Who Wants to Design A New City Flag?
Common Council starting process intended to end flag debate.
The debate over a new Milwaukee flag might have an end date.
A file pending before the Common Council specifies that a new flag design should be presented to the Common Council for adoption on or before May 31st, 2020.
The resolution would set in motion a process that the Common Council and Milwaukee Arts Board already indicated they support – hiring an individual, group or firm to design a new city flag.
Sponsored by council members Mark Borkowski, Nik Kovac and Khalif Rainey, the file instructs City Clerk Jim Owczarski to prepare a request for proposals and request for qualifications for the outreach and design necessary to create a new city flag.
The flag debate, or at least this round of it, was spurred by an unofficial process to design a new flag led by graphic designer Steve Kodis in 2016. After a series of events, including one held at City Hall with Mayor Tom Barrett and Council President Ashanti Hamilton, and an online vote, designer Robert Lenz‘s “Sunrise over the Lake” design was selected.
The current flag, which has been derided as the worst city flag in America, was created by then-Alderman Fred Steffan in 1955 by merging elements from a variety of design contest entries into a single flag. The Milwaukee Arts Board recently voted to recommend the city adopt a new flag, in part because of the depiction of a Native American head in war dress on the current flag. The warrior is believed to be a representation of the then-Milwaukee Braves professional baseball team.
But while the Milwaukee Arts Board endorsed the idea of a new flag, it did not endorse the People’s Flag because of concerns over inclusivity in the selection process. Concerns were raised over the lack of Spanish language outreach and an online-only voting platform. Kovac called them more sins of “omission than commission.” The Common Council received the recommendations of the board in February, but did not act on them at the time.
Rainey wasn’t pleased with the council’s lack of action. “I think this is one of several instances where the city is out of sync with what the people want,” said Rainey in advocacy of the People’s Flag. And it appears we will now get a chance to find out if that’s correct.
Will a new designer advance Lenz’s design as the new city flag? Will Kodis or Lenz bid to run the process? Or will a new designer start over from scratch? “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 Steering and Rules Committee will debate the resolution at its Thursday meeting. It would then go to the full Common Council for approval. The council, which meets in three-week cycles, would then approve the actual RFQ/RFP. The council would then need to actually hire the winning bidder and appropriate funds for the matter. And if all goes as planned, the council would ultimately need to vote to approve the new flag. The mayor could veto any step in the process, delaying or killing the effort.
If you’re a long-time Milwaukeean this all might sound familiar. In 2001 the Milwaukee Arts Board and Common Council held a contest that drew 105 designs, but none were met with approval.
Urban Milwaukee’s sister business, Urban Milwaukee: The Store, sells merchandise bearing both the current flag and People’s Flag.
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More about the People's Flag of Milwaukee
- City Hall: Who Wants to Design A New City Flag? - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 23rd, 2019
- City Hall: Council Will Now Make Flag Decision - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 14th, 2019
- In Public: Does “People’s Flag” Need New Colors? - Tom Bamberger - Nov 19th, 2018
- City Hall: Arts Board Wants New City Flag Search - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 14th, 2018
- City Hall: How Long Will Flag Debate Last? - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 11th, 2018
- City Hall: Will City Adopt a New Flag? - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 2nd, 2018
- City Hall: Council Delays Flag Decision - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 19th, 2018
- City Hall: All Hail The “People’s Flag” - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 19th, 2018
- City Hall: Will People’s Flag Become Official Milwaukee Flag? - Jeramey Jannene - May 31st, 2018
- All Hail Milwaukee’s New City Flag - Laura Thompson - Jun 15th, 2016
- The Worst City Flag in America? - Michael Holloway - Oct 28th, 2015