Adding up city's unevenly flown flags

WATCHDOG

February 06, 2007

THE PROBLEM -- Some American flags flying over government institutions and private businesses in Baltimore are at half-staff, while others are full-staff. Flags are lowered to honor a notable person who has died, such as a high-ranking politician or a police officer or firefighter.

THE BACKSTORY -- The Watchdog first noticed this while driving by the Southeastern District police station Saturday, where the flag was flying at half-staff. At the fire station next door, home to Engine Company 124 and Truck 20, it was flying at full-staff.

Driving along Eastern Avenue into Middle River and returning to the city on Pulaski Highway, an informal survey revealed flags at half-staff at the Teamsters Local 355, the Pompeian olive oil company and at one of about five McDonald's. It was flying at full-staff at a memorial to the Essex war dead, the Harley-Davidson plant and at three post office buildings.

In downtown Baltimore, the flag was at full-staff at City Hall, police headquarters, the War Memorial Building and the World Trade Center. It was also full-staff atop Federal Hill.

Vince Vaise, the chief ranger at Fort McHenry, where the flag that inspired the "Star-Spangled Banner" flew in 1814, said President Bush ordered the flag to fly at half-staff the day former President Gerald R. Ford died Dec. 26. That order expired Jan. 24. "I haven't seen too many at half-staff lately," Vaise said.

Presidents have the authority to order flags lowered across the nation, at foreign embassies and on military installations and crafts. Governors can order flags to half-staff in their states.

Officer Troy Harris, a Police Department spokesman, said yesterday that he called the Southeastern District to find out why its flag was at half-staff. "They couldn't find a reason, so it's going back up," Harris said.

WHO CAN FIX THIS -- Maj. Roger Bergeron, commander of the Southeastern District, 410-396-2422.

UPDATE

A fence that surrounds a lot at the Brooklyn Curtis Bay post office will be removed so that more people can park.

The decision came one day after Watchdog reported in last week's column that the post office has only six parking spaces and that an adjacent, larger lot is inaccessible. A U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman had said the lot was needed for delivery trucks and the fence would not be removed.

But after reading Watchdog, Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold, who has been trying to get the space opened up for years, said he has gotten a commitment from the Brooklyn Park postmaster to remove the fence within the month.

"The most important thing the citizens want to hear is that the fence will come down," Leopold said. "I know there has been deadlines before and timetables before, and we're still waiting for the job to be done. I hope that now when the post office says `soon' they mean soon."

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