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Who decides if American flags should fly in downtown?

Ruth Verhegge, a Jonesborough resident and chairman of the town’s Flag Committee, carried a hefty pile of papers to the podium during last week’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting as she prepared to address town leaders.
On those papers, she said, were more than 850 signatures of people asking that American flags continue to fly all the time on lamp posts in downtown Jonesborough.
Signatures on the petition were garnered following debate over whether the American flags should fly on lamp posts year-round.
During town committee meetings, some argued the flags should be up only during certain times of the year, leaving the lamp posts to be utilized other times for banners promoting special events coming up in the town.
An option to do just that was written into the recently created wayfinding signage plan, which addresses all sorts of signs in downtown.
That comprehensive plan came before the BMA shortly after Verhegge’s comments on Aug. 13.
“I commend the board for the support you have provided us,” Verhegge said, speaking on behalf of the entire Flag Committee. “I ask when this measure comes up that you assure the removal of flags to fly banners in place of them is removed from the plan.”
While the issue of whether or not flags should fly 24/7 in Tennessee’s oldest town wasn’t debated, a decision appears to have been made as to who gets to have a say in the matter.
“We have a Flag Committee and this Flag Committee is charged with something just like our Historic Zoning Commission, just like our Tree and Townscape Board,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said, addressing his comments to John Browning, a member of the Tree and Townscape Board signage subcommittee that created the plan. “I don’t want anything in this report to be construed as infringing upon the mandate of our Flag Committee. I would prefer it be left to the purview of the Flag Committee.”
At a previous meeting, Browning expressed his opinion that flying the flags all the time is disrespectful, but noted the signage plan merely incorporated several options for how the town could showcase special event banners.
One of those options, of course, was to use them instead of the American flags from time to time.
Last year, the BMA voted to keep American flags flying in downtown despite a suggestion from a firm to remove them.
“At the Tree and Townscape Board, we have nothing to do with the flags,” Browning said. “Although I have an opinion, you all have made the decision on the flags.”
Wolfe also asked for the removal of language related to a town logo.
The signage plan indicates the town logo, whatever it may be, will be used on signs in downtown. It makes recommendations as to how that logo should look in order to be incorporated into the signs, suggesting it not include words.
“Again, whether or not the logo has wording or pictures or both is the purview of the Logo Committee,” Wolfe said. “This plan is a great foundation for what we’re doing. But I don’t want us to inadvertently set ourselves up for implementing something we don’t intend to have. We want to make sure our lines are clear.”
The BMA unanimously approved the signage plan without the portions of the plan regarding the American flags and the look of the town logo.
Wolfe did note that the decision on whether the flags should stay on lamp posts could still be up for discussion.