Jackson flag order causes flap in Carson


Even in death, controversy and Michael Jackson can’t stay away from each other.

The latest dust-up comes in Carson, a working-class city the singer may have never visited, a universe away from his pricey haunts in Los Olivos, Bahrain and Holmby Hills.

The problem started when Mayor Jim Dear ordered the American flag outside City Hall lowered to half-staff the day of Jackson’s funeral, an honor usually reserved for dead presidents, heroes and other prominent individuals.


Dear, 56, wasn’t a Jackson fan. “I have issues with his lifestyle,” he said.

But several people younger than 35 suggested the city lower the flag. “It made sense to me,” Dear said. And city policy enacted in 1996 gave him the right to do it.

Then came the letters, the e-mails, the phone calls from around the country -- about 30 in all -- excoriating his decision. “My view is it’s a generational schism,” he said.

Like a Jackson dance step, Dear did a quick turn. He consulted a flag expert and five members of the city’s Veterans Affairs Commission. Tuesday, he introduced legislation, passed by the City Council, that no longer grants the mayor authority to lower the American flag. His authority is limited to the city flag.

But Dear plans to take it further. He said he may introduce a resolution at the next U.S. Conference of Mayors that all cities follow U.S. flag protocol, which would not only have prevented the flag from being lowered for Jackson but nixed the decision by the mayor of Buffalo to drop it to half-staff for TV journalist and native son Tim Russert.

Dear said he would use his power to lower the city flag only to commemorate a local celebrity, like actor Forest Whitaker, who was raised in Carson, or actor/comedian Bernie Mac, who died a year ago.

Mac had friends in Carson and visited the city frequently, Dear said. When he died, Dear sent a memorial certificate to his funeral and adjourned the City Council in his honor.

Whether that makes him a local celebrity may be open to debate in Carson.