A policy to regulate the flying of flags on Waunakee government property is in the works.
At their June 21 meeting, village staff presented a policy as the village board requested, and with direction from the board members, will revise the document for the board’s approval.
The policy was prompted by the board’s recent decision to fly the Pride Flag, with some trustees fearing that the action would set a precedence.
The Display of Flags and Street Lighting Policy specifies village facilities where flag laws require the village to display the U.S. Flag or the State Flag and distinguishes between those and commemorative flags – flags other than the U.S., state, village, POW/MIA and others flags such as the Rotary International flag and the Fire Department flag.
It defines acceptable commemorative flags as those previously approved for display and displayed at the United States Capitol or the Wisconsin State Capitol.
It also authorizes the flagpoles in front of the village hall, library and Village Center as the only facilities where commemorative flags can be flown and allows for no more than one commemorative flag to be displayed at each.
Attorney Bryan Kleinmaier told the board that he and Village Administrator Todd Schmidt found just a few municipal policies throughout the country to model the document after.
“Some overriding principals as you look at this [are], we wanted to maintain as much past practice as possible,” Kleinmaier said.
The policy also differentiates between the flags and street lighting to incorporate the village’s past practices, he added.
“One of the things to take into consideration as we have the pride flag flying and as we adopt this policy, whether it’s tonight or any other night, is this is governmental property. The decision to allow a flag other than the ones we already have can get into some constitutional issues,” Kleinmaier said.
Limiting flags approved for display at the U.S. or state capitols provides an objective basis for deciding to fly a flag, Kleinmaier said. It also clarifies the types of commemorative flags to be considered for village facilities.
Trustee Erin Moran asked if the policy should limit the timeline during which flags were flown at state and national capitol buildings, a suggestion Kleinmaier said would be reasonable. Trustee Bill Ranum said he would prefer a floating date, allowing flags on village property only if they had been flown at the U.S. and state capitols with the past 5 years.
Kleinmaier said staff could also add a provision stating that the village will not bear the cost of commemorative flags or lighting.
Another section of the policy allows a village trustee or president to ask the board for a commemorative flag display, not an administrator. Kleinmaier said that was intended to limit the number of requests.
“If a resident wants a flag to be flown, all they have to do is ask a board member and ask the board member to make introduction,” Kleinmaier said. “It’s some way of a limitation to not have staff get bombarded with email requests… to have certain things flown.”
Schmidt, who serves as president of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, said he has talked with other city managers where commemorative flags have been flown.
“While you might speculate that it could open up the floodgates, so to speak, none of the communities have said they’ve had a mad rush for flag raises,” Schmidt added.
Moran also asked how the village board should prioritize multiple requests to fly commemorative flags.
Kleinmaier said language could be added stating that it will consider flag requests on a case-by-case basis.
President Chris Zellner thanked the board for drafting the policy quickly.
“Twelve other cities tell us they’re eager to see our policy because they need one, too,” Schmidt said.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the board:
-listened to three Waunakee students perform as part of Make Music Day Waunakee. The international celebration of music occurs annually June 21.
-approved the division of Lot 9 in the Waunakee Business Park into two separate lots.
-heard an update on staff’s request for information technology services, including cybersecurity, for the village.