Saturday, January 27, 2007

Donald Trump can fly his flag-- on a 42 foot pole like anyone else.

As a liberal, it's always risky speaking against flying an American flag. I'm sure that some right winger, if they read this, will be quick to jump up and cite it as proof that liberals are unpatriotic, or hate America, or some such crap.

If so, they don't know me. I love America, and in fact I have a small American flag right next to my front door. I stuck it up there on September 11, 2001, and it has remained in place since that day. The wind has shredded it to the extent that pretty soon I will have to replace it. To be honest it would bother me to throw it away. The proper procedure for disposal of an old or tattered flag,

according to 36 USCA Sec. 176, Respect for flag:

The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

but if I did that then I'm sure those same right-wingers would claim that I was making an anti-American political statement.

But I'm going to speak against flying the flag. Specifically, against Donald Trump flying his.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Officials in the ritzy coastal town of Palm Beach have voted to fine Donald Trump $1,250 a day for flying a large American flag atop an 80-foot flagpole at his lavish club in violation of town codes.

Code enforcement officials have accused the 60-year-old real-estate mogul of violating zoning guidelines with a flagpole taller than 42 feet, for not obtaining a building permit, and for not getting permission from the landmarks board.

Trump has refused to take down the flag. He has also filed a $25 million lawsuit against the town arguing, in part, that officials are selectively enforcing ordinances and that flying the American flag at his Mar-A-Lago club is a constitutionally protected expression of free speech.

Let's start with why this is not a violation of free speech. The town of West Palm Beach has not said that Donald Trump can't fly the American flag. In fact, he could fly the same flag (oversized as it is) 42 feet off the ground. This is as high as a typical three or four story building, so it's not like he can't fly his flag in a very visible manner. He would have a point that it was a violation of free speech if the law said that he couldn't display it at all, or for that matter that he could only display it in a manner where it could easily be overlooked, but the ordinance does not say that. Further, the zoning ordinance says nothing about the flag itself, but rather about the flagpole. In other words if he wants to, for example, display the flag eighty feet up on the side of a building or some other way of displaying it, he would not be in violation of the ordinance. A limit on the height of a flagpole can be grounded in all sorts of practical reasons, including that an eighty foot pole could, if struck by a vehicle conceivably cause injury to people a signficant distance away, or that people may want an unobstructed view.

The fact is that cities and towns have a right to create and enforce ordinances designed to promote what they see as the quality of life in their communities. There have been times when I have been unhappy about these ordinances (for example several years ago we were all set to buy land and move into a community when they passed an ordinance against single wide trailers. We had one that we were planning to put on the land. When they passed the ordinance we went elsewhere (though things have in fact turned out much better where we are, especially in terms of having much better schools, than they would have there). But whether I liked the ordinance or not, I never felt that the town didn't have the legal right to pass it.

A zoning ordinance can in some cases be considered a restriction on free speech but I don't honestly see how this one is. If I felt otherwise I'd speak out against it, as I have before on free speech issues.

Donald Trump seems to have created this situation intentionally. He could have applied for permission from the landmarks board. It might not have been granted, but then again it might have-- but he chose not to follow the procedure to ask for permission. Perhaps he is creating the controversy because his image has taken a hit lately, between the dust-up with Rosie O'Donnell and his having been fooled by a fraudulent resume submitted by a low level day trader who was hired by Trump to direct his mortgage division. Or maybe it's just a matter of the fact that he hasn't had many headlines since the war with Rosie has receded from the front page.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If Mr. Trump really wants to promote the flag, he should join the campaign to get the flag from the country of origin on the face of every durable good sold in America.