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Could a newly redesigned flag better represent the city of Lansing?
A growing online community seems to think it could. But city officials would rather skip the trouble.
Hundreds of people on the online discussion board Reddit, including local residents and users from across the globe, proposed a trove of designs with plans to submit them to the City Council this month. Council members said they’d entertain suggestions but ultimately have more pressing issues on their plates.
“The flag and the seal are synonymous with one another,” explained Council President Carol Wood. “There would be quite an expense to changing either one of those. The idea of something new and improved is great, but we have to look at dollars and cents. This really wouldn’t provide the best bang for our buck.”
More than 150 redesigned flags were assembled over the last month within /r/ Vexillology, a Reddit community dedicated to the study of flags. Demarco Shango, a 20-year-old Michigan State University student, organized the contest and plans to submit the top contenders to city officials to create a “new identity” for the city of Lansing.
Vexillology, from the Latin vexillum, is the the study of flags. A moderator from the group explained the 196,000 users within the forum either love to memorise flags of the world, enjoy the art of the designs or simply appreciate the field of study as an intersection of history, geography, culture, politics and identity.
“Humans are a social species and want nothing more than to identify with and feel part of a group,” explained a moderator who goes by the name Mourning_Starre. “What is the easiest way to do that? Shared symbols. This can be the clothes we wear, the stickers we put on our bumpers and — of course — the flags we fly.”
Some suggestions included a silhouette of the Capitol dome. Others showed imagery depicting the Grand and Red Cedar rivers.
One flag had an image of an apple blossom to represent the state’s official flower. Gear designs were an ode to the automotive industry. Another included the iconic smokestacks from a local power plant.
The winning design — which garnered the most online votes when the contest ended Friday — depicts a blue stripe for the Grand River, a green stripe for environmentalism and a white stripe indicative of the city’s bright future. An image of the Capitol dome within a wheel is also emblazoned across the center of the flag.
“The issue with the current flag is the colors don’t have any specific meaning,” Shango posted online. “We really don’t have any official colors. The only pallet that would make a little sense was mimicking the state of Michigan’s official colors.” He also told Reddit his “grassroots” group repeatedly met with the City Council.
But that was only to get some online attention. Shango admits he exaggerated the extent of his efforts. He said he bumped into Councilwoman Kathy Dunbar through a mutual friend and informally floated the idea, but has yet to reach out to any city officials to formally propose the concept. That was for after the contest, he said.
“That was my fault,” Shango added. “I had directly misinformed the group.”
Other Council members and Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said they hadn’t discussed the concept with anyone and offered no official endorsement of the online effort to hoist a new flag over the city. As a result, hundreds online are now awaiting a decision from City Council that may never arrive.
“I have never heard from a single constituent that this is something that we should spend time on,” added Councilman Adam Hussain. “Most residents and business owners in Lansing are focused on issues relate to economic development, crime, road conditions, quality of life and the like.”
The current city flag was adopted in 1994.
Then-mayor David Hollister charged the Lansing Image Task Force with developing a plan to improve the city’s image, including a new seal and flag. It has remained unchanged ever since. And while Council members appreciated the recent effort, they don’t expect much to change.
Councilman Peter Spadafore is aware of the online contest but would be more interested in flag designs from local residents, he said. He knows many like the current design but said he’d be curious to see what symbols would be correlated with the city. Others said they’d be willing if more residents voiced a desire for change.
“People can do whatever they want as far as submitting designs but it’s nothing that I’m paying attention to right now,” added Council Vice President Jody Washington. “It’s not that I don’t support their right to submit those designs, I just don’t see anything happening with them. It has just never came up.”
Visit lansingcitypulse.com for continued coverage as the proposals head to City Council for further review.