The Decorah City Council has approved a flag policy which regulates community-oriented and special-interest flags and identifies the locations where they can be flown.
Council members voted 6-1 last week to adopt the policy. Council member Randy Schissel cast the only “no” vote.
Schissel complained the policy should have been discussed by the Council’s community betterment committee and said it could require the city to allow flags to be flown by any organization. If the Council would choose to deny a request, he said it could expose the city to litigation.
City Attorney John Anderson said the Supreme Court allows cities to regulate their own speech, but that would not prevent a person or organization denied a permit from filing a lawsuit against the city.

Special event
The policy ties community special-interest flags to special event permits. Requests to fly flags must be made at least one month in advance using the special event permit application, according to the policy.
The policy allows flags to be flown on Water Street or only in the one-block area of the special event. Two portable flag poles in front of Decorah City Hall also may be used for special, one-day event flags.
Because of the time involved in installing and removing flags all along Water Street by city staff, City Manager Chad Bird said organizations will be encouraged to have flags flown at City Hall or the block of their event. Under the new policy, the cost for having the city street department install and remove the flags will be reimbursed by the organization requesting the flags.
When flags are flown throughout the downtown on Water Street, it takes street department workers five to six hours to put the flags up and to take them down, according to Jeremy Bril, Decorah city engineer and street commissioner.

U.S. flag days
As part of the new flag policy, city officials had recommended reducing the number of U.S. flag-flying days because of the staff time involved.
The new policy would have eliminated Washington’s birthday the third Monday in February, Vietnam Veteran’s Day March 29 and Victory in Europe Day May 8.
However, Bird and Mayor Lorraine Borowski announced in a press release Friday those three holidays would be added back into the city’s flag display policy following the urging by several area veterans.
Under the direction of Borowski, Bird amended the administrative policy to keep those days on the city’s U.S. Flag calendar.
Bird said the city’s review of the flag policy was precipitated by requests from special interest organizations to have special flags raised on various dates associated with community activities and events.
With the projected increase in days when any type of flag may be displayed in the downtown area, city officials looked for ways to reduce the number of days any flag might be displayed and be more efficient in the use of city staff time. There are more than 30 possible dates in the policy when flags may be displayed, Bird said.
“The decision to remove certain dates from the calendar was not meant to be disrespectful to any person or group,” Borowski said.
“The city was simply looking to be more mindful of the time spent on flag displays. Our community’s veterans are very dear to us and, as a community, we are thankful for their service and sacrifice for our personal freedoms,” Borowski said.