Town Council weighs policies on flags, kiosks

Jun 12, 2019 by

Published June 12, 2019

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD — A policy related to postings on the four town-owned kiosks was tabled for two weeks by the Town Council pending public input and any needed tweaking. Meanwhile, the town has a new policy on the flying of flags at the Americal Civic Center, approved by the Town Council after some debate at their meeting this week.

Town Counsel Thomas Mullen drafted the flag policy, noting that it incorporated statutory requirements that apply to the American flag such as flying the flag only in daytime and at night only if illuminated.

Under the new policy, no other national flags will be flown if the American flag is present, Mullen said. Non-national flags and banners will be allowed on the pole as long as they are flown below the American flag and are not larger than the American flag.

Mullen said that the new policy contemplates that groups renting space for events at the Americal Civic Center may want to fly a flag or banner in connection with their events. Mullen said that the policy was designed to allow the town to prevent a group from flying a flag or banner that might cause problems for the town. To that end, requests to fly a flag or banner would be accepted only from a public body, a town department or a non-profit that supports a town department.

Town Councilor Paul DiNocco suggested that if there was concern over flags or banners being flown with the American flag, why not add several smaller poles on the other side of the entrance to the Civic Center where additional flags or banners could be flown, leaving the American flag alone on its own pole.

But Mullen said that the issue of concern was how the town could control the use of any flag pole so as to avoid an obnoxious use without getting into the legal morass of content-based restrictions.

Councilor Ann Santos noted that there were other poles in town where the American Flag is flown on its own and she saw no need to install additional poles at the Civic Center.

Councilor Jonathan Chines wondered if there was a need to create a townwide flagpole policy. He also asked if the Town Council would be the body that approves or denies requests.

Mullen re-iterated that the idea was to create a content-neutral policy that would control use of the pole so that the Town Council would not be involved in approving or denying requests.

Chines asked if a non-discrimination clause should be included in the policy.

Again, Mullen stressed that he was trying to avoid getting involved with content-based restrictions. The presumption, he said, was that the town could have some control and influence over groups affiliated with the town, but not over outside groups.

Councilor Julie Smith-Galvin noted that by linking it to the Civic Center’s rental policy, there was an added layer of protection with respect to use of the flagpole.

After some discussion, the Town Council approved the policy to allow other flags that comply with the guidelines to be flown on the pole in conjunction with Civic Center rentals. The flags or banners could be flown seven days before and after the event, with requests for longer durations (up to 30 days) to be approved by the Town Administrator.

Smith-Galvin presented the kiosk policy, which she worked on with Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio and Town Councilor Peter May. She said that the policy would apply to the three non-digital kiosks as well as to the three non-digital sides of the four-sided kiosk at the edge of the Common, near Lake Avenue.

She said that postings would be allowed for a duration of 14 days, with requests for longer periods to be handled by the Town Administrator. Postings will be allowed for public and community events being sponsored by Wakefield organizations or by out-of-town groups holding an event in Wakefield. No political or commercial advertising postings will be allowed.

Smith-Galvin said that Wakefield Main Streets, which provided the kiosks to the town, will provide materials that can be used as filler at times when there are not sufficient postings to fill a kiosk.

Town Councilor Mehreen Butt urged that the request forms for use of the kiosks be in the form of online applications, with an option for paper for those without online access.

The Town Council voted to table the matter in order to allow time for public input and further refinement of the policy. A vote is expected at the Town Council’s June 24 meeting.

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