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Opinion: Change is in the air; let’s raise a new city flag

Eyes & Ears

Posted online

Now is the time to wave a new city flag.

I’ve been following this business of the Springfield city flag since discovering a TED Talk on flag designs exactly three years ago.

Then in early 2017, a new flag walked into the Springfield Business Journal offices. Literally, several of the new flag designers and promoters visited my office, unfurling a freshly made nylon flag, just as it was beginning to get posted around the city. It was the early days of their grassroots effort to raise awareness of the need for a new flag and rally support about their particular design.

Well, the day has come for this thing to turn from grassroots to bearing fruit where it counts – at City Hall.

While Springfield Business Journal doesn’t endorse issues or candidates – or flags – it is my personal opinion that the current flag get updated to today’s design standards. The official city of Springfield flag was adopted in the late 1930s. It violates several modern design rules in that it uses lettering and doesn’t convey symbolism or any distinction about our unique city.

By contrast, the proposed flag redesign has a compass crown at the center to represent Springfield as a crossroads and its reference as the Queen City. The white stripe symbolizes the founding of Route 66 and the city’s geographic position on a plateau.

I’ve been encouraged to hear members of the Springfield Identity Project – those who visited SBJ’s office with their fresh flag – have been in contact with city officials to go through the proper channels for a change. That’s been a criticism in this overtly grassroots effort.

I remember interviewing the world’s foremost flag design expert after he saw my initial flag column. His name is Ted Kaye, of Portland, Oregon, and he wrote the book on how to properly design a flag, called “Good Flag, Bad Flag.”

Kaye, a vexillologist (that’s the technical term for someone who studies flags), was concerned the organizers in Springfield would stumble at the finish line, i.e. not get city officials on board or not in an effective way.

His organization, the Portland Flag Association, is tracking some 70 efforts by municipalities to improve their flag design. About 30 cities in recent years have adopted new flags, according to PortlandFlag.org.

One thing Kaye said is that the process of redesigning a city flag is much more about politics than design. I think the Springfield organizers have taken that to heart.

Springfield Identity Project leader John McQueary recently told me the group has met with Mayor Ken McClure and they’re working to schedule meetings with each City Council member to convey their intentions. This is important progress.

McQueary is clear to note, though, this is early stage discussion and nothing formal is happening yet. It would have to come to a council vote before an official switch.

But it feels like change is in the air.

We have a new city manager in Jason Gage. Some landmark state legislation has passed in regard to medical marijuana and minimum wage. Maybe there’s room for one more piece to change. I personally hope council members jump on board. As flags for the city of Chicago and the state of Colorado have become points of pride and identity well beyond the fabric, Springfield can do the same with a change.

Let’s raise a new city flag.

Springfield Business Journal Editorial Director Eric Olson can be reached at eolson@sbj.net.

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