Last week, Mayor Ron Littlefield proposed that chattanooga update it’s city flag. “What flag?” you might ask. Well, the flag it seems everyone, including most of the city council, didn’t know existed.
Believe it or not, I was just as surprised as everyone else that we have a city flag. Originated in 1923 the current flag is, of course, red, white and blue with a single white star (representing the “East Tennessee” star of the state flag’s three stars) and two white flowering Dogwood clusters (apparently Chattanooga’s “floral emblem of choice”) in a blue circle on a red background with a blue vertical stripe on the right side.
The mayor’s proposed flag design update, created several years back by our own modern day Betsy Ross—former City Councilman and employee David Crockett—features the city seal in a blue stripe (representing the Tennessee River) running horizontally across the middle of a green background. The mayor says the green motif represents the environmental progress the city has made since we were named the “dirtiest city in America” by CBS News way back in 1969.
The newly proposed flag design isn’t bad, although I’m not sure Crockett is any more of a graphic designer than I am. Those interviewed all had their own opinions of what a new flag design might look like, from including a railroad theme of some sort to a walking bridge. Regardless, Chattanooga is fortunate enough to have a plethora of talented artists and designers within our midst, all of whom I imagine would love the opportunity to take a stab at creating more design options to choose from.
When asked if other submissions should be considered before the city council votes on adopting the new flag design however, Littlefield brought his head up out of the sand just long enough to say, “I’m not interested in opening up the design process. Let’s finish what we started 15 years ago.” Nice.
I kind of get it. Chattanooga’s seal can already be found on just about any city-owned entity you can name—from city hall to police cars and even storm water drain covers—so it’s recognizable. Regardless, a city flag of any design doesn’t currently fly anywhere—not at city hall, nor the annex, the city council building—hell, not even at the aquarium for Pete’s sake.
In fact, most citizens and even city government officials questioned in the news stories reporting the proposed change were unaware that we even had a flag, let alone whether it needed updating. Apparently because cities like Nashville and Louisville are proud, city flag-waving municipalities, Littlefield has determined that we too need to fly our city flag (but preferably the new one he has chosen and not the old one or even a newer one).
I’m warming up to the city flag idea myself. That is, as long as we open up the design process. What’s wrong with taking submissions for a given period of time, having a team of officials and designers choose three finalists, and then letting the public—which includes city council—vote for their favorite. It would be a whole “Kum Ba Yah” moment of bringing the entire city together toward a common goal we can all be proud to have taken part in. We did it way back when UTC was naming the Roundhouse (now McKenzie Arena or whatever they call it these days), so why not when deciding something even more important?
We’ll save the pledge of allegiance for the mayor to write. Just off the top of my head, I imagine it might go something like this: “I pledge allegiance, to the flag I didn’t choose, of the City of Chattanooga. And to the Choo Choo for which it stands, one city, under me, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Just goes to show that, just because it’s your idea, Mr. Mayor, it doesn’t mean it’s a good one.
Chuck Crowder is a local writer and general man about town. His opinions are his own.