Editor’s Note: This was reprinted from the current edition of The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta, available at local newsstands.
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – As suggestions expand to hanging banners beyond the Pride Flag on the village’s flagpole, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch is asking Trustee MacGuire Benton to form a committee with two other trustees to develop a policy for all such requests.
“We need a policy, that’s exactly right,” said the mayor, after Benton, in response to last week’s article, said his intent – and, he believes, the Village Board’s vote at its July 22 meeting – specified the Pride Flag would hang next June on the Main and Pioneer flagpole, not on Village Hall.
Speaking before the mayor had advised him of her decision, Benton said, as an alternative, he would consider hanging the Pride Flag on Village Hall year-’round as an alternative to a single month on the downtown flagpole.
As an LGBTQ man, he said, “this is a fresh fight and I’m committed to it. Only four years ago did LGBTQ get the right to marry the same gender.”
Since the news broke, Cooperstown Central School’s Pride Alliance, a student organization, told Benton it will raise money for the flag and donate it, and he expects a student contingent will be at a ceremony raising the banner next June.
In another new development, Trustee Richard Sternberg said he has approached Vets’ Club Commander David Sanford about hanging the POW/MIA flag for a month on the downtown flagpole, and the men agreed that November, which includes Veterans Day on the 11th, would be most appropriate.
Saying he supports flying the Pride Flag downtown next June, Sternberg added, “I feel the veterans need to be honored.” He plans to raise the issue at the trustees’ August meeting on the 26th, calling it “a statement of respect and appreciation.”
He has drafted a a resolution to be discussed at the next meeting.
Benton said he agrees with Sternberg’s idea: “I’m supportive of the POW/MIA flag. I stand with our vets, making sure the folks who serve this country and don’t come home are remembered. That’s a very important issue, too.”
He continued, “One issue we aren’t going to lead on is the issue of raising the Confederate flag,” which represents the oppressors, not the oppressed.
After last week’s article appeared saying the trustees had voted unanimously to hang the Pride Flag next June on Village Hall, Benton called to say that was incorrect. “I’m open to discussing it,” he said at the time. “But at this time, that’s the resolution, and I stand by it.”
The resolution did not appear on the board’s July agenda, and Benton proposed it, without public notice, during the “new business” portion at the end of the meeting. It was quickly passed unanimously.
Since there was no resolution, just notes Village Administrator Teri Barown takes to prepare the minutes, there was room for some misunderstanding. In reviewing her notes this week, she said the resolution was geographically specific to the downtown flagpole, with no mention of Village Hall.
The Pride Flag is an update of the six-color rainbow flag that dates back to 1979, which adds five sequential triangles on the flagpole side. “The white, pink, and light blue reflect the colors of the transgender flag, while the brown and black stripes represent people of color and those lost to AIDS,” according to “the Complete Guide to Queer Pride Flags” on the pride.com website.
“I’ve gotten a ton of positive feedback from people who live in the village,” the freshman trustee said, “and negative feedback from people who don’t live in the village, people on the wrong side of history, in my opinion,” adding, “I respect their right to disagree with me.”
But those who encouraged him, he said, were “all very vocal and supportive of dignity and equal rights.”