MANCHESTER, NH – An initiative to consider adopting a city flag will go before voters in November. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Tuesday voted unanimously on the measure, which would include images of the flags on the election ballot, allowing voters to choose their favorite.
Last week word was circulating that Mayor Ted Gatsas may veto the resolution if passed by the board. Early this week a mailer sent out by Gatsas’ reelection campaign included a question for residents about whether the current flag – the city seal on a white background – should remain as a symbol of the city, or if survey takers favor adopted a new flag, signaling to some that the city flag may become a campaign issue.
Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long has helped shepherd the initiative along after he was approached by city resident Adam Hlasny about the feasibility of having a city-wide competition.
During the discussion Tuesday, Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur asked whether the city seal flag would be included on the ballot along with the three other designs. Long answered that he’s asked that the city seal get top billing.
“And will it be listed as current flag, because you’d be surprised at how many people don’t even know?” Levasseur asked.
Well, that’s the point of getting a new flag,” Long said, evoking some laughter from the crowd.
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Prior to the meeting, several members of the Manchester Waves Flag Committee spoke during public comment, to relay the success of the competition and affirm the importance of community engagement.
Long said he requested that the current flag be the first choice on the ballot, along with the three designs selected by the Manchester Waves Flag Committee.
Levasseur said it was a “fun” exercise for all involved, but reminded the public that, no matter what happens on Election Day, the board will have final say.
“My choice will be to stick with the original flag we have now. I appreciate the whole thing we went through, I’m glad this whole exercise was done and I like giving people the opportunity. It’s fun; people are taking this really seriously, but now I’m thinking we’re going to have to spend millions and millions of dollars to make all-new flags,” Levasseur said. “People are getting crazy about this. Relax, the aldermen have the last say.”
Alderman Keith Hirschmann also expressed his love for the current city seal as a flag.
“I’ve always taken great pride that we have a city flag. When we renovated City Hall I bought a brick and also bought a city flag, which is in my office right now, the beautiful white city flag, for twenty-something years. I do applaud your efforts, I wish you’d put your effort into redesigning a flag for city schools or something like that, but our city flag – I take deep pride in the fact that we have it and it’s historical and all of that,” Hirschmann said.
Hirschmann asked whether the city holds the copyright to the flag designs, which it does, Long told him.
Hlasny said after the meeting that he was glad the designs were going to make it on to the ballot, but that he was concerned about misinformation coming from board members.
“While it’s encouraging that the flag designs are moving ahead to the ballot, I’m still concerned about the misinformation swirling around the motives/goals of this initiative. So far I’ve not heard a convincing argument to keeping the current ‘flag,’ ‘Traditionalists’ are defending the seal, which is a moot point, as the seal will always remain the seal. This is about visibility,” he said. He provided a photograph, which is pictured at the top of this story, to make his point.
“Can you distinguish the details of the seal in the picture? I took this photo from perhaps 25-feet away, and I think it makes as strong an argument as words ever could that seals are ineffective on flags,” Hlasny said.