmurphy724 says:

    I and many others have been proudly flying Robert Lenz’s Sunrise over the Lake flag for many months. It’s called the “People’s flag” for a reason – grass roots effort and endorsement. Glad for the Council’s interest, but I think their lack of involvement did and will produce a better outcome. Just look at the last flag the Council came out with in 1954!

  2. Thomas Martinsen says:

    The old flag was too busy. The new flag is too bland. Could somebody add a new thing or 2 to the new flag to make it a true new flag?

  3. Thomas Martinsen says:

    How about a shadow of the CALATRAVA ART MUSEUM in the background?

  4. kmurphy724 says:

    Uhg, “add a thing or 2” is not great design advice. Just saying.

  5. Thomas Martinsen says:

    “Just saying” says nothing. It is a dismissive cliche. The suggestion of addition is potentially useful when something is missing. In this case, there appears to me to be nothing distinctly or uniquely Milwaukee in the new flag design, “Back to the drawing board.”

  6. kmurphy724 says:

    Perhaps people don’t know the distinctly Milwaukee design of the People’s flag: The gold color of the top fess symbolizes Milwaukee’s rich brewing history. The centered disc represents the sun rising over the horizon of Lake Michigan, as seen while looking East from the shore of the city. The three stripes represent the founders of Milwaukee and its three original settlements: Kilbourn Town, Juneau Town and Walker’s Point. Their light blue color symbolizes our three rivers: Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic. The navy color of the bottom fess symbolizes Lake Michigan and our status as a port city and hub for water technology.

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