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September 18, 2021

Hollister council has second thoughts about flag policy

Pride, Thin Blue Line flags approved at Sept. 7 meeting

The Hollister City Council is getting closer to scrapping its new flag pole display policy as frustration grows over the cumbersome and “complicated” process for approving each commemorative flag that flies over City Hall, according to city officials.

At the Sept. 7 council meeting, Vice Mayor Rolan Resendiz suggested the city adopt a flag policy similar to that of San Juan Bautista. That city’s policy allows any council member to request a commemorative flag, and requires a majority council vote for approval.

The discussion followed the council’s unanimous approval of raising the “Thin Blue Line” flag in support of law enforcement in October, and the LGBTQ+ Pride flag in June 2022.

Those flags were adopted under the current flag policy, which the council approved in May. The current policy allows residents to petition the city to fly a flag at City Hall, but now city officials and members of the public say that process is unnecessary and inefficient.

“I think it’s never been that big an issue (to fly a flag over City Hall) and if any council member wants to bring a flag to us they should be allowed to,” Resendiz said at the Sept. 7 meeting. “I think there was some good intention behind the flag policy but we’ve seen what that turned into.”

Other council members agreed that the new policy should be rescinded and replaced. City Clerk Christine Black said the council could consider taking such actions as soon as the Sept. 20 meeting.

Petitions for both the October Thin Blue Line flag and the June 2022 Pride flag were submitted at previous council meetings this summer. However, their respective approvals were tabled based on technicalities of the city’s current flag policy.

A group identified as “Concerned Citizens” submitted a request in August to fly the Thin Blue Line flag in October. At that time, Council member Tim Burns asked for more information on the significance of the timing for the flag, which the proponents requested as a sign of support for law enforcement authorities.  

The timing was no longer a major concern at the Sept. 7 meeting, where the council approved the flag as requested on a 4-0 vote.

Resendiz submitted a petition in August to fly the LGBTQ+ flag in June 2022, which is recognized worldwide as Pride Month. However, the application did not include a photo of the flag, as the policy requires.

Resendiz added a photo of the Pride flag to his request, which was also approved 4-0 at the Sept. 7 meeting.

Both applications—as well as at least one other pending flag request—required signatures from at least 100 Hollister residents. But now the council thinks that requirement should go by the wayside.

“(It’s) simply gotten more complicated than it needs to be, and it’s been divisive for our community instead of uniting our community,” Burns said at the Sept. 7 meeting.

He later added, “It’s probably an unnecessary waste of city and community resources to go chase down 100 signatures.”

Burns suggested that under a revised, streamlined policy, the flag pole outside City Hall could become a “community pole” that could even display more than one commemorative flag at a time.  

The council has delayed a decision on one other flag petition submitted under the new flag pole policy—the Christian flag requested by Council member Rick Perez in June. The council voted 3-1 June 21 to request legal advice from Attorney General Rob Bonta on flying a religious flag over City Hall before approving it.

The city is still waiting for a response from Bonta.

City officials confirmed Sept. 7 that the pending request to fly a Christian flag would still be considered under the current policy, even if the council votes to change it at the next meeting.

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