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Fountain Valley may allow only governmental flags to fly above City Hall

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The state of California flag would be among those allowed to fly at Fountain Valley City Hall. A proposed city policy would only allow state, federal and sister city flags at the civic center.
(Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Fountain Valley is considering adopting a policy on what flags can fly on city poles — specifically, limiting banners to governmental symbols.

The policy, which the City Council will take up on Tuesday, would only allow the flags of the United States, California, the city, any official sister cities and the POW-MIA flag, which is a federally recognized national symbol.

The staff report attached to the proposed policy said the rules would formalize unofficial rules that the city has long followed.

“As recognized by the United States Supreme Court, a government entity is entitled to say what it wishes and has a right to speak for itself,” according to the report, written by the city’s attorney, Colin Burns. “With limited exceptions, for instance, the prohibition of government endorsing religion, the city is free to choose the messages it wants to display. Here, council has broad discretion to determine what flags to display on city property.”

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Burns said Friday that he wasn’t sure of the genesis of the possible rule change, but that he was asked to look into it by a person he declined to name, citing attorney-client privilege.

He did say he wasn’t asked by a member of the City Council, and that he was confident the request wasn’t motivated by a recent spate of local governmental bodies flying the LGBTQ pride flag at their headquarters, including Costa Mesa and Laguna Beach city halls and the state-owned OC Fair & Event Center. Anaheim, Fullerton and Santa Ana have also flown the rainbow flag at their city halls.

Burns said Fountain Valley wants to have a “clear, fair standard” should it be asked by any group to display its banner on city property, including on the flagpole outside City Hall, the flags behind the council dais, and on other city property like police and fire vehicles.

The council meeting starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 10200 Slater Ave.

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