When we last checked in with the heroes and villains of Milwaukee Flag: Infinity War, the Milwaukee Arts Board had acquired the six Infinity Flags, snapped their fingers, and cut the number of Milwaukee flags down to three. There was the still-official city flag, the grassroots People’s Flag, and the possibility of yet another flag to be designed by a to-be-determined designer, design team, or design firm. The poor 414 Flag, in a truly heartbreaking scene, didn’t stand a chance. “Mr. Barrett, I don’t feel so good,” the 414 Flag whimpered as it disappeared into a cloud of ash.
But now, an Endgame is in sight. On Thursday, the Steering and Rules Committee approved a resolution that directs the City Clerk to issue the previously suggested Request for Qualifications and Request for Proposals (RFQ/RFP). So, yes, pending Common Council approval within the next 30 days, there will be another process to create a new city flag. What’s different this time? An adoption deadline: May 31, 2020.
City Clerk James Owczarski spoke at Thursday’s meeting, and explained that the new process is intended to be “more inclusive from the beginning.” The People’s Flag campaign has been criticized for excluding certain Milwaukee groups—elderly and Spanish-speaking Milwaukeeans among them—in its 2015 contest.
The People’s Flag design—a.k.a. “Sunrise Over The Lake”—would be eligible to be considered in the new process, Owczarski stressed.
The designer of “Sunrise Over The Lake,” Robert Lenz, also spoke at Thursday’s meeting. Lenz said it was “kind of a disappointment” that the city was headed down this path, and suggested that “resources would be better spent thinking of getting the current flag out there” and educating the community on its symbolism. “The process might not have been perfect,” Lenz said of the People’s Flag campaign, “but one thing you can say is that it was effective.” He noted that the flag has been widely adopted by many citizens, sports teams, and even the Democratic Party of Milwaukee County. “This flag isn’t really going away,” he said.
The committee was sympathetic to Lenz’s argument, and commended him on his work and dedication. Still, the resolution was passed without further debate.
One interesting wrinkle: When pressed about who would own the rights to a new city flag, Owczarski said it would be owned by the City. The People’s Flag is licensed under Creative Commons Zero, meaning anyone can use and distribute it for free.
Here’s the full resolution:
Whereas, On July 31, 2018, the Common Council directed the Milwaukee Arts Board by Resolution File Number 180339 to establish and implement a process for the consideration, review, and possible recommendation of one or more designs for a new official City flag; and
Whereas, The Arts Board reported its findings and recommendations to the Steering and Rules Committee on February 14, 2019, by Common Council Communication File Number 181378; and
Whereas, The Arts Board determined that a new flag is necessary; and
Whereas, The Arts Board recommended that the process for considering, reviewing, and recommending design for a new official City flag should be to issue a joint Request for Qualifications and Request for Proposals (RFQ/RFP) to be developed and overseen by the City Clerk’s Office; now, therefore, be it
Resolved, By the Common Council of the City of Milwaukee, that the City Clerk is directed to issue an RFQ/RFP to solicit the interest of designers in designing a new official City flag; and, be it
Further Resolved, That the City Clerk is directed to present the RFQ/RFP to the Common Council for approval within 30 days of the adoption of this resolution; and, be it
Further Resolved, That the RFQ/RFP shall include the requirement that designers demonstrate evidence of the capability to conduct community outreach related to design and a plan for conducting such outreach for designing a flag, including subcontracting outreach services; and, be it
Further Resolved, That the RFQ/RFP shall include a cost estimate for conducting outreach and for designing a flag based on community feedback; and, be it
Further Resolved, That the evaluation of the RFQ/RFP award additional points for proposals that employ Milwaukee residents for outreach and design work; and, be it
Further Resolved, That the City Clerk shall report the findings of the RFQ/RFP to the Common Council for selection of a designer, design team, or design firm; and, be it
Further Resolved, That completion of community outreach, design of the flag, and presentation to Common Council for final approval of a flag design shall be completed by May 31, 2020.
And for those who missed the previous 8,000 installments in the Milwaukee City Flag Universe, here’s a mercifully brief recap:
In 2015, inspired by a TED Talk in which podcast host Roman Mars called the official Milwaukee flag one of the worst in the country, Milwaukee graphic designer Steve Kodis (and, eventually, non-profit organization Greater Together and others) spearheaded a grassroots contest to come up with a new flag. In June 2016, following a 1,000-entry design contest, Robert Lenz’s “Sunrise Over the Lake” was chosen by online voters as the People’s Flag. The symbol was soon embraced by much of Milwaukee, appearing on everything from shirts and stickers to bikes and beer. In July 2018, People’s Flag organizers made a presentation to the Common Council seeking official adoption of the flag. The presentation began well but was effectively shut down when various alders raised concerns about the non-inclusive nature of the People’s Flag contest. Further discussion—and the question of whether Milwaukee actually needed a new flag—was punted to the Milwaukee Arts Board.
[deep breath] In the fall and winter of 2018, following another presentation from People’s Flag organizers, the Milwaukee Arts Board determined that a new flag was indeed needed, and that the People’s Flag contest was indeed non-inclusive. The Board recommended that a request for proposal (RFP) be set up to come up with a new, official Milwaukee flag. Various elements were identified as important to the process, including:
• Include community input and town hall meetings, and community outreach conducted by Council members
• Previous submissions from the People’s Flag process would automatically be included with the general call for new entries
• The Council should provide funding for the process and the town hall meetings run by a consultant and attended by the designer(s)
• Design criteria should be left open
• The designer should submit at least three flag designs for consideration
• A public comment period should follow
• The final designs should be submitted to the Common Council for a final vote
See you in May 2020! And no spoilers!