July 20. 2017 12:53AM

Manchester voters to pick flag design, but aldermen can veto choice


New Hampshire Union Leader

The current Manchester flag, top left, and the three options for a new design. 

MANCHESTER — City voters this November will get to pick which of three new designs they prefer to become Manchester’s new official flag, but several aldermen warn they reserve the right to overrule the judges.

Ward 10 Alderman Keith Hirschmann was the only aldermen present at Tuesday’s meeting to oppose putting the three flag designs on the ballot as a non-binding referendum.

But Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas was joined by other aldermen who said they may not accept these judgments.

“I asked 15 people out there on Elm Street that if there was a flag of these three they thought represented the city of Manchester and not one did,” Gatsas said.

“This came from an outside group trying to change flags across this country. There were other communities in the state they went to and it failed. This didn’t just happen. Is there a grassroots sentiment out there? Yes, there is and I applaud that.”

The flag contest did attract 288 entries and the project won the support of the Manchester Historical Association, the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, the Manchester Arts Commission and the New Hampshire Institute of Art.

“We all stand for preserving and celebrating our history,” said Institute President Kent Devereaux.

Manchester Historical Association Executive Director John Clayton called this an “incredibly democratic” contest.

“There was a lot of enthusiasm behind this,” Clayton said.

The finalists are Megan Roy and Peter Raiche, both of Manchester, and Brian Gallagher of North Bethesda, Md., who lived in Manchester from 1983 to 2006.

Roy’s design includes a yellow crown on a field of blue. The blue and yellow are the colors of New Hampshire’s state flag while the crown represents the city’s nickname: Queen City.

Raiche’s design also is a nod to the Queen City with a white crown at its center. The blue in the flag represents the Merrimack River that runs through the city, while the red on the sides represent the mill buildings. 

While the river divides the city, the mill buildings that were built on each side of the river bring us back together as we work, live and play in them, according to Raiche. 

Gallagher’s flag is intersected by a green band, mirroring the Merrimack River flowing through Manchester. In the middle, an abstraction of a waterfall references the “good fishing place,” Amoskeag Falls, central to the city from its earliest days. 

Alderman-at-Large Joseph Kelly Levasseur said it’s up to Gatsas and the aldermen if they wish to change the flag design and he’s already made up his mind about that.

“It is important to point out that even with this vote, it will still be up to the board to decide what to do with the flag,” Levasseur said. “My vote is to continue with the flag we have right now.”

But Ward 9 Alderman Barbara E. Shaw served on the judging committee for the finalist designs and said she’ll support the will of the voters.

“My heart remains with the current flag but that final decision lies for the voices of the city. We are mere representatives for them, the 14 of us,” Shaw said. “The decision lies with them. I feel they should have the opportunity to weigh in on this.”

Hirschmann’s concern was whether the flag applicants could financially profit if their design is chosen and “swag” is sold promoting that image.

Aldermanic Board President Patrick Long credited Deputy City Solicitor Thomas Arnold with crafting an air-tight contest document that gave the city all rights to profits from any designs.

“We already own the rights to the 288 designs,” Long said.

“Any submission that came to us, they are ours. We own all of them.”

City of Manchester residents will choose the winning flag in that non-binding referendum. The ballot also would contain a box for “none of the above” and it will clearly state that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen have the final say.

To learn more about the contest, visit www.mhtflag.com.