Gainesville Daily Register

April 23, 2013

County adjusts flag lowering policy

By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer

Cooke County — County policy regarding lowering the American flag received an adjustment during Monday’s regular commissioners’ court meeting.

Following some debate, a final vote decided the flag will be lowered in conjunction with other municipalities when requested by the president of the United States or the governor of Texas as a response to national tragedy or disaster.

“It’s about coming together as a country and as a county,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Leon Klement. “I’ve always believed that all my life.”

However, the county’s maintenance department is now in charge of the lowering, a procedure formerly overseen by County Judge John Roane — who disagreed with commissioners Monday about when a flag lowering is appropriate.

“I think it’s different,” Roane said Monday about his interpretation of the procedure. “I’ve never said my opinion is more important than the president’s. But I have my own opinion about when it should be lowered or not.”

This contention with the court followed a similar discussion in early January, when Roane declined to lower the Cooke County Courthouse flag following a mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14.

Until Monday’s vote, the county judge had routinely performed the “unofficial duty” of raising and lowering the courthouse flag.

President Barack Obama’s decree to lower flags following the Newtown shooting, Roane said, was a request rather than a mandate. And Roane’s decision not to follow that request, he explained early in January, wasn’t intended as disrespect but as accordance with the traditionally held reason to lower an American flag: when responding to a tragedy or disaster that is military or patriotic in context.

Tragedies such as mass shootings, Roane said, deserve their own distinct form of memoriam.

“It’s just a different issue,” he said on Jan. 4. “It loses its meaning if you lower the flag every time a tragedy happens.”

Precinct 1 Commissioner Gary Hollowell put the issue back on the agenda for Monday’s meeting, which led to the adjustment of flag-lowering procedure.

He and Klement and Precinct 2 B.C. Lemons all disagreed with Roane and said the flag should be lowered when the president and governor request it, regardless of whether or not county officials agree with the current administration.

“I don’t think this has to do with just the president of the United States,” Klement added. “I think it has to do with the country. When we had the last president, we had a large group of people who didn’t like him. And with this president, there’s a large group of people who don’t like this one. And I don’t agree with a lot of what he does, either. But I don’t know if you should pick and choose during a tragedy.”