Let public speak about new flag

Let public speak about new flag

August 27th, 2012 in Opinion Times

It's likely that a significant number of Chattanoogans were surprised to learn last week that the city of Chattanooga has an official flag. And many who did know of its existence probably would be hard-pressed to accurately describe it. Mayor Ron Littlefield's desire to replace the current flag with a new design should bring heightened public awareness of one of the city's symbols. The haste with which the mayor would like to make the transition from old to new, however, is a bit unseemly.

The mayor wants the new flag -- two green stripes (representing the mountains) with a blue stripe (representing the Tennessee River) in the middle and the city seal in the center -- to be approved as quickly as possible. There's no need for hurry, though. Debate on such matters is always in order.

The mayor doesn't think so. He's demanding swift approval because he doesn't want a new flag to become a focus of debate. "The more you talk about it, the more divisive and controversial it becomes," the mayor says. That might be true, but if controversy arises about the flag, the issue requires a well-publicized public airing.

The proposed new flag is more distinctive and colorful than the current banner. The latter mimics the familiar red, white and blue Tennessee state flag, though it has dogwood petals surrounding a single star rather than the familiar three stars at its center. Those who prefer the old to the new or wonder what all the fuss is about, though, should be heard.

At least two City Council members agree. Andrae McGary wants public input. Deborah Scott says school children should have a role in the flag debate, perhaps by allowing them to vote on which they like best. Some sort of public participation does seem a reasonable alternative to Littlefield's demand for quick action. The council should allow for that within a reasonable timeframe. If there is a desire for such discussion, the council should honor rather than ignore it. This topic likely won't arise again for a while. If the city flag is to be redesigned, it would be good to give the idea a public hearing.