Holland officials consider public contest to redesign city flagSeptember 29, 2016 9:46pm

Sept. 29--The city of Holland is considering launching a public contest to redesign the city's flag -- but doesn't want to end up with the flag equivalent of "Boaty McBoatface."

The current city flag hangs in council chambers, and is usually displayed during a parade at Tulip Time.

The flag's white background has a Delft blue city seal in the middle, and versions bear the words "City of Holland, Michigan" and "A lakefront community prospering through diversity."

Assistant to the city manager Matt VanDyken said several people have asked to buy a city flag recently. Handing the flags out made some on the city's communications team yearn for a more updated flag that better reflected the city's new brand standards.

VanDyken proposed a public contest to redesign the flag at a Wednesday, Sept. 28, study session of the council. City staff would narrow down the entries to five, and then the public could be asked to vote on their favorites. The top two designs could then go to city council for their final pick, VanDyken proposed. The winner would receive $500.

VanDyken said the contest would be structured that way to avoid ending up with the flag equivalent of "Boaty McBoatface."

That was the frontrunner in a public naming contest this year launched by a British government agency as it sought to name a new $287 million polar research ship. The ship will be named the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

"This is a bottle of Excedrin I don't want," Councilman Todd Whiteman said Wednesday. "Every design process we've done in the past two years has been a major headache."

City Council has been heavily scrutinized by the public in the past for design decisions it has made -- first with the city logo redesign in 2014, and most recently in its decision to replace old wooden "welkom" signs with modern metal installations.

Councilman Brian Burch said he thinks it's time for the public to have their chance to have their say.

"We got a lot of feedback from people who said where is our vote, where is our voice?" Burch said, referencing the pushback from the public on the "welkom" sign issue.

Previously, Burch has steered away from "design by committee" but said he's willing to "eat crow" on this one.

Citing Rick DeVos' Twitter exercise seeking redesigns for the state of Michigan flag, Burch said he expected a similar effort in Holland to bring in about 80 percent unusable material and about 20 percent great ideas.

"I think it would engage some people that aren't currently engaged (in government)," Councilman Quincy Byrd said.

Burch listed several examples of what he considered to be a "good flag": the American flag, the United Kingdom's Union Jack, the flag of Israel and the Canadian flag.

Councilmen Whiteman and Brian Lynn were leery of getting into a public redesign.

Lynn said he feared the council would ultimately end up picking a design that wasn't the top pick of the public -- and then would put the council in a tough spot.

Lynn also questioned whether the flag contest was the best use of city staff's time.

"I think we could have a cleaner flag," Van Dyken said. "I think the time it would take for her to put it together and bring it back is time well spent."

The City Council didn't decide Wednesday night whether it needed to go forward with the redesign or not. Mayor Pro Tem Myron Trethewey suggested merely taking the words off of the city's current flag and making the seal bigger.

"We have a lot of other problems we need to fix," Councilman Wayne Klomparens said. "I can't get excited one way or another about this."

-- Follow this reporter on Twitter @SentinelAmy.

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