September 13, 2006
In Southampton Town
Old Glory Honored — Or Abused?
This week, as the nation unites to remember heroes lost on 9/11 and honor their sacrifices, the sight of the American flag flying high, its stars and stripes emblazoned in a blue September sky, is sure to evoke sensations of patriotism and pride in the hearts of millions of citizens for whom Old Glory symbolizes freedom.
And, at yesterday's town board meeting, Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney pledged his personal allegiance to the flag by co-sponsoring a resolution setting a public hearing to consider emptying United States' flags from a section of the town code that currently places restrictions on the number and size of flags permitted on town property.
The proposed local law would exempt flags of the United States from provisions of the section of the town code, Article XXII, regarding signs. According to the proposed amendment to the town code: "As the town board does not wish to restrict the number of flags of the United States properly displayed on private property and encourages such displays of one's patriotism and respect to the United States, its veterans, and its citizens, this proposed amendment will exempt such flags."
Heaney said the goal of the amendment was to recognize the contributions and sacrifices of veterans who have served their country.
To that end, the effective date of the local law, if adopted, will be November 11 — Veteran's Day.
Councilwoman Linda Kabot supported the resolution, co-sponsored by Councilman Chris Nuzzi, and suggested all five town board members unite in solidarity and support the amendment across the board.
Councilman Steve Kenny, while supporting the legislation, raised concerns regarding commercial business owners who hang numerous American flags on their property to promote trade, not patriotism. "Clearly, this is an abuse," he said.
Heaney agreed, "I hate it when gas stations open up and have 500 flags — that's a desecration."
And, said Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, "All you have to do is take a ride on Route 58 in Riverhead, where they're using the flag to get attention and sell cars."
But, reminded Heaney, the town should not be regulating for those who are abusing the flags. Those individuals are the exceptions. "We have to regulate for the norm," he said.
Kabot suggested situations such as those where multiple flags are being displayed for commercial gain might be controlled by special exception criteria; covenants and restrictions, she pointed out, might be added at the planning board level.
"There's room for sensible regulation on commercial property," said Kenny.
In the end, said Heaney, there will always be some who "abuse this exception by putting out 50 flags. I've yet to see a law that is a perfect solution to any situation, and this is no exception."
But, the supervisor added, for the few who take advantage of the amendment, there are scores of residents who will champion the code change for all the right reasons.
There are more benefits in having the exemption than in having regulations when flying the American flag, he said. "You can never demonstrate enough loyalty."
All five council members agreed to co-sponsor the resolution.
A public hearing on the matter will be held on October 10 at 1 p.m. in Southampton Town Hall.