Charter change passed almost 2-1 last year in anti-BLM flag backlash
By Guy Page
Barre City’s own legislators have rewritten a proposed city charter change overwhelmingly approved by Barre voters last year.
The last minute change to H444, authored on May 18 by Democratic Reps. Peter Anthony and Tommy Walz, strikes a clause in the charter change allowing only the U.S., Vermont, and POW/MIA flags to fly in City Hall Park.
Minus the flag clause approved by voters, the bill passed the House and now is in Senate Government Operations. Frustrated supporters of the original charter change have started a petition drive asking the Vermont Senate to honor the voters’ wishes.
The petition is the latest move in a back-and-forth battle between City council Progressives who want to fly the Black Lives Matter flag, and opponents who say flying the U.S., Vermont and POW/MIA flags are enough.
At the City Meeting on March 2, Barre City voters approved 927-529 a charter change allowing (among other, less-controversial charter changes) just three flags to fly on the City Hall Park flagpole: the American, Vermont, and POW/MIA flags.
The voters’ approval March 2 was a ‘win’ for opponents of the Black Lives Matters flag. In the aftermath of the June, 2020 killing of George Floyd, the city’s Progressive City Council wanted to fly the Marxist organization’s flag alongside the U.S. flag, but pushback from several councilors and many residents resulted in a compromise plan to fly a “flag of the month” including the BLM flag but also the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army etc. flags. Progressive City Council members expressed anger that their plans to fly the BLM flag were frustrated.
After the successful March 2 voter, it appeared that the flag change was well on its way. However, all charter changes require legislative approval. H444, was sent to the House Government Operations Committee for review. The committee – which includes Rep. Anthony – removed the following phrase: “The City of Barre shall fly only the City, State, United States, and POW/MIA flags.”
Shortly before third and final reading of H444 by the full House, Anthony and Walz sponsored an amendment addressing other concerns but completely removing any reference to flags. That version passed, and is now in the Senate.
There is a petition calling upon Washington County Senators Ann Cummings, Anthony Pollina, and Andrew Perchlik to take action to restore to H.444 the flag restriction language approved by Barre City voters. It also calls upon the members of the Barre City Council to pledge to honor the vote of Barre City and refrain from the flying of any flags on city owned flag poles other than the American, Vermont, City of Barre, and POW/MIA flags.
To read or sign the petition, go to https://www.change.org/BarreCityCharterChange.