UPDATE: There will be no flag policy in the City of Green Bay. Mayor Eric Genrich broke the Common Council's 6-6 tie to get rid of the proposed policy during a meeting Feb. 7.
The proposal was to only fly the American, State, City, and POW/MIA flags at City Hall and other city buildings. For months, it was a proposal that has drawn controversy among residents, the Common Council, and the mayor.
Last year, the Pride flag flew outside City Hall for the first time. The mayor has the power to decide which flags fly outside City Hall.
Before the proposal was discussed, Genrich told the Council he wanted it gone, and that if the Council adopted the policy, he would veto it.
"This represents really a retrograde, backward-looking view of our community," Genrich said. "And I just don't have any time or tolerance for it."
Council members then opened the floor for residents to give their side of the issue. Seven people spoke, some of whom are part of the LGBTQ+ community. They were all against the proposal.
"This is fundamentally inhumane and immoral," resident Natalie Hoffman said.
"We need our flag to fly as an indication that we are safe and valued members of this community," resident Gloria Eastman said.
"We are one country, the United States of America," resident Stephanie Guzman said. "We should all be represented under that flag. Unfortunately, we're not."
Then, the alders spoke. Some stood by the proposal, including Chris Wery, who wrote it.
"What's more fair and equal than playing no favorites?" Wery said. "What is more fair and equal, playing no favorites with our flagpole? That's equality for all right there."
"We're talking about a flag," District 6 alderman Steven Campbell said. "We're not talking about, how do people know what I've gone through?"
"We could be back here if, say, another mayor decides to put up another, just as, I guess, it would be controversial to some," District 11 alderwoman Melinda Eck said.
Other alders expressed disagreement with the policy.
"This is something that until this Council brought it up, I didn't get any calls on," District 4 alderman Bill Galvin said. "So, who's creating the problem here?"
"If the mayor had flown the (POW)/MIA flag, we wouldn't be here having this discussion," District 7 alderman Randy Scannell said. "It's because he flew the Pride flag."
"The fact that people got up and had courage knowing that they may be picked upon in our society, gives me the courage to vote to end this," District 2 alderman Jim Hutchison said.
After debating for roughly an hour and a half, the Council voted in a tie on the proposal, 6-6. The alders who voted against ending the proposal were Wery, Campbell, Eck, Jennifer Grant, William Morgan, and Jesse Brunette.
The alders who voted in favor of getting rid of the proposal were Galvin, Scannell, Hutchison, Craig Stevens, Mark Steuer, and Brian Johnson. Genrich broke the tie by voting to dispose of the idea.
A proposed Green Bay flag policy has been in discussion among Common Council members for months.
Now, one alderman is making a tweak to his original proposal.
Last June, District 8 Alderman Chris Wery proposed a city flag policy where only the American, State, and City flags fly at City Hall and other city buildings.
Now, he wants to add the POW/MIA flag to the list.
"It's one I think that doesn't represent any social group or any political group," Wery said. "It's something that everybody gets behind."
The POW/MIA flag was adopted in the '70s during the Vietnam War.
It symbolizes the soldiers who are unaccounted for from the war, and already flies in locations throughout the city.
"I haven't heard anybody against that flag," Wery said.
When Wery gave his original proposal last June, he explained his reasoning for a flag policy.
"Once you start, it's really not about one flag," Wery said during June 28's Common Council meeting. "It's opening up that Pandora's Box."
Wery says adding the POW/MIA flag would not open up the Pandora's Box.
"It's really about keeping this (City Hall's) pole free from social commentary, because whoever is in charge of City Hall can put up whatever they want as we've seen," Wery said.
Last year, the Pride flag flew at City Hall for the first time.
District 4 Alderman Bill Galvin says he supports the POW/MIA flag flying, but would also like to see the city continue to recognize the Pride flag.
"The fact that we're even having this discussion shows that we still have a ways to go," Galvin said. "But I think Green Bay has improved as a community. I think people are learning to accept people as who they are, and to just let them live their lives."
Galvin says in addition to the Pride flag, he supports flying flags recognizing police officers and firefighters.
"They represent our society, so they should all fly," Galvin said.
The flag policy proposal is on the agenda for Feb. 7's Common Council meeting. It is written to be referred back to staff. Essentially, what that means is if the Council decides to go in that direction, the proposal will be looked at further before coming back to Council for a final decision down the road.