Confederate Flag Controversy Prompts Plan to Replace State Flags at OC Civic Center

Nick Gerda/Voice of OC

The Mississippi state flag, which contains the Confederate flag, flies in front of Santa Ana City Hall on Tuesday.

The entire upper-left corner of the Mississippi state flag is a replica of the Confederate battle flag, which, in the aftermath of last month’s massacre at a black church in South Carolina, will no longer fly on the grounds of that state’s capitol or at many other public properties.

Count the Orange County Civic Center among them.

The county Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to not only take down the Mississippi flag, but all of the other state flags at a plaza in the Civic Center. In their place would be the flags of the 34 cities in Orange County, as well as flags for the county, state, nation, five military branches, and for prisoners of war and troops missing in action.

The proposal is yet another impact of the mass murder of nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston by a white gunman who wanted to start a race war.

It was brought forward by supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer, who said replacing the flag would be “consistent with elevating our entire county.”

“Let’s take something that’s been a national discussion, as a real negative, and turn it into a positive,” he said.

A final decision on the issue will be rendered Thursday by the Civic Center Authority board, which is made up of both county and city of Santa Ana officials.

“We’re prepared to take action at the meeting,” City Manager David Cavazos said in an interview, noting that several of his City Council members encouraged action on the flags at a recent meeting.

Spitzer’s proposal for the replacement flags “looks like a very viable option,” Cavazos added.

Thursday’s meeting starts at 10:30 a.m. at the county’s main public works building (300 N. Flower St., Santa Ana) in conference room B10.

Members of the public can attend and address board members during public comments.

One supervisor took issue with the proposal at the board’s Tuesday meeting. Supervisor Shawn Nelson questioned why the flags were worth so much attention.

“I don’t know anybody from the county that even goes over there” other than going to the courthouse, Nelson said.  “Maybe we shouldn’t be going through all this trouble.”

Spitzer acknowledged that the flag plaza is an underwhelming public space, but said it still occupies an important place in the county’s center of government.

“It is the area between the library and the courthouse,” Spitzer said, noting that it’s “way below” the standards of what a “glimmering” governing seat should look like.

Civic Center - flags plaza

Supervisor Andrew Do, meanwhile, said there’s a lot of foot traffic among youth and children around the plaza on weekends, due to events planned by the city and local school district.

There’s no reason to oppose replacing the flags, he said.

“I believe that the flags [are] going to represent a good civic lesson to the children” who go to these events, said Do, who represents Santa Ana as part of his district.

Nelson questioned that logic, saying he doesn’t know “how anyone’s learning about the county currently by walking through a circle of the states’ flags.”

County staff, meanwhile, said the flag replacement wasn’t expected to cause any extra costs, given that the existing flags are replaced with newly made versions every six months already.

It turns out that 31 of the 34 cities in Orange County already have flag designs.  Only Cypress, Laguna Hills and Laguna Woods don’t, according to the county’s public works director, Shane Silsby.

Under Spitzer’s proposal, the U.S. and California flags would be used to fill in for those cities’ flags until they’re designed.

You can contact Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.