1. Pinellas

Pride flag raising prompts discussion about diversity

The Pride flag joins the U.S. flag and the state of Florida flag in front of Largo City Hall. The move led to a larger discussion about diversity. [City of Largo]
The Pride flag joins the U.S. flag and the state of Florida flag in front of Largo City Hall. The move led to a larger discussion about diversity. [City of Largo]
Published Jul. 22, 2019

LARGO — At the end of the City Commission's June work session, Commissioner Michael Smith informally requested that the LGBTQ Pride flag be flown in front of City Hall in honor of national Pride month. Aside from a concern from Commissioner Curtis Holmes that it might be setting a bad precedent, commissioners quickly gave their nods of approval and moved on.

The city flag was taken down on June 18 and the Pride flag was raised in its place for the remainder of the month. While most of the feedback was positive, it wasn't long before some opposition was raised and an organization requested its own flag be flown.

So, that five-minute discussion in June would lead to an hourlong one at a recent commission meeting, after officials realized the city didn't have a formal policy on who or what it supports in the form of flag raisings or other means, such as proclamations.

It also prompted a broader discussion on the value of social inclusion and diversity, at the end of which commissioners decided to move forward with the creation of a procedure for planned proclamations, flag raisings and public information campaigns.

RELATED COVERAGE: Dunedin thrives thanks to its LGBTQ roots. It all started with the first gay bar.

"With public recognition, we can make a statement of individuals or groups that we value them in Largo," said Communications and Marketing Manager Kate Oyer, who was tasked with drafting the plan. "We recognize their previous contributions while encouraging and fostering an ongoing partnership and responsibility of building an inclusive community."

The new procedure will use proclamations and public information campaigns to recognize nationally declared events that reflect the population of Largo, Oyer said. The list includes the celebration of African American History in February, National Women's History in March, Asian Pacific American Heritage in May, LGBTQ Pride in June, National Hispanic-Latino Heritage in September and National Native American Heritage in November. LGBTQ Pride is the only one marked by a flag raising, however.

Mayor Woody Brown said he understands that the plan would probably upset some members of the community, but he wants to make Largo a place where everyone feels welcome.

"Regardless of what we do, people are going to be offended, because there's people that still have biases against whatever. And frankly I don't care about that, because I think that we're striving to be a community that welcomes everybody and celebrates the differences," he said.

Smith agreed and added that inclusion will only improve the community.

"I think building that bridge and making us that (community of choice) and telling people we want you to be in Largo, we want to sell our community, we want you to embrace what we're doing here, I think is the most important thing we need to be doing here," he said.

However, in order to avoid any First Amendment conflicts, Oyer said the proposed policy will not accept public requests to raise flags.

"These types of public recognition and social inclusion efforts are exclusively used by the city and City Commission as a form of government expression, not as a form of public expression or free speech," she said.

Therefore, if a commissioner or mayor identifies an opportunity to celebrate, they will bring that before the commission and they can decide through a proclamation to raise a flag in place of the city flag only.

"Bah humbug," Holmes joked before presenting his objections to the city raising flags.

"It's up to us to stay neutral when it comes to the services that we are supplying," he said. "It's not up to us to say we're going to promote this and promote that, because that's actually what you're doing."

He added that city government's main purpose is public safety, and raising flags goes far beyond that.

"I would argue that we're here to be the community of choice in Tampa Bay," Brown responded. "And if that community had police, fire and sanitation, and that was the end of what was offered in the community, it would never aspire to be the community of choice."

Holmes said he had no objections to proclamations, but flag raisings would stir a pot he didn't think was necessary.

"You can do a proclamation at every commission meeting. I don't care," he said. "To me, it doesn't mean anything, but to a lot of folks it's something very important to have. But to go beyond that, I would have a real problem with it because we are no longer neutral."

Vice Mayor John Carroll said he didn't want Largo to turn into ground zero for someone else's movement in another community or even state, but he thinks it's important for the community to know that the city supports it.

"The bottom line for me at least is that we represent the people that live in our community," he said. "And this building we're sitting in and everything else that's a city asset belongs to them. So, if the people we represent want to come to us and ask that something that's important to them be celebrated, then I think that's what we should do."


  1. Jack Pearcy, left, and James Dailey, right, as they appeared when they each entered Florida's prison system in 1987. Both men were convicted of taking part in the murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio in Pinellas County. Pearcy got a life sentence. Dailey got the death penalty. Dailey's lawyers have argued that Pearcy is solely responsible for the crime. [Florida Department of Corrections]
    The case of James Dailey, facing a death sentence for the 1985 Pinellas County murder of a 14-year-old girl, is full of contradiction, ambiguity and doubt. Court records tell the terrible story.
  2. The crash happened near St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport around 5:30 a.m. Saturday.
  3. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. [Times]
    Eleven birds were seized from the property, all with injuries and other signs of fighting.
  4. A photo of the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Clearwater. Members of St. John M.B. Church march south on N. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue moments after the conclusion of the city's 32nd Annual Leadership Breakfast Program at the North Greenwood Aquatic Center. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The annual march will not end at Coachman Park this year. Here’s the new route.
  5. People waited overnight to be the first customers at the new Jollibee Pinellas Park location. It opened Friday. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    Long lines, happy dances, hot Chickenjoy. Pinellas Park scores the chain’s latest restaurant.
  6. Luke Carl Neimi was arrested Thursday after Pinellas deputies said he was caught doing 145 mph on the Bayside Bridge. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
    He told deputies he was just “having some fun,” according to an arrest report.
  7. Gary Hudge, 54, paid an undercover detective to kill his brother, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. [Pinellas County jail]
    Gary Hudge also offered to buy the hitman a bus ticket, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
  8. Delta Air Lines said Friday it will launch five new round-trip routes a day between Tampa and Miami starting May 4. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) [MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP]
    Delta says the daily nonstop Miami service will create new connections for Tampa travelers to fly to Latin America and other international destinations.
  9. Chris Card, chief of community-based care for Eckerd Connects. His agency is now running the two biggest child welfare jurisdictions in Florida. [Tampa Bay Times]
    They are spending more time outside a permanent home as the county struggles to deal with an increase in removals.
  10. Ex-St. Petersburg police Officer Matthew Enhoffer is set to plead guilty to one count of distribution of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. In this 2015 picture, he received the St. Petersburg Police Department's Medal of Valor for his actions in a shootout with a troubled teenager that year. [Tampa Bay Times]
    Matthew Enhoffer once received the Medal of Valor from the St. Petersburg Police Department. Now a federal judge will decide his fate.