When it comes to the future of the potential new Tulsa flag, the reality is that the City Council’s ultimate decision on the issue may not really matter.
Joey Wignarajah, one of the originators of the Tulsa Flag effort, said that “about a dozen” people are either making or will soon be making merchandise featuring an image of the new flag.
“Pretty soon there’s going to be shirts and hats and iPhone cases everywhere,” Wignarajah said. “We’re going to get the flag out there, and maybe we don’t have the votes (at the City Council level) right now, but I think the City Council will adopt the flag when the city adopts the flag.”
There was significant interest in updating Tulsa’s flag — which is currently just the city’s seal — when the project was announced last year. But when the three design finalists were announced last spring, there was also significant pushback from citizens who didn’t like any of the potential winners.
And that feeling filtered down to the City Council, whose votes will ultimately decide whether the flag becomes official or remains a novelty. Adoption of the flag, which was once considered by some to be a formality, now appears unlikely given the recent reticence of several council members.
But like it or not, the merchandise is coming. Mythic, a Tulsa screenprinting business, has already begun advertising three shirt designs and a hat, and other items are following, Wignarajah said.
“Our view is that this is a passion project; this is fun for us,” Wignarajah said. “It’s all been an incredible amount of fun, so we’re going to get the flags out there, we’re going to support the businesses that are making merchandise, and we’ll just see what happens.”
City Councilor Blake Ewing, one of two councilors (along with Ben Kimbro) who have been outspoken in favor of the new flag design, told The Frontier on Friday that when it comes to the eventual adoption of the new flag, “the writing is on the wall.”
“Within a month, you’re not going to be able to walk down the street without seeing the flag on a shirt or hanging on a business, and all the other details will become irrelevant,” he said. “To me, the writing is on the wall. This is going to be the new flag whether the City Council adopts it or not.”
And Wignarajah, Ewing and City Councilor Phil Lakin — who, if not anti-flag, has at least preached patience when it comes to adoption — agree it’s unlikely the council would vote in favor of the flag at this time.
“I don’t think it would pass today, just on the sentiment I’m hearing,” Lakin said. “I think it would be a very close vote, maybe 5-4 or 6-3, one way or the other.”
Lakin told The Frontier he feels like the quick pace of Tulsa Flag’s recent announcements — the group declared the winning design on Wednesday, then immediately announced that merchandise was being printed — has boxed the City Council into having to make a decision sooner than it anticipated.
“I know Karen (Gilbert) said she wanted to find time to do a town hall to get some reactions, and I need to figure out a way to ask my constituents about it, too,” Lakin said. “The unfortunate thing is this deal is moving forward already, which I guess I can’t fault them for because (the Tulsa Flag group) is really proud of the process they’ve gone through. It’s just that in my six years as city councilor, I can’t remember a process ever having ended like this or being steered this way.
“It’s seems like the outcome is being shaped regardless of what the council thinks.”
At the same time, Lakin said, he knew he was “being an idealist” and had hoped for a scenario where the majority of the city would have rallied behind one of the flag designs, which would have made the process easier.
“I wanted 90 percent of the city to be like ‘Oh, my God, that says Tulsa in every shape and form,’ and I don’t think the vote they took said that,” Lakin said. The group reported receiving about 8,000 votes, with the winning flag design getting more than 50 percent of the vote..
“I want something to be here and stay,” Lakin said. “I don’t want something that there’s an early adoption of but no one really sticks with. At the same time, maybe it really does gain traction and people do adopt it. … I could come back eventually and say, ‘Yeah, I think this is as good as we’re going to get and people may have objections, but I’m ready to move forward. Or I could come back and say the opposite.”
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