Wisconsins Morning News

Gene's Blog: In your face! Time for new Milwaukee flag anarchy

Gene Mueller's blog

In the 60's, they took it to the streets.

Now, we hang it from a pole.

Any thought that Milwaukee had gone from an overly-cautious, way-too-deliberative sort of a city to a town that rushes headlong toward radical change should be dead in the water with the recent news that the arduous, tortured debate about a new municipal flag is anything but over.

In fact, the search is about to start again.

That's hard to swallow for the folks who took it upon themselves to start this whole process oh so long ago, the "People's Flag" group that agreed with experts and others that our current banner is horrible outdated and, well, with apologies to its 1950's era designers, ugly. They thought they'd dotted all possible "i's" and crossed any potential "t's" when they held a city-wide search for suggestions, culling from that lot a few finalists for folks to vote on. From that group came "Sunrise Over The Lake," a clean, simple design that says a lot with but three colors, a half circle and a few lines. Embraced by many, it started appearing outside homes and businesses around town. The Brewers used it in some of their logoed gear. It got the ultimate municipal compliment when craft brewers put it on their cans.

City Hall can't quite wrap its head around change. Aldermen by and large refused to embrace "Sunrise" and deemed the selection process inferior in that it wasn't inclusive enough. Never mind the folks behind the new flag made every effort to make their search and vote known on virtually every platform, short of skywriting. One might think the Common Council's undies are in a collective bundle not because of a lack of inclusiveness real or perceived but rather because they didn't have a speaking part in the process. They didn't get to pontificate and hold hearings, commission blue ribbon panels and white papers. 

Instead, a band of well-meaning folks took action on their own, asked anyone who had a pitch to make or a design to consider to step forward and allowed the people--those who cared, anyway--to vote. Short. Sweet. Neat. Clean. And best of all, cheap. No taxpayer money was spent on this quest.

At least, not until now. 

The Arts Board was the original kill-joy and now a Common Council committee is recommending that the whole process start anew, something that could be set in motion when aldermen vote next month. You can bet your parents a Common Council denied a speaking role in by the "People's Flag" folks the first time around won't miss the chance for one this time around.


As this long, tiresome process seems destined to drag on indefinitly, it's my suggestion that we run "Sunrise" up the flag pole and in essence give it a giant municipal salute. Hang it everywhere. Put it on shirts. Use it on products. Wave it in people's faces. You don't have to go far to find it--it's just a matter of going to the hip and making the buy. Vote with your wallet and hang "Sunrise" as a quiet but firm in-your-face to overly deblierative government, aldermen with hurt feelings, and the possible waste of taxpayer funds. Make "Sunrise" the vox populi city of Milwaukee flag. No one gets hurt. Nothing gets damaged, save the feelings of a few harruphing council members who should, truth be known, be dealing with meatier issues. 

It'd be great to see downtown festooned with all manner of "Sunrise" flags as the world comes to Milwaukee next summer for the 2020 Democratic National Convention. What a chance to shed an outdated museum piece and show the world our new pride, flapping in the breeze. 

Folks got this right the first time. It's time for "Sunrise" fans to , well, rise and move toward an in-your-face unfurling of a new bit of laundry we should all feel comfortable saluting. And wearing. And displaying, without apology.

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