Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Help Me Howard: Flag Flap
There is nothing like a beautiful American flag flying in the breeze. The only thing better for an immigrant is to also fly a flag from his family’s home like Cuba, or, in Coral Springs, an Italian flag. But in one city, the Italian flag has to come down or does it? Here is Patrick Fraser with tonight's Help Me Howard.
WSVN -- They classify it as a Northern Italian Cuisine.
Luciano Marchione loves to cook.
Luciano Marchione: "This is an example of Chicken Luciano -- sun-dried tomatoes, capers and black olives."
And since his daddy was a chef, he followed by opening his own restaurant.
Luciano Marchione: "I love it. I love it because you're an independent. You're an individual."
Of course, Luciano's restaurant on West Sample Road in Coral Springs is Italian, so he decorated it with two flags.
Luciano Marchione: "I put the two flags up because, one, I am an American citizen, and, two, because I'm an American and Italian patriot."
Luciano's customers liked the idea.
Luciano Marchione: "It was a good idea to put an Italian flag because then everyone recognizes the restaurant."
It may have seemed like a good idea until a Coral Springs City Official issued this warning telling Luciano to take down the Italian flag.
Luciano Marchione: "The city of Coral Springs says the only thing you're allowed to have is one flag. And it's got to be the American Flag. You cannot have any other exposed flag as an attraction to the public."
Luciano was stunned and, as an Italian American, insulted.
Luciano Marchione: "I think personally it was a discrimination to the Italians."
Wondering if the City of Coral Springs can force him to take down a flag, he called Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "The answer is, no, the city cannot make him take down his flag. The city would have known that if they would have read their own laws, which expressly allows the flying of two flags -- either on one pole or two."
When Help Me Howard contacted the City of Coral Springs, a spokesman told us the flag has to come down because it violates Coral Springs code.
To make it legal, they say, the building owner needs a permit to put it on a freestanding flagpole -- not on a pole attached to the building.
Of course, if that is true, then the American Flag is in violation as well -- but the code enforcement officer decided it could stay.
Howard says the City of Coral Springs is taking a risky stand.
Howard Finkelstein: "The Constitution allows the flying of flags, whether it is to show patriotism for America or your homeland like Italy or Cuba. The Constitution takes this right seriously, which is why in America you are allowed to turn the flag upside down or even burn it."
Late Wednesday, a city attorney told us Luciano's flag could probably stay. They will make a final decision soon.
Howard says Luciano should be able to keep his flags. Luciano says that would make him happy.
Luciano Marchione: "We are a free county. It's a freedom and a matter of speech. This is my freedom right here."
Patrick Fraser: "Now, those people who went to law school like to say that flags are considered expressive conduct. To us dumb country boys that means you can fly the flag at your home or condo and the condo boards, homeowners associations and governments cannot stop you.
Now they can try to limit the number or size, but, when they do that, they are treading on dangerous ground. After all, the First Amendment mentions that little thing called freedom of expression.
Hungering to get your troubles taken care of? Do not sit there and stew -- contact us. We cannot whip up authentic Italian dishes, but we do have the recipe for legal solutions.
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