Banner reduction recommended
Internal Affairs Committee suggests toning down military message
Chico’s Internal Affairs Committee voted Wednesday, Sept. 10, to recommend approval, with some restrictions, of a request by a local nonprofit to display banners on street light poles honoring local active-duty military personnel.
The recommendation limits both the location of the banners as well as the number of days they can fly. Chico Military Heroes had initially asked for a license to display the banners along East First, Mariposa and East avenues year-round.
The issue came to the committee, which is made up of Councilmembers Tami Ritter, Ann Schwab and Sean Morgan, based on a vote by the full council last month that bought some time on a touchy and emotional issue.
Those supporting the banners, which feature a photographic image of an active service member along with his or her name and military branch, argued the displays are an appropriate means of honoring those protecting our freedoms. Those opposed, including some veterans, said that, while they support the individual soldiers, they do not support the nation’s penchant for military action.
After listening to more than 20 members of the public, the committee acted on a motion by Schwab recommending that the council allow the banners only along East Avenue, west from Mariposa to the railroad tracks near Highway 32, and for only 30 days a year, surrounding a holiday such as Veterans Day or Memorial Day. Those asking to fly the banners would determine which holiday. The motion also rejected a request that a city fee of $2,100 be waived.
One of the men behind the nonprofit is Chris Nicodemus, a retired California Highway Patrol officer, who said the idea is to thank those who are serving. He addressed the commission to give background on an idea that was first broached three years ago.
“We detest the idea of war and are not shills for military,” he said in anticipation of the complaints that were to come.
Speakers included Butch Frederickson, president of Butte County’s branch of Vietnam Veterans of America. He spoke of how poorly those veterans were treated when they returned from war. He said his group wants to honor those future vets.
“Isn’t it time our elected officials said ‘Welcome home’ and ‘Thank you’?” he asked the commission.
Butte County Supervisor, veteran and former Chico City Councilman Larry Wahl said the “program does not glorify or promote war.” And he mentioned that, a few years ago, the city honored Hmong hero Gen. Vang Pao, whose statue stands in front of City Hall, about 20 feet from where the meeting was being held.
Those speaking out against the matter included Vietnam vets Robert Trausch and Michael Pike. Trausch said he served in the Marines and had friends who were killed or came home missing limbs.
“Most young men and women go into the military today because they have no other choices,” he said, referring to the country’s lingering economic problems. He said there should instead be efforts to make sure today’s returning vets are properly taken care of.
Pike said he served two tours in Vietnam as a Green Beret.
“I am a warrior and conflicted in coming here,” he said, adding that he wanted to represent veterans on the matter. “I honor the intentions of this group who wants to fly the banners. This is just not the appropriate way to honor them.”
He suggested flying the banners on private, rather than public, property and also objected to flying them near schools, as they may help recruit students into the military.
“I saw a lot of combat and I don’t consider myself a hero,” he said.
Chuck Greenwood said he’d rather see the streets uncluttered by banners, calling them “junk mail on trees.” He also said granting this request would set a precedent and allow the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party to also apply for banner displays.
The matter will now go back to the full council with the commission’s recommendation.