When: Aug 1 Lancaster City Council Committee meeting, held in council chambers and streamed online.
What happened: City in-house counsel Barry Handwerger introduced an ordinance allowing for consistency and clear rules when it comes to flying flags on city property. “He declares above all that the masts of the city are not places of public accommodation. They are facilitators of government speech. In other words, only flags approved by the city council, as the city’s legislative body, will be placed on city flagpoles,” he said.
why is it important: The order comes after the recent case Shurtleff v. Boston of the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the court ruled that the city of Boston violated a private organization’s First Amendment rights to free religious exercise by denying it temporary placement of a flag on a flagpole outside of Boston City Hall. The City of Lancaster currently does not have a written policy regarding flags on city property.
Details: If the ordinance is passed, all organizations or individuals supporting a cause who wish to have their flag on the city’s flagpoles must submit a request at least 120 days prior. All nominations will be voted on at City Council meetings. Only views supported by the council will be expressed on its masts. Each commemorative or organizational flag may not be flown more than once per year and will be displayed for a maximum of three business days.
Government speech: The ordinance states that the city’s flagpoles are not intended to serve as a forum for public free expression, but rather as a non-public forum expressing government discourse. The ordinance also states that she will comply with all federal and state regulations, such as how a flag must be properly flown.
Discussion: Council member Janet Diaz asked if Handwerger foresees issues such as litigation if the flags are denied. “I see the problems if we don’t pass the ordinance, and I don’t see the problems if we do,” he said. Handwerger pointed out that if a specific flag is rejected without this order, the administration or city council would be subject, under federal law as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court, to a violation of the Constitution for do not allow this flag to fly. . The council voted unanimously to put the ordinance on the agenda for its next voting meeting on August 9. Bill 15-2022 can be viewed on the city’s website.
Other news: The Department of Public Works made a presentation on proposed updates to the city’s stormwater management ordinance. The current ordinance was last amended over seven years ago. Proposed updates generally fall into three categories: new references and requirements, clarifications and streamlining, and updates related to climate change.