The North Star Flag



Photo: Republican State Sen. Ed Oliver, who has introduced a bill that would create a task force to study a new design for Minnesota's state flag, showed proposed designs, each with a single star, designed by Minnesotans from Rochester, Winona and Hawley. (Craig Borck, Pioneer Press [published Feb. 20, 2002])

Associated Press
"State Flag: Measure would simplify flag"
Saint Paul Pioneer Press
Tuesday, February 29, 2000

The Minnesota state flag might fly in front of more homes and businesses if it were less complicated, said Sen. Ed Oliver, R-Deephaven.

Oliver has introduced a bill that would form a 10-member legislative commission to study Minnesota's flag and decide whether it should be changed.

The bill would require the commission to recommend possible changes to the Legislature in January.

"I find there's a lot of citizen indifference to our Minnesota flag," he said. "Our flag may be too complex."

Many people don't even know what's in the center of the flag, he said. It's the state seal, which includes an Indian, a farmer, a sunrise and a waterfall, along with several words.

Oliver cited the Texas flag as a good model. It is red, white, and blue with a single star.

"Down in Texas, you see state flags flying everywhere," he said. "They're proud of their flag. They're proud of their state."

He is waiting to get a hearing in the Senate Governmental Operations and Veterans Affairs Committee, which must happen before the end of the week for the bill to move forward this year.

Conrad deFiebre
"Saying that simpler may prove to be better, senator raises the banner for a new state flag,"
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Tuesday, February 29, 2000

As far as Sen. Ed Oliver is concerned, one of Minnesota's chief official emblems is a bland old flag and ought to be redesigned.

Oliver, R-Deephaven, called Monday for a legislative commission to study alternatives to the century-old Minnesota flag featuring the state seal on a blue background.

"Our flag may be too complex," he said, noting that it is flown in few places besides the State Capitol. "Down in Texas you see state flags flying everywhere. This is worth a lot."

For one thing, Oliver said, the Minnesota flag violates a key design tenet because words on the seal appear backwards on the reverse side. He suggested that a streamlined flag for the 21st century could prominently feature a single North Star, the state symbol. The current flag is cluttered with 19 stars (for the 19th state) and three dates (first white settlement, 1819; statehood, 1858; and first flag, 1893).

A bipartisan flag-redesign initiative by former state Reps. Wayne Simoneau and Gil Gutknecht 10 years ago went nowhere. But Oliver isn't deterred by that. He's already imagining a gala introduction for a new state flag on national television during a future Monday Night Football game at the Metrodome.

"There are certainly more pressing issues than thinking about changing our flag," he said. "But America is a very flag-conscious nation, and this could give our state increased pride and awareness."

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
"Senator says state flag needs makeover. Importance greater after 9/11, he says”
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Wednesday, February 20, 2002

She's a grand old flag ...

Oh, wait, maybe not.

There's a movement afoot to reconsider the Minnesota state flag, which critics describe as too complex, indistinctive and, some even say, kind of ugly.

"State flags need to respond to people and people need to respond to it. … (The Minnesota flag) is so complex it is hard to relate to," said Lee Herold, a flag store owner in Rochester. The current Minnesota flag, with its generic blue background and busy state seal, simply doesn't draw people in, he said.

"No wonder children can't describe it, much less draw it," said Sen. Ed Oliver, R-Deephaven, who is sponsoring a bill that would create a task force to study getting the state a new flag.

The bill, which has a House companion, is scheduled for a Senate committee hearing today. Oliver said he's been promised a hearing in the House as well.

This flag flap isn't new to Oliver, who said he's been disappointed in the Minnesota state flag since he was a kid. "I've always thought the Minnesota flag was not very interesting and could be improved," said Oliver. Two years ago he introduced a similar bill but it didn't get a hearing.

But times are different now.

"I think the mood has changed and frankly, our presentation is getting better," said Oliver. Helping his case, he said, is a survey the North American Vexillological Association did last year of 72 state, provincial and territorial flags in the United States and Canada. Minnesota's flag was in the bottom 10 – it ranked 67th.

World events and Minnesota's tough economic times might also help his bill along. "Since Sept. 11, as you know, flags have been paramount in the media. They have been all over the place in our neighborhoods, in our stadiums. So flags at this particular time are very much in style," Oliver said. "I think Minnesota really needs a shot in the arm at this particular point in its history."

Associated Press
"Measure would give state flag a makeover"
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Wednesday, February 20, 2002

If you can't describe what the Minnesota state flag looks like, you're not alone.

It features a farmer planting, an Indian on a horse, a musket, a sunset, a waterfall, a wreath of flowers, three dates and 19 stars (because Minnesota was the 19th state after the original 13).

"Wow- that's complex," said Sen. Ed Oliver. "No wonder children can't describe it, much less draw it."

The Deephaven Republican is pushing for a simpler design. He has introduced a bill that would form a six-member legislative task force that would study the current flag, take public input about it and, if necessary, suggest changes by next January. His attempts to change the flag last year went nowhere.

Lee Herold of Rochester and Marc Stratton of Hawley each have designed possible alternatives. Both are similar, with wavy green, blue and white stripes and a single star on top.

A group that studies flags recently ranked Minnesota's among the ugliest state, provincial and territorial flags in the United States and Canada.

"State flag redesign"
Session Weekly, Minnesota House of Representatives,
March 1, 2002, p. 12

A new state flag may be blowin’ in the wind, under a bill approved by the House Governmental Operations and Veterans Affairs Policy Committee Feb. 27.

HF3556, sponsored by Rep. Ron Erhardt (R-Edina), would establish a task force to study the form, style, and design of the current state flag and suggest any changes. Consisting of three senators and three representatives, the task force would report back to the Legislature by Jan. 15, 2003.

The current flag, like 25 other state flags, is blue with an insignia, Erhardt said. The flag design has been revised over the years, with the last change coming in 1983. The current version includes the state seal surrounded by the state flower and motto, the North Star, and 19 stars representing Minnesota as the 19th state admitted to the union following the original 13.

Erhardt said the existing flag is “unremarkable and not very distinctive.” “School kids couldn’t tell you about it to save your soul.”

Sen. Edward Oliver (R-Deephaven), the sponsor of a Senate companion bill (SF3201), said that in a session dealing with a budget deficit and other serious issues this bill adds a lighter tone to discussions. He said that since Sept. 11, there has been a greater appreciation for flags and an outpouring of people displaying the American flag.

“Flags are great symbols that arouse great passions,” Oliver said.

Rep. Marty Seifert (R-Marshall) said he was concerned that if a new flag is developed it would become a “very big issue” as all those who currently fly the state flag such as municipalities, churches, VFW’s, and businesses would have to buy new flags.

Oliver responded that in other states where new flags have been developed the old flags are usually phased out and the state would operate in a two-flag mode for awhile.

Rep. Eric Lipman (R-Lake Elmo) questioned whether the bill was needed. He said that if the interest is there to redesign the flag that a task force could be formed without the bill.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls) said she thought the bill was needed because the issue would get more public attention if passed into law.

The bill now goes to the House floor.

For more on Senator Oliver's initiative, click here (FOTW website)


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