Arlington Heights trustee renews call to fly Pride, Juneteenth flags at village hall

The debate over flying the Pride and Juneteenth flags at Arlington Heights village hall has resurfaced.

Village Trustee Nicolle Grasse this week called on the rest of the village board to revisit the flag display ordinance, approved on a 5-3 vote last July, that limits the flying of flags on property owned, leased or controlled by village government.

Under the policy, only the official flags of the United States of America, state of Illinois, village and National League of Families POW/MIA can fly at those sites.

Grasse said the flying of the Pride and Juneteenth flags during June would fit with the board's strategic priority of embracing diversity, equity and inclusion within the community and village government.

She made her comments at the conclusion of a village board meeting Monday, when the board issued a proclamation in support of Black History Month.

"I believe that there are ways that we can come together and explore options that meet all the concerns that were raised," Grasse said. "We know that a special flag was included in the ordinance, so it's not that there can't be special flags. We know that we are openly proclaiming our support of Black History Month. The Juneteenth flag has been raised at both the state and federal levels, as has the Pride flag."

Mayor Tom Hayes said he's not willing to revisit the issue. During a contentious debate last summer, Hayes argued that a municipality shouldn't promote political or social content on its flagpoles, which he said should be limited to flying flags "that all of its residents can support."

"We had this discussion and we passed an ordinance," Hayes said Monday. "And the very reason we passed the ordinance was so that we wouldn't have to go through this discussion again. That's my feeling on it. I'm not willing to reopen that can of worms."

But Grasse and Trustee Mary Beth Canty, who also wants to revisit the issue, said the flag ordinance was passed without the full village board present.

Trustee Tom Schwingbeck, who proposed a Pride Month proclamation that the entire board eventually supported, was absent from the July 6, 2021, meeting when the flag vote was taken.

At that meeting, Grasse offered an amendment that would have allowed the board to vote to fly any flags that have been recognized and flown by the federal and state governments, including the Pride and Juneteenth flags. But that failed by a 4-4 vote.

Trustee Rich Baldino supported the amendment but was the swing vote that supported the main ordinance.

It's ultimately the will of the board about whether the ordinance should be changed, or if the matter should be revisited at all, said Village Manager Randy Recklaus.

Grasse and Canty also want to re-examine the village's inclusionary housing ordinance, approved in 2020, in which proposed senior housing developments were exempted from providing apartments priced below market rates.

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Nicolle Grasse
Tom Hayes
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