Trenton makes old state flag its own city banner
By NORMAN AREY
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer
The old Georgia state flag will be flying again soon in Trenton.
By adding a few words to the flag — and adopting it as the city banner — officials in the Dade County city have found a loophole in a state law meant to require Georgia cities to retire the old flag in favor of the new one.
Trenton Mayor Paul Rollings said the City Commission voted to have the words "Trenton, Incorporated 1854" embroidered on the old flag, which features the Confederate-linked St. Andrew’s cross.
The new Georgia flag and the U.S. flag now fly on one flagpole outside the Trenton Municipal Building. The embroidered banner will be flown on a second flagpole as soon as it’s erected. The banner now is being displayed on the wall of the meeting room at city hall. "We’re not in defiance of anything," said Rollings about his town, which has a population of 1,942. "We’re just a proud little community."
Trenton is the first city on record to attempt to partially circumvent the display of the old flag. Two counties, Henry and Banks, debated on whether to fly the 1956 Georgia flag as county flags, but both allowed the proposals to die.
If a county or municipality chooses to fly only the old flag, the state can withhold funds. But the offices of the secretary of state, the attorney general and the Office of Budget and Planning could find nothing in state law to prohibit Trenton from flying the old flag as long as it flies the new one, too.
Daryl Robinson, counsel to the attorney general, said the northwest Georgia town looks as if it’s in compliance with all laws.
"In fact, I can’t even find anything in the law that would give the state the right to even investigate it," he said.
Trenton is also the latest in what is becoming a long list of towns and counties in Georgia to vote to display the Ten Commandments on city property.
Trenton, located in the northwestern-most part of Georgia, joined Ringgold, Habersham County and Brunswick, among others, in plans to post the Ten Commandments in city hall.
Gerry Weber, the legal director for the ACLU, said Trenton’s action regarding the Ten Commandments defies the law. "We have some lawsuits right now against places who have done this," he said. "It’s unconstitutional and I think it’s probably just politics. Some of these officials are willing to cost the taxpayers money to pay for a trial. Yet they took an oath to uphold the Constitution.
"The Ten Commandment question has been litigated so many times, and it always comes out the same way," Weber said. "It’s divisive for these small communities."
Rollings said the four-man Trenton City Commission was unanimous in adopting both resolutions. "We’ve had no negative feedback from any city resident," he said.
Trenton Mayor Pro-Tem Willard Ryan, who made the motion to adopt both the Ten Commandments and the old state flag, couldn’t be reached for comment. City Commissioner Harold Parrish seconded the motion but said he had no comment.
Rollings said he didn’t vote on the original issues since he serves as a tie-breaker and the resolutions were unanimous.
"We’re not saying the South is going to rise again," Rollings said. "This is just our town’s official banner."