After initial controversy, flag policy now seems woven into Signal Hill’s fabric.
During its Jan. 26 meeting, the Signal Hill City Council approved five commemorative flags to fly on municipal flagpoles in 2021. The council will consider a resolution officially adopting that decision at its next meeting on Feb. 9.
The council had formally adopted Signal Hill’s commemorative flag policy in 2019, which the City implemented for the first time last year, flying flags other than for the city, state and country on municipal sites.
It had already displayed the rainbow-hued Pride flag in May and June 2019 to commemorate Harvey Milk Day and LGBTQ Pride Month. In October that year, the council agreed to expand its policy to include other commemorative flags.
The City displayed two such flags in 2020: the Pride flag and the purple, white and gold Women’s Suffrage flag to mark Aug. 18 as the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote.
Deputy City Manager Scott Charney said the council had also approved displaying a NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) flag last February for Black History Month but did not receive a flag in time. Represented groups must supply the City with flags to display, he said.
Cristina Bond, Signal Hill communications specialist, told the Signal Tribune that the City held a formal commemoration of the NAACP last year even though it could not fly a flag.
For 2021, the council again approved displaying the Pride and NAACP flags. However, it is unclear which NAACP flag will fly in February since there is more than one. Though the flag has been ordered, a sample image is not yet available, Charney said at the meeting, and confirmed it with the Signal Tribune on Jan. 27.
One artist’s update of an older NAACP flag displays the words, “A Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday.” That flag was displayed in New York in 2016, though it doesn’t appear to have been adopted by the organization.
The council also approved three other flags for 2021: a “Healthcare Heroes” flag for March, honoring pandemic victims and heroes; a flag commemorating Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day on April 17; and a flag commemorating World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.
Per the council’s October 2019 resolution, each flag will be flown for one month on three of the City’s five flagpole sites– at city hall, the library and police station.
Though the council agreed to this first round of 2021 flag-approval in a 4-0 vote, the policy has been controversial from the beginning. Vice Mayor Keir Jones – then a newly-elected council member – had initially brought up flying the Pride flag in April 2019.
The discussion was tabled and returned to in May, when the council agreed to fly it. In October 2019, the council decided to allow other interest groups to display flags, even though community members spoke out, and did so again in January 2020 – especially objecting to the Pride flag – when the council was considering which flags to fly.
See related stories: SH City Council approves commemorative-flag policy, despite opposing public comment
The Signal Tribune also published a letter from a Signal Hill resident last March questioning why special-interest group flags should fly on the same poles as those representing the city, state and country.
At Tuesday’s meeting, some of the five council members and one member of the public reaffirmed support for the City’s commemorative-flag display as a reflection of its diversity.
Charney read an email from Signal Hill resident Albert Chang that stated, “I believe the display of commemorative flags leads to an increase in civic pride while recognizing diversity in our community.”
Jones commented on each of the 2021 flags in terms of significance, especially those that honored the dead.
“Thank you, everyone, for your support in commemorating those [flags] and celebrating diversity and inclusion in our city, as well as remembering those who have left before us,” Jones said.
“It’s a good thing to actually show inclusion,” Mayor Edward Wilson said. “That’s what flags do.”
Councilmember Lori Woods, who had been vocal against the flag policy from the beginning – asserting that commemorative flags should be displayed separately and with educational information – did not comment and was not present during the vote.