Americans frustrated by the policies of the current administration in Washington have let their feelings be known in large sporting venues across the country by chanting the president’s name with an objectionable four-letter word in front of it.
Others have put the phrase into print on flags and banners and have hung them outside their homes.
Jackson, known as the “city of beautiful homes, parks, schools and churches” is not immune to this fad.
One Jackson resident was fed up with her neighbor’s bold display of that objectionable phrase in large white letters on a black 6-by-8-foot flag outside his home.
During the non-agenda citizen input portion of the meeting, Jaren Melton complained to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen Jan. 3, saying she was “shocked and horrified” to see this phrase publicly displayed at the corner of August and Emma Streets near the Recycling Center. She said when she had complained to city officials, she was told it was her neighbor’s First Amendment right to display that flag.
“My neighborhood has a lot of children” she said, and added that three or four buses drive by every day. “It’s not right. The City can make an amendment to stop it. It may be his right, but his right stops where my right begins.”
City Attorney Curtis Poore said he had driven by the home and had examined the flag carefully.
“I want you to know I have researched this issue very carefully and the law is absolutely clear, as much as you or I or any of us might not like the use of that kind of language, the Supreme Court has made it clear that as a city, we simply don’t have the ability to pass an ordinance or take any kind of action that would require him to remove that flag.”
“That’s not free speech, sir,” she protested.
“I understand that’s your opinion,” Poore replied. “But I’m required to look at the law. And the law is very clear on this issue, that this is a First Amendment right. It concerns political speech, and the City just doesn’t have the ability to take any action whatsoever with respect to that particular type of language — the manner in which it’s used. I looked at the cases very carefully and the law is very clear on this issue.”
She asked if the flag’s slogan was an example of hate speech.
“Not the way the Supreme Court is addressing the issue,” Poore replied. “I know it’s upsetting, and it’s disappointing to hear that something can’t be done.”
“I don’t know of any newspaper that would print that word. I don’t know of any television station that allows that word to be broadcast. But you’re going to allow that word to not only be printed, but seen by hundreds of children daily.”
Poore reminded her that it was not the Board of Aldermen or the City that was allowing that word to be displayed. “It’s the Supreme Court that has decided that is a protected speech under the First Amendment.”
Mayor Hahs said the flag in her neighborhood is not the only one in Jackson. “We have it in other parts of our town. I talked to the mayor of Cape Girardeau today. They have the same issue.”
Lt. Alex Broch of the Jackson Police Department told the CBJ he was unaware of other flags; however, during the Christmas season, a resident put the initals “FJB” in lights. And when Donald J. Trump was president, a similar sentiment was expressed against him on a flag, and that resident flew his flag until Trump left office years later, Broch said.
Alderman Joe Bob Baker asked if anyone had contacted the flag owner and simply asked if he wouldn’t mind taking down the flag because neighbors have complained. “He may not, but at least we can try,” Baker suggested.
After a visit from JPD later in the week, the homeowner voluntarily removed the flag, Broch reported.
In other action
• Meeting date changed: The Board moved the date for the Board of Aldermen meeting from Monday, Feb. 21, to Tuesday, Feb. 22, in observance of the Presidents’ Day holiday.
• E-Cycle set: The Board set this year’s E-Cycle Electronic Waste Collection Event for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 4.
• East Main concrete improvements: The Board accepted the low bid of Frona-barger Concreters, Inc., of Oak Ridge in the amount of $926,315 for work on the Water System Facility Plan Implementation and east Main Street Concrete Improvements Project Phase 2, Project 2C. The bid was $177,000 below the next lowest bidder. A contract was authorized.
The project includes water main replacement, storm sewer work, pavement replacement and removal of the railroad tracks that cross east Main Street near Co-op.
• Park Day set: The annual Park Day Event was set for Saturday, April 30, beginning at 8 a.m. at shelter No. 1 in City Park. Volunteers will spruce up the park.
• Aerator at Rotary Lake: The Board supported a Land Conservation Partnership Grant application to the Missouri Department of Conservation for an aerator in Rotary Lake to add oxygen to the water.
• Depositories: The Board agreed to depository agreements between the City and Southern Bank, Wood & Huston Bank, Alliance Bank, US Bank, The Bank of Missouri and First State Community Bank.
• Holiday Extravaganza of Lights: Alderman David Hitt reported that this year’s Holiday Extravaganza of Lights in City Park “really went well.” He said approximately 33,500 cars drove through the park to view the lights this past year, compared to 24,000 the previous year.
• Hubble ford low water crossing: Putz Construction of Millersville was the low bidder at $549,538.50 for work on a new bridge across Hubble Creek in City Park. A formal recommendation will be made to the Board of Aldermen Jan. 18.
• Ridge Road water tower: In study session, the Board of Aldermen discussed the need for a new water tower in the northeast part of town. It needs to be of equal height or taller than other water towers to improve water pressure in the system.
The City is just in the beginning stages of planning for this water tower. It will be six months or so before a recommendation will come before the Board.
• Storm sewer system permit: City Engineer Anna Bergmark gave an update on the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit.
Jackson previously had a two-step permit that was more flexible, but the request for that permit was denied this year and the Department of Natural Resources is now requiring that Jackson have a comprehensive permit, which requires more specific information.
• Bond issue: Public Works Director Kent Peetz discussed when the City wants to place a bond issue request on the ballot. He recommended not putting it on the April ballot, but instead waiting until August. This will allow more preparation time and by then, grant opportunities should be known.