City flag dilemma: Scottsdale retains original design

A view of a flag signifying the city of Scottsdale at the Scottsdale City Hall complex in downtown Scottsdale (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Fittro)

Scottsdale is sticking with its historic blue, white and gold flag featuring a horse and rider for the foreseeable future.

On March 5, the Scottsdale City Council voted 5-2 to rescind a Feb. 19 vote approving a new city flag, coined the Saguaro Blossom. Councilmembers Linda Milhaven and Virginia Korte were the two dissenting votes.

The morning after the City Council meeting, Scottsdale Public Affairs Director Kelly Corsette emailed news outlets informing the City Council was placing an item on their March 5 agenda to rescind the resolution adopting the new city flag and “provide possible direction to staff regarding a new city flag,” Mr. Corsette said.

“We will not do anything else with the new flag until after that discussion,” he said in the email.

Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Since the February meeting, the city has been in limbo as community members have voiced views on both side of the issue.

On March 5, Mayor Jim Lane said given the commentary received on both sides of the issue, he believes it’s best to stay with the original flag.

“Personally, I think it’s best we stay where we are,” he said. “If it’s to be reconsidered again, we will take that up at another time.”

Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield also spoke on the topic, saying she wants to re-instate the original flag.

“This has been a very divisive issue that’s come before us, and I don’t think at this particular time that’s good for our city and good for our citizens,” Ms. Littlefield said. “There’s always time in the future if we want to revisit this, and take a look at it again. I don’t think it’s in the best interest of our city to do that at this time.”

Councilwoman Solange Whitehead, who voted for the new flag in February, said she is happy to live in a city that listens to all residents, including high school students. Ms. Whitehead said on March 5, that she was under the impression that she had to choose a new flag design — pointing out she quickly realized she could have voted down both options.

The issue was first brought forward by Desert Mountain High School student Connor Heron in June 2017, who contacted the mayor and City Council suggesting the municipality design a new flag. His email struck a chord, and the City Council subsequently directed staff to conduct a community design challenge to bring forth concepts for possible approval as the new city flag.

“I just think it’s pretty cool to live in a city where a high school student can come to the city with an idea, and that idea is taken seriously,” Ms. Whitehead said.

She says after the vote in February, she heard loudly and immediately from her constituents.

“What I heard was some pretty good reasoning for not wanting to adopt the new flag, and that’s what changed my opinion,” she said. “I heard a lot of fairly good arguments about the need, if we’re going to change the flag, we need to have the branding — we need to look at the whole picture.”

Three members of the public spoke at the meeting, two residents who were for a new flag and one who wanted to remain true to Scottsdale’s roots. Mr. Heron was one of the public speakers at the meeting arguing for the flag change.

Ultimately, an official decision to revert to the original flag, which was designed in the 1950s, was rendered.

A beloved simplicity

Scottsdale’s first city flag is simple: The city seal on a white background. The seal was adopted in 1951, the same year as incorporation, and a Dec. 14, 1954 council auction authorized “the purchase of a flag for town hall,” however, no official action was found regarding the design of the flag, the staff report states.

The Scottsdale Flag Challenge was launched following Mr. Heron’s email in 2017, and staff proceeded to solicit design concepts from the public through December 2017.

The city received 260 designs during the initial collection phase.

The chosen flag in December was coined, Saguaro Blossom. (File image)

After being filtered through the Neighborhood Advisory Commission and city staff, a final 10 flag designs were opened to the public for feedback through an online process, which ran through February 2018.

The public was asked to choose a favorite design from the 10 presented, which resulted in 2,800 public interactions, narrowing the field to the top four.

Staff then returned to the Neighborhood Advisory Commission in May, and the commission narrowed the choices to a final two for City Council consideration.

Following the February vote, a staff memo to council penned by Mr. Corsette states that many community members appeared to share the misunderstanding that the new flag was replacing the horse and rider.

“When learning that the city seal and logo would remain unchanged, some people were less opposed to the new design, while some remained against changing the flag. It is completely understandable that many residents are hostile to the idea of abandoning our iconic horse and rider as the city’s logo — and that was never suggested or contemplated,” Mr. Corsette said in the staff memo.

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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