Keep the flag flying in Lake Geneva

by James Wigderson | April 3, 2016 3:26 pm

Over at the MacIver Institute[1], I explain the flag flap in Lake Geneva, WI, and what it took for one long-time business owner to resist an anonymous bureaucrat.

The “City of Lake Geneva Code Enforcement Office,” in an unsigned letter, told Patzfahl that the flag was in violation of city ordinances. Even though the hole in the concrete was put there for a flag pole, just as other holes for flag poles were put in front of other stores, suddenly the American flag was a problem.

The letter said, “You have a flag and pole in front of your business by the street. This is not allowed in the city. American flags are only allowed on your property and to be positioned not to interfere with the pedestrians and sidewalk.”

Instead of listing the specific ordinance that was violated, the letter merely had a list of “common code violations.” Yes, imagine so many rules for businesses that there is a list of the ones that are commonly violated. However, none of them applied to the flag in front of Patzfahl’s store. One commonly violated ordinance even stated, “No undulating, swinging, rotating banner flags or moving signs or decorations are permitted. American flags are permitted.” That rule also has an exception for “sequin-like eyecatcher devices.”

The story has a happy ending, but how ridiculous is it when a small business owner is told the American Flag is no longer contributing to keeping “the City of Lake Geneva a beautiful place to live, work and visit?”

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