Tuesday, May 5, 2020

5.5.20 Meeting Summary

Tonight the Council met via Zoom and took a few actions:

  • Extended the local declaration of emergency indefinitely due to COVID-19.  This may allow us in the future to apply and receive certain types of emergency funding.
  • Issued a proclamation declaring June to be LGBTQ Pride Month
  • Directed staff to fly the Rainbow Flag at three locations: City Hall, the Grove Park, and in front of the Library during the month of June
Prior to this meeting, I heard from quite a few people who were opposed to flying the Rainbow Flag.  Many of the people I spoke with have been supporters, and they wanted to let me know their view and they disagreed with me.  I respect that.  I think it is a reasonable position to take to say that the city should not engage in speech such as this, and that only the U.S. and CA flags should be flown by the city.  

Many of the points raised in opposition were along the lines of singling out representation of one group, and how that we should not be doing that.  I also understand this view.

If we are to be inclusive, I am totally supportive of that.  If flying the Rainbow Flag helps folks in some way that is meaningful to them, then that is great.   I know there are other matters that our residents would like to raise awareness for and I'd be supportive of a great many of those items as well.   Councilmember Diaz raised one he'd be interested in towards the latter part of the year.  

Choosing to raise a flag is what is considered government speech.  The government enjoys first amendment rights to speak as they so choose, and by collective action the Council can do so.  

If on the other hand we allowed a public process to control which flags or what types of speech were to be allowed, then other rules would apply as it would be considered a type of public forum.  If that were so, then we could not restrict flags based on content and objectionable flags may go through the process and we wouldn't have a good way to deny them.  This is why we cannot open this process to a public vote.  Of course, any Councilmember can request any flag, and the question can be posed to the full council.

In that spirit, if there are other matters that the community finds important and wishes to raise awareness for, I'd be glad to advance those ideas at a future session. Before calling for the raising of a flag, my personal criteria would be that I not find it objectionable (flags of other governments perhaps, confederate flag, etc.), and that there be zero monetary cost to the city (flag would have to be donated), and some baseline level of support.

Inclusivity is not just about one particular matter and we can demonstrate that by flying other flags as well, based on the desires of our community. If there is a lot of interest, I can start a poll. Let me know what you think or reach out with ideas.