The University Place City Council voted down plans to erect a on Monday night, but city leaders appear to agree that a flagpole should be part of the Civic Building.
Just not right now.
City leaders voted against staff proposals to pay for the flagpole outright, as well as a plan to contribute $10,000 while relying private donations to cover the rest of the cost. In both cases, University Place would have used state-authorized Local Revitalization Funding to pay for the costs.
Instead, UP leaders opted not to erect a flagpole in Market Square for a number of reasons, the biggest being what it would do to the contributions of the community’s biggest proponents of the arts.
Representatives from told city leaders they were against the proposed location of the flagpole, which would have been directly west of the entrance to the Civic Building. They argued it would take away from the square’s artistic features, particularly a bronze duck that honors late University Place .
“This is a very emotional topic,” said Ruthann McCaffery, Terry’s wife. “This flagpole in this location, I think really takes away what Up for Art has done.”
But McCaffery, Up for Arts and city leaders who voted against the Market Square flagpole all said that one should be erected at the Civic Building, just in a different location. Some said that should wait until the city moves its offices from Windmill Village to the Civic Building. That, however, depends on when a developer purchases the Windmill Village land.
Councilman Eric Choiniere, who voted against both plans, said he was also concerned whether a Market Square flagpole would turn into a “shrine” and take away from the that’s under construction a half-mile away.
But Councilman Javier Figueroa, who originally pushed for the displaying of a flag at the Civic Building last year and voted in favor of both plans Monday night, argued that Market Square was ideal for the flagpole.
He also questioned why some council members argued against spending taxpayer dollars on the flagpole, particularly in light of the millions of dollars in debt that the city has amassed to pay for Town Center.
“I will never agree that taxpayer dollars are being misspent putting up an American flag,” he said.
Councilman Kent Keel - who voted in favor of partially funding the flagpole at $10,000 - said he has seen other public buildings with flagpoles erected without any problems.
The idea of a flagpole at Town Center has been the focus of some heated debate and rhetoric among city leaders and UP residents. The ones who’ve supported erecting one have been accused of using the American flag to gain political points, while those who opposed it have been accused of being unpatriotic.
“This is supposed to be bringing the community together, not be divisive,” Councilman Chris Nye said.
While Monday’s vote ends the formal debate over the Market Square flagpole, officials said they want staff to explore ways a flagpole can be erected in a different location or on a temporary basis, say, in the atrium.
In the end, Keel indicated how surprisingly draining the debate over a flagpole has truly been.
“I’m glad that votes over,” he said.