Scottsdale flag design hits snag as community push-back unfurls

The two final designs chosen for the Scottsdale flag are “Mountains and Sky” on left, and “Saguaro Blossom” on left. (Graphics by city of Scottsdale)

The question of what Scottsdale’s new municipal flag will be is still up in the air after City Council had trouble visualizing the community represented in two final designs presented.

Although the Scottsdale City Council voted 4-3 to move forward with a new design at its Feb. 19 meeting, less than 24-hours later it was announced that the vote may be rescinded.

The morning after the City Council meeting, Scottsdale Public Affaris 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’s first city flag is simple: The city seal on a white background. Never designed as a flag at all, this layout runs afoul of design standards published by the North American Vexillological Association, “flag experts of the United States and Canada.”

This fact was expressed by Scottsdale high school student Connor Heron, who contacted the mayor and city council and suggested the city 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.

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.

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.

The two flag designs presented for the City Council to vote on were “Mountains and Sky” and “Saguaro Blossom,” with Saguaro Blossom being staff’s recommended choice.

According to Mr. Corsette, the flag that Scottsdale has been historically using, with the bucking bronco and cowboy, was never voted on or decided upon.

Mayor Jim Lane stated at the meeting that he had hesitations in making a change to the flag,

“I’m just sort of an old school guy, and change like this is a little tough,” Mayor Lane said. “You think about the history of what the flag has meant up to this point in time.”

Mayor Lane said he settled on this a couple of days prior when it was presented to him again.

Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

“I’m satisfied that there’s a good process it’s gone through. Is it everything? I’m not sure what everything to me, would be. And I’m challenged with the idea to make comparisons with some others,” he said.

“I’m right there on the idea that this is acceptable and a good flag to move forward with. I’m hoping that it becomes a real symbol for our community, and the kind of thing where other simple and meaningful flags have meant to other communities; where you’re proud to wear it on the patch of your arm and something you’d have on your cap and feel good that it means something special. I think it can do that.”

Councilman Guy Phillips, on the other hand, wasn’t keen on the idea of changing the flag unless absolutely necessary.

“Honestly, I’m proud of our Scottsdale seal, I consider that our flag and I’ve always been proud of it,” said Mr. Phillips.

“If we have to change the flag, if there’s some kind of mandate forcing us to change the flag, I’d like to use the one with the horse and the rider on it — I think that’s distinctively Scottsdale.”

Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield, who readily admitted she isn’t an artist, says when looking at the two proposed flags she isn’t reminded of Scottsdale.

“I like the one with the cactus frankly, better, because again you had the sunset and the cactus — at least it had things that we advertise in Scottsdale,” she said. “I’m not sure this is exactly what I’d say is the best idea for Scottsdale.”

Scottsdale Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp said she sees a need for change in Scottsdale’s flag, as many other municipalities have beautiful flags. Recounting a meeting in Tucson where she had to carry the Scottsdale flag, she called it embarrassing.

“I found it embarrassing, because many of the city flags are beautiful and ours isn’t,” she said. “I think there are some elements of this flag that I like, but I would say it’s a work in progress and I would consider making a few changes to it to see if it might be a little more recognizable, something that represents Scottsdale. The saguaro blossom, to me, it doesn’t do it for me.”

Councilwoman Virginia Korte pointed out that the McDowell Mountain Preserve has become a point of pride for Scottsdale, saying she can embrace the Saguaro Blossom design.

“The value that we place on open space, and natural open space, the plants and everything about our preserve that is a wonderful symbol for me,” she said. “So I support the flag — the blossom flag — as presented.”

Ms. Korte moved to adopt the Saguaro Blossom flag, seconded by Councilwoman Linda Milhaven. The final vote was 4-3, with councilmembers Klapp, Phillips and Littlefield dissenting.

The March 5 agenda includes an action item to consider rescinding the resolution adopted on Feb. 19, and provide possible direction to staff regarding a new city flag. The item was added to the agenda at the request of Mayor Lane and councilmembers Klapp, Littlefield, Phillips and Solange Whitehead, the agenda states.

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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