Three cheers — and a bunch of bouquets — for the Old Town Orcutt American Legion Post. Thanks to its persistence, an absurd prohibition on flying the U.S. flag at monuments located on state right-of-ways has been overturned.
The Legion had a big assist from local Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, who sponsored legislation allowing American and California flags to be flown at gateway monuments throughout the state. (Gateway monuments are those “welcome” signs located at entrances to many communities.)
The controversy over Orcutt’s attempt to fly Old Glory dates to 2011, when Caltrans denied a permit application for a patriotic monument near the Highway 101/Clark Avenue exit, just south of Santa Maria.
Because the monument included a 60-foot flagpole that would fly the U.S. and California flags, the application was denied.
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Sounds weird, but here’s the reasoning: In the aftermath of 9/11, a California court ruled that impromptu displays of American flags hung from freeway overpasses amounted to political expression. If Caltrans was going to allow that, the court opined, it would also have to allow other political banners and signs — no matter their content.
Caltrans balked at that and decided to ban everything. On that basis, it denied the application from the Orcutt veterans group.
Outrage ensued. The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors objected to the denial. Bill O’Reilly reported the controversy. Newspapers weighed in, with the L.A.Times offering this astute observation: “... one would be permitted to wonder if the folks at Caltrans have their heads shoved up their asphalt.”
When Cunningham was briefed on the situation during last year’s political campaign, he offered to help — and followed through by sponsoring AB 866, referred to as “The Fix.” The bill unanimously passed the Assembly and state Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Brown.
To celebrate, American Legion Post 534 — known as “the friendliest post on the coast” — is inviting the community to a flag raising at 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 30 at Clark Avenue and Foxenwood Lane.
It’s a well-deserved victory celebration long in coming — and an excellent reminder that there are times when it pays to persevere.
Bouquets and brickbats appear occasionally in The Tribune. If there’s something (or someone) you would like to honor with a bouquet or chastise with a brickbat, email your idea to firstname.lastname@example.org.