New City flag is long overdue, and the process to get a new one starts today

Statement of Alderman Peter Burgelis
July 2, 2024

Since 1955, Milwaukee has flown a city flag that was designed not by an artist, but by an alderman. The bright blue flag features random imagery including a Native American headdress and newly opened County Stadium, and has been widely panned for decades.

On Tuesday, a Common Council resolution that I authored will be introduced to adopt the Robert Lenz flag design titled “Sunrise Over the Lake” as the official flag of the City and establishing the official adoption day of the new flag as January 31, 2025, on Milwaukee’s 179th birthday.

Why is a new official City flag needed?

Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I believe the 1955 city flag is a great snapshot in time of Milwaukee’s history in the 1950s, but now carries little relevance. It doesn’t speak to our values and doesn’t convey our dynamic Cream City spirit. What’s more, in September 2018, the Milwaukee Arts Board determined that a new flag is necessary, and then set forth a process to have new flag design submissions brought forward.

Common Council File Number 181772, a resolution directing the City Clerk to issue a Request for Qualifications and Request for Proposals for designing and adopting a new official City flag, was adopted on May 7, 2019. The City received ZERO responses to the 2019 RFP.

In the nearly 5 years since the unsuccessful RFP, the Common Council has declined to take further action on the Milwaukee Arts Board’s recommendations, thus denying Milwaukeeans the chance to replace the city’s 70-year-old flag.

The winning design from the grassroots People’s Flag competition, “Sunrise Over the Lake,” has since been organically adopted and is widely used by Milwaukeeans on homes, businesses, and local products in every ZIP Code and neighborhood in Milwaukee. The design has, in my view, intrinsic beauty and timeless meaning that represents the core of Milwaukee – where we came from – three founding towns, what we are- comprised of three rivers, and where we want to be – dawn rising over Lake Michigan for the growth and prosperity of our city, its residents, and businesses. This Flag reminds us of what has drawn human beings to the ‘Good Land’ for thousands of years – Lake Michigan’s beauty and bounty.

Under this resolution, the file will initiate a community outreach process where Milwaukeeans will be able to provide input and testimony in meetings held across our community during the summer. We want to hear from residents about this important proposal.

The intent is to then bring the file back to the Council legislative cycle in September.

I am looking forward to hearing from citizens and my colleagues on the effort to replace our 70-year-old banner with “Sunrise Over the Lake.”

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