California city snubs president, victims of Pearl Harbor

December 10, 2012

By KAREN VELIE

San Luis Obispo staffers accuse city officials of snubbing the president, the “greatest generation,” and victims of Pearl Harbor after they ordered employees to raise flags lowered in honor of Pearl Harbor patriots to full-staff.

President Barack Obama proclaimed December 7 as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day to honor “the most devastating attacks ever to befall the American people.”

“We mark this anniversary by honoring the patriots who perished more than seven decades ago, extending our thoughts and prayers to the loved ones they left behind and showing our gratitude to a generation of service members who carried our nation through some of the 20th century’s darkest moments,” the proclamation says.

“I encourage all” organizations in America “to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff in honor of those American patriots who died as a result of their service at Pearl Harbor.”

After it was discovered that some San Luis Obispo staffers placed flags at half-staff following Obama’s proclamation, city management ordered the flags raised to the top of the poles, claiming only Mayor Jan Marx and the city council are permitted to order city owned U.S. flags flown at half-staff.

However, U.S. policy says only presidents and state governors can decide when and how long the U.S. flag should be flown at half-staff. These proclamations generally honor the deaths of high-ranking federal officials or servicemen who have lost their lives protecting the United States of America.

Nevertheless, San Luis Obispo city policy allows elected city officials to refuse a presidential proclamation and to order the nation’s flag to be flown at half-staff to honor deceased former city officials.

On Oct. 4, Mayor Jan Marx ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of former city council member Myron Graham, who passed away at the age of 99 a few hours earlier. On Oct. 5, city staff followed her command and lowered the approximately 10 U.S. flags flow on city properties to half-staff.

Marx said she became aware that several city staffers sent emails complaining of the city’s refusal to honor veterans of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, the same day Marx and members of the city council rode on a float in the city’s Christmas Parade. Marx told CalCoastNews.com she plans to look into the issue.

However, she refused to answer several questions, such as does the city or the president have the authority to determine when the U.S. flag can be flown at half-staff. Nor did she address why she did not deal with the issue on Friday.

Following the city’s insistence that flags not be flown at half-staff on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, numerous employees, mostly veterans, voiced their concerns in emails to city management. In one email that was copied to all city employees, a former Marine spoke of his military service and his support for those who have died while serving the United States.

“If I seem upset to you, it’s because I am,” the employee says in the email. “As a veteran, that flag is sacred to me. I wore it on my sleeve when I was getting rocketed and mortared in Afghanistan; I’ve unloaded body bags off a Blackhawk helicopter which were draped in our flag. Pearl Harbor was an epochal event in our nation’s history; my late father was a WWII veteran of the Pacific theater.”

Assistant City Manager Michael Codron responded by claiming only elected city officials have the ability to determine when the U.S. flag is flown at half-staff on city owned properties.

“I do recall last year and I’m sorry the city’s flag policy is not consistent with how you – and I know many others – would have the city recognize important memorials, such as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day,” Codron said in an email. “The flag policy can be changed by the City Council, and I would encourage you and others who have an interest in this issue – as I would any member of the public that wanted to see our flag policy changed – to get together and either write a letter to the City Council or attend a regular meeting and provide public comment on this matter.”

San Luis Obispo Police Officer Matt Blackstone, a former combat Marine who served in the Persian Gulf, also sent emails to city management. He wrote about mourning his fallen comrades and voiced his disappointment in the city over its refusal to honor patriots of Pearl Harbor.

“Today I am left with a similar sick feeling in my gut, maybe a little less intense, but similar that I work for a city administration and council that has such disregard for the sacrifice of our veterans, Blackstone says in the email.

“The fact that our city would have a policy that we don’t fly flags at half-staff on these historic days is shocking. As I write this I have been told that employees of our city were ordered by their supervisors to raise the flag back to full staff at their work location after having lowered it in remembrance of the day.

“So in closing, I will say this to our Assistant City Manager Michael Codron, calling it your job doesn’t make it right, boss. You are second in command of the city, fix it please.”

UPDATE: Jan Marx responded with the following statement after this article was posted:

The city flag policy was enacted long before I was on city council. I learned about the request to lower the flag on Pearl Harbor Day only after city staff had said no to it. I want to make sure our flag policy conforms to federal law and have asked our city attorney to review the matter.

 


135 Comments

  1. jarhead says:

    LISTEN UP CITY COUNCIL AND MAYOR

    in light of the mass shootings in CONNECTICUT,the PRESIDENT has ORDERED THE FLAGS TO BE FLOWN AT HALF STAFF ON THROUGH TUESDAY,
    Think you can get it right this time

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 4

    • Laughlines says:

      They got it. Flags are at half-mast. It might have taken a huge public uproar, but they seem to be getting the message. I’m no huge fan of City management, but I’m fair enough to give people credit for learning from a screw-up. Let’s see if, when and how they modify their flag policy.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

      • MaryMalone says:

        I’m all for tolerance with people who learn from their mistakes…except when the “mistake” is part and parcel with a systematic approach to governing which repeatedly makes the same vanity- and ego-driven “mistakes.”

        There comes a point when I just don’t consider them “mistakes” anymore, but rather a “personality disorder” which the person simply does not appear to be able to get beyond.

        SLO City administrators didn’t put the flags at half-mast because it was the right thing to do…they did it because they didn’t want to hear any more outrage from the public.

        That means that it is the public’s responsibility to pitch a fit whenever these adminstrators make the same type of vanity-driven mistake, over and over again.

        I’m sorry, but, as my midwestern mother used to say, “Life is too short and the grave is too deep for that $hit.”

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  2. smartmouth says:

    People!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  3. missmuffet says:

    Hey I have an idea ! Lets do a little community poll on this site (thumbs up or down)

    How many of you people think that it would have been appropriate for SLO City to follow the President’s proclamation in respecting the Pearl Harbor victims by lowering the flag to half mast on Dec 7?

    If you think it would have been appropriate click thumbs up.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 62 Thumb down 2

  4. Human Reason says:

    Such a lack of leadership from Michael and Katie. Until they are fired the City will continue to suffer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 1

  5. JustAman says:

    Whatever a person might think about whether or not the city should lower the flag for Pearl Harbor remembrance, it’s fuzzy-headed to say that the city has to follow federal government protocols. They apply to federal buildings, not cities, counties, or homeowners–all of which/whom can set their own policies.

    Even Obama’s proclamation quoted above begins “I encourage …” so the entire story seems built on a false premise.

    Just imagine if, simply because someone flies a flag, suddenly they’re bound by federal laws. Nonsense. I wish this site exercised more skepticism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 19

    • r0y says:

      I do not think it was or is a question of compliance, but rather a question of TASTE. Yes, technically, we can do whatever, and I firmly believe in more power at a local level, etc. etc. However, it was not because Obama encouraged, it was because it was DECEMBER 7th.

      It really is not that hard… unless you’re a SLO administrator, then apparently it is that hard.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 1

      • MaryMalone says:

        I agree, r0y. What could the administration of SLO City possibly gain from turning the commemoration of December 7th, and honoring those who gave their lives on that day, into a pi$$ing contest with the POTUS.

        How old is Katie—12?

        I’m surprised Katie didn’t stamp her foot and whine, “*I’M* the boss here, and *I* decide whether the flag is up or down!”

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

    • missmuffet says:

      Im not following U JustAman. False Premis? Im not reading anything suggesting that the City is bound by law to follow the protocal just that the certain city officials showed poor taste in not flying the flags half mast on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day especially after certain employees had complained. From what I read the premis was that poor judgement was shown and that it was interpreted as a snub both to the President who issued the proclamation and to the veterans, particularly those who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

      It sounds to me like you are trying to minimize the city officials poor judgement. Sorry pal …. that ain’t gonna fly with most folks

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

      • JustAman says:

        Did you read the same story?

        Quote “However, U.S. policy says only presidents and state governors can decide when and how long the U.S. flag should be flown at half-staff.”

        And

        Quote “However, she refused to answer several questions, such as does the city or the president have the authority to determine when the U.S. flag can be flown at half-staff.”

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  6. Downtown Bob says:

    Karen’s disgruntled guy in the city that comes up with all sorts of fake stuff at it again…wake up Karen this guy is playing you like a cheap guitar. I don’t work for the city but from talking with several unrelated individuals this guys is on a power quest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 19

    • msminiver says:

      Downtown Bob,

      So did you get your ear lowered at Anderson’s Barber Shop today. Read the article, several City employee’s sent emails about their concerns about honoring Pearl Harbor. And if you pay attention to the post here it is obvious that dozen’s of are expressing their disdain for City Management. Keep listening to the gossip at rays and pretty soon you be moving to Canada with our Mayor and draft dogging POS.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 2

  7. WiseGuy says:

    Are you proud of yourself, Karen, as you create misunderstandings and stir up animosity and a lynch mob mentality because someone did something for reasons you don’t understand or appreciate? Even more disgusting is how you go on the Congalton show and make absolutely unfounded accusations.

    Your emotions seem to be out of control, Karen, and it is harming your efforts at legitimate, respected journalism. Instead, you crave all the attention and thumbs ups from all the people you stirred up unnecessarily and for the lowliest of reasons.

    You think you are standing up for patriotism? What a joke.What a self-delusion.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 39

    • IronHub says:

      Sometimes the only reply possible is stunned silence.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

    • Pelican1 says:

      Would you please explain why the flag was ordered back to full staff so we can all better “understand” and “appreciate” the Mayor’s decision.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 0

    • missmuffet says:

      Give me a break WiseGuy … Who are U blaming for “creating misunderstandings”? The reporter who wrote the story? If anyone created this controversy it was the short sighted bureacrates who, for whatever personal reasoning, didnt want to show respect for the vets who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor.

      To me your blaming the messanger and that makes me suspect your are one of the city administrators who are now in the eye of the storm.

      GET REAL !!!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  8. rogerfreberg says:

    Are YOU really surprised???

    Do you remember when San Luis Obispo last had a 4th of July Parade… or the one before that?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1

    • brettmx says:

      Well Roger since you’re not doing a whole lot of anything start organizing a 4th of July parade. I’m certain you have the ability to put it all together.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 15

  9. hijinks says:

    Codron’s a dweeb. Blame him, not the mayor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 12

Comments are closed.