One of the remarkable and impressive things I see in Oakdale is the more than 300 American flags set up by the Oakdale Lions Club along the city main streets on holidays and other special occasions.
People in this city are very patriotic. We see the flag displayed on residences, there’s the 100-foot I.L. ‘Nip’ Dallas flag pole in the center of town on G Street by Wood Park, and many local businesses display the US Flag.
Downtown, along one of the city’s main thoroughfares of F Street – which also serves as Highway 108 for those traveling into and through town – the City of Oakdale displays the US Flag flanked by the State of California Flag and the city flag in front of the Bianchi Community Center.
Since the community center sits behind the Oakdale Leader offices, the flags are in a prevalent view when I leave or enter the side door of the building which leads to the purpose of this ‘notebook’: The city, time and time again, is ignoring proper etiquette at times when, BY PRESIDENTIAL ORDER, the US Flag is to be at half-staff at US, State and local governmental facilities.
My observation started last December, when after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, all governmental flags were ordered to be at half-staff.
Well, the city got this half right. While the US Flag was at half-staff, the flanking State and city flags were at full staff clearly in violation of proper flag etiquette.
According to United States Code Title 4 Chapter 1 of the U.S. Flag Code, no flag should ever be displayed higher than the US flag. So whenever the US flag is displayed at half-staff, all other flags, state, national, local, must also be at half-staff.
I contacted City Manager Bryan Whitemyer and the city gaffe was eventually corrected that day.
Next came a couple of months later, when on March 7, with the passing of former First Lady Nancy Reagan, flags were again to be lowered to half-staff and again the City of Oakdale got this one partially right too.
Monday, March 7 the city US Flag was lowered to half-staff, but someone at the city failed to understand that the order was to keep them at half-staff until her Friday, March 11 internment.
Mid-week, when leaving the office side door, there’s the city’s Stars and Stripes flying atop the pole causing another notification from the city manager’s favorite reporter advising of another blunder.
While I admit I did not pay attention to the community center flags with the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February or the March 22 directive honoring the victims of the attacks in Brussels, Belgium, I was interested to see if the city would get the heads up for Sunday, May 15 with the annual Presidential Order for a sunrise to sunset commanding the flag lowered for Peace Officers Memorial Day – yeah, I have a special sentiment to this one.
After all, there was a City Proclamation made at the May 2 city council meeting with the city giving its recognition with Mayor Pat Paul calling, “… upon all citizens of Oakdale to observe May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day to honor those peace officers who, through their courageous deeds, have lost their lives or have become disabled in the performance of duty.”
The day comes and there’s Old Glory atop the pole, again in violation of a Presidential Order. (The following days until press time there was no change since May 15 to May 21 had also been declared “National Police Week.”)
Flying the flag at half-staff is an area of flag etiquette that city officials should make sure they get right. I also realize, this is also an area for which the road to error is routinely paved with good intentions, but that shouldn’t matter when the city’s image is at stake with clear inexcusable violations.
Richard Paloma is a staff journalist for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021. The opinion expressed is that of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Oakdale Leader.