Flap over flag just got bigger


The giant flap over the Stars and Stripes is headed into that all-American arena for disagreements: court.

Towbin Hummer is asking a court to reverse the Las Vegas City Council's order last month requiring the dealership to remove the 100-foot-high flag by July 16.

Neighbors complained about noise from the flapping flag and some people, including a veterans group, suggested the dealership was using the flag -- which itself measures 30 feet high by 60 feet wide -- for a commercial, rather than patriotic, purpose.

The petition for judicial review was filed in District Court late Friday, along with a separate legal action asking a judge to suspend the flagpole's date with demolition.

The city, according to Towbin's lawyer, David Chesnoff, "overstepped its own procedures and laws, and the Constitution. I'm glad the issue will be heard in a court, where law and reason governs, and not politics."

Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, whose ward includes the business, said she had expected the lawsuit.

"No one has ever questioned his having a flag on his property," Tarkanian said. "The question has always been about the size of his flagpole and its effect on city residents."

She pointed out that the Hummer dealership and other businesses in the area are allowed to have a 40-foot high flagpole. She had also offered to allow a 75-foot-tall flagpole when dealership owner Dan Towbin first asked for council approval in May 2006.

Towbin declined at the time, saying he had already bought the larger 100-foot flagpole and that he thought a flag closer to the ground would be noisier.

At the 2006 meeting, Towbin's staff committed to building a memorial to veterans in the near future. Council members and Mayor Oscar Goodman, in particular, took issue with the fact that the memorial had not been constructed when Towbin came back for final approval last month.

A plaque has recently been installed, though Towbin's lawsuit said the memorial was not a condition for the flag to receive permanent approval.

The issue has gotten worldwide attention, with Towbin doing interviews with cable television channels and the "flag flap" providing fodder for talk radio hosts.

Towbin Hummer has also put up Tarkanian's office number on his marquee, telling people to call if they want the flag to stay.

Goodman said the issue was being used for financial gain.

"It bothers me that this has been exploited in the media, at the expense of what the American flag really stands for," Goodman said.

When asked who was exploiting it, he said, "Not me. I haven't made comments to the media."

Chesnoff, Goodman's former law partner, said the flag should get special consideration.

"This is the First Amendment personified," he said. "Wouldn't it be something if you're allowed to burn the flag, but you can't fly it? You can quote me on that."

 

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