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The Manassas City Council has rejected a proposal that would have allowed American flags to be flown from city-owned utility poles in residential neighborhoods, rebuffing an effort from community members on Clover Hill Road who began a flag-flying project last year.

During their annual retreat last week, a majority of councilmembers cited various concerns about neighborly unease and staff time in tabling any action that would expand the city’s Old Town flag program to more residential areas.

City staff had laid out a few ways the potential program could work. Councilmember Mark Wolfe said the most likely proposal would have been similar to the way in which residential parking zones work. If 60% of residents on a street signed a petition requesting participation in a flag system, the city would have installed flags on public utility poles, at a cost to the residents.

Only American flags could have been flown, under the draft proposal, with the city determining the appropriate size limits.

According to the city staff proposal, the cost of purchasing and installing flags in Old Town was about $60 per flag, with the city replacing between three and five a month due to wear and tear from the weather.

The issue was brought to the fore after Clover Hill Road resident Greg Neiss started flying American flags on public light poles after the start of the pandemic last year. He said that after he’d hung about five, neighbors caught on and asked him to install more, making donations to cover his costs.

All told, Neiss put up 15, reaching Wellington Road. And at a town hall event last fall at the Manassas Regional Airport, a number of city residents spoke in favor of a city project that would line residential streets with flags following what they saw from Neiss.

Neiss, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said he took pride in the city when he drove down Main Street in Old Town with its flags flying.

“I had always thought how nice it would be to have the flags waving on my section of the road,” Neiss said. “Shortly after the coronavirus hit us, I thought this was the time to fulfill my dream, so I began hanging them one or two at a time.”

But Wolfe said any program in which a majority of residents on a street had to sign off could make for an uncomfortable political situation.

“Everyone has the right to put a flag on their own property. But getting into making political statements using public property, I think I’ve proven I’m as patriotic as the next person, but I don’t like … the idea of forcing that on people, in essence,” Wolfe said. “I was very uncomfortable with a situation where if you had 40% of the people who didn’t want this, you would sort of be forcing it on them.”

Councilmember Theresa Coates Ellis, the council’s lone Republican, spoke favorably about a flag program last year. She couldn’t be reached to speak about the matter, and Mayor MIchelle Davis-Younger – a Democrat who beat Coates Ellis in the race for the mayor’s office last fall – declined to comment on the matter to InsideNoVa.

Former Republican Councilperson Ian Lovejoy, in a Facebook post about the matter, said the council was being too risk-averse.

“The Manassas I know isn’t going to turn into a war zone because of some flags. Our residents are better than that, and we should show them the respect of trusting them to make this decision,” Lovejoy wrote. “Public support for flag installation has spanned race, culture, language and neighborhood and has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at jforetek@insidenova.com

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Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at jforetek@insidenova.com

(23) comments

Jack Print

How very sad that the American flag is "just a piece of cloth" or is considered to be divisive. People who cannot even agree on flying the flag cannot possibly succeed for the long term. Unity is essential for a country's success.

The cost objection sounds like little more than an excuse. Large flags are available for far less than the $60 quoted, and the replacement of several per month due to weather is absurd. No replacement at all should be needed for the first few years. It's easy to find an excuse for denigrating the country if your already inclined to feel that way.

This is America. Anyone within our borders is either an American or chose to make America their home. Consequently, the American flag should not offend anyone within our borders. The French don't hesitate to fly the French flag in France. The Greek don't mind flying the Greek flag in Greece. Only in America is flying the American flag considered un-American.

John Dutko

Not to be off-topic, but did you know that the Trump administration severely cut the access to healthcare and dental for the military and Veterans? With the reasoning that the private insurance companies can pick up the slack.

That really has nothing to do with the flag at all. But it does address ACTUAL problems, unlike feel-good virtue signaling and humblebragging.

firestorm7

Perhaps American flags are now seem by some as weapons. On Jan. 6 I saw flags and their staffs being used to attack the police.

Just something to think about. Suddenly Old Glory isn't so benevolent.

Stephanie Richardson

You have to be kidding! If a person uses a pencil, a tire iron, or ANYTHING as a weapon....stop the foolishness. If some idiot does something stupid, we do not cave to this type of thought. As Americans and we honor the flag.

Citizen52

Oh, those horrible flags, attacking people, again.

Citizen52

What kind of twisted mentality says that the flag is just a piece of cloth? What kind of twisted mentality says that the flag is a political statement? Did my relatives die for the idea of the United States for just a piece of cloth? No. The flag is a representative of the ideals of the USA, a place that has opened its doors to more immigrants from all over the world than any other country. Why do we come here? It’s for the ideals it represents. We are far from perfect. We know that, but we keep working to improve. The flag should be welcomed.

John Dutko

Yes, it is a piece of cloth. All flags are.

Now I know this fact does not sit well with people, as they tend to get all "rah-rah" with fake patriotic fanfare. Like, putting a frickin yellow ribbon on their car or "liking" a Facebook post makes them more morally superior and self-righteous than any other American.

Here is what is going to happen:

Pearl-clutching, fair-weather patriots will make a stink about this. And then they will forget about it. That's it.

These stupid "culture war" stories are meant to get people riled up to sell papers/get clicks.

It could read "Vietnam Vet Hangs Flags on Public Property Without the Permission of the City; Expects Others to Pick up the Tab"

Hawkeye10

Bingo. I need not add more.

[cool]

FixPrinceWilliam

[thumbup]

Manassas703

Councilman Wolfe (this is councilman wolfe correct?) Perhaps you could spend your time working with staff and the public to coordinate a program everyone can buy in to and be proud of- rather than spending your time leaving ra ra comments on local media?

Citizen52

...And yet you’re here. Ask the people of any country, not just the USA. Their national flag is the representational symbol of their country, not just a piece of cloth or a political statement. It’s not rah-rah faux patriotism for many. We don’t need to have the flag on every lamp post or on every corner, but we need to respect what it stands for, the best Constitution of an imperfect country that weeps trying to improve. In my case, half my family fought for its ideals and half my family was welcomed by this nation when they’d been persecuted overseas. So, yeah, I’ll defend what it stands for.

Hawkeye10

I'll let Iwouldntgiveabean speak for himself, but as much as I'm aware, he also has fought, quite literally, as well.

[thumbup]

He is 1000% correct with this:

"Pearl-clutching, fair-weather patriots will make a stink about this. And then they will forget about it. That's it. "These stupid "culture war" stories are meant to get people riled up to sell papers/get clicks. It could read "Vietnam Vet Hangs Flags on Public Property Without the Permission of the City; Expects Others to Pick up the Tab"

And even more so, it IS a public versus. private property battle.

The flag stuff, no matter what it represents, gets way over-hyped at the end of the day.

My personal favorite flag is the one that reads: Well, I think you already know the answer...

[innocent]

Hawkeye10

You can respect the Flag by displaying it on your own watch and dollar and not commercializing the thing which is Extremely common while simultaneously showing actual disrespect to the Flag. The Flag is supposed to represent "A more perfect union." It also represents commercialization. How someones pride is or is not affected by the flag is subjective, and irrelevant.

John Dutko

CoolCoolCoolCoolCoolCool

People get confused when they talk about patriotism and ideals and "what it means to be American" and all the platitudes that go along with the Americana mythos.

America is a nation of laws, not a nation of flags.

Simple-minded people attach themselves to simple things and get easily distracted from actual issues.

The Constitution is not a sacred text and the Founding Fathers are not deities; but you wouldn't know that by the way people revere on them.

Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparklemotion.

RobS

The flag is a "political statement"? How far we've come.

I'd be curious to know if 30% oppose? Still no?

If 20% oppose?

If one person is opposed but the other 49 people on the street welcome the idea?

John Dutko

This is not about the right to display a flag. This is about private vs public property and who should pay for such a display.

I am sure that the residents will have no problem paying a little extra tax for the flags to be displayed. $60 per flag X 15 (assuming you would want to replace the flags that he put up)= $900. Then you would have to replace that (according to the article) roughly 3 times a month. So now we are looking at $32,400 for flag maintenance and upkeep a year.

For a piece of cloth that is hanging on a lightpole.

There is too much faux-patriotism and virtue signaling. And it usually comes from the same people who think Born in the U.S.A. is a feel-good, patriotic song.

Hawkeye10

Can't really argue with all of this...

Manassas703

Councilaman Wolfe (this is councilman wolfe correct?) It's disappointing to see a public figure add his thumbs up to a post that he must know is filled with miss-information. Namely the program calls for 3-4 flags to be replaced A MONTH not every month. Thus the cost figures listed are utterly wrong. Also they are failing to mention volunteer citizens would pay for the moderate cost- not the tax payers. Why are you hitching your name to willful ignorance?

Hawkeye10

Thats one Hell of an assumption, why dont you ask him yourself....

[offtopic]

John Dutko

Oh geez... ya caught me. *Pulls off Scooby Doo villain mask*

If it wasn't for you meddling kids, I would have fully deterred everyone from supporting a wasteful display of hubris.

What is really going to be funny is when the city workers have to put up/replace the flags and it causes a minor traffic inconvenience and everyone will mutter under their breath how it is a waste of money and resources.

Devil's advocate: Flags go up. Everything is hunky-dory.

What is stopping someone from putting up their (whatever it may be) flag on public property? And can the subsequent legal battle cause more headaches?

Look, if y'all want to display the flag and fly it proudly on your property, great! In front of your store? Fantastic! Doing it without the express consent of the city on their property...Nope.

Honestly, I take more offense to the numbskulls who affix the US flag to the back of their truck. You KNOW they dont take care of that flag and give it the proper deference it deserves. But you know what? It is their property and their prerogative to sully the flag with traffic exhaust and dirt and grime.

Hawkeye10

I couldn't agree more....Im not sure why everyone is up-in-arms against this viewpoint. Makes perfect and total sense to me.

Stephanie Richardson

How thoughtless.

Brad London

The flag should fly everyone. People should be proud to be in the US.

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