The Fresno County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted 5-0 to bring a new flag policy for approval at its next meeting. Supervisor Steve Brandau said he will retain his original motion to set policy only to fly the American and California flags from county flagpoles. The motion would also eliminate the current flag policy, found in Section 10.28.
Brandau said that the current policy, which dates to 1971, was in response to protests at the time. He acknowledged the county does not have jurisdiction over other governmental bodies on how to operate flagpoles.
Supervisor Buddy Mendes called the current policy “archaic.”
Public comment was brief, with residents speaking both in support and in opposition to Brandau’s proposal.
The flag item will return May 23.
Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau wants to create a flag policy in the county code. But his proposal could be a moot point.
The policy, to be discussed at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, would allow for only the American and California state flags to fly at county buildings.
However, the county has an existing flag code, found in Section 10.28.
The code declares it “unlawful” to fly any flag other than the American or state flag on a flagpole “designed and intended” to wave the American or state flag on public grounds.
It does allow for “ceremonial occasions when the flag or other colors of a friendly foreign power, the United Nations, any other state of the United States, or the official flag or colors of any military organization of the United States or the state,” as long as the county grants permission.
Upon being told about the existing code — apparently missed by Brandau’s research team — he said he would either withdraw his current motion, modify the existing code, or replace the existing code with his new proposal.
“I’ve just seen across the country and even here locally, how much dissension some of these flag ceremonies can be in the community, which is unnecessary,” Brandau said prior to learning of the existing code. “Almost everybody that I talk with believes that the American flag and the California state flag are enough.”
The ordinance would cover facilities the county owns or leases.
‘Incident Has Yet to Occur’
A county spokeswoman said to the best of the county’s knowledge, there has not been a ceremonial flag event on county property.
The staff report mentions “increasing numbers of controversies over specialty flags being flown at government facilities at … the local, state, and national level,” but “an incident has yet to occur at a Fresno County facility.”
Brandau agrees there has not been a controversial flag-flying incident on county grounds.
“I don’t think (people) want government to be the arbitrators and the pickers of winners and losers,” Brandau said.
The one-paragraph policy reads: “The proposed ordinance would amend a provision of the Fresno County Ordinance Code Tile 13, Chapter 13.24 (Grounds and Buildings) by adding 13.24.050 – Flags permitted to be flown at County Facilities. The proposed ordinance would specify that only the United States and State of California flags shall be permitted to be flown on the official flagpoles of County Facilities.”
Flag Raising Typically a City Ceremony
Fresno County is not known as a government agency that community groups go to for flag-raising ceremonies. Such events — such as the recent Armenian Genocide commemoration — take place at Fresno City Hall.
The city has had bumps in the road over flag raisings. In 2021, Mayor Jerry Dyer initially balked at flying a Gay Pride flag in front of City Hall. After protests and the presentation of an alternate flag site at nearby Eaton Plaza, Dyer relented.
The Fresno City Council revised its flag policy to allow several flags to be flown. The city also erected several flagpoles at Eaton Plaza. It is believed to be only used once.
Other Supervisors Share Opinions
Supervisor Sal Quintero said he looks forward to Tuesday’s discussion.
“I want to hear what the public has to say,” Quintero said.
Likewise for Supervisor Brian Pacheco.
“It’s never been a problem, because we generally don’t do those kind of things,” Pacheco said.
Buddy Mendes, in a brief text to GV Wire, said he is OK with the new flag policy, but added that flag raisings haven’t been a problem.