The Washington Times - January 22, 2009, 04:18PM

The City of Alexandria, Virginia, that bastion of “Old Town” antiquities and history, chose this past weekend to suddenly breach an agreement in effect for over 30 years with the Mary Custis Lee-17th Va. Reg. Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, in not flying Chapter-provided First National Flags at the intersection of Prince and Washington Streets.  The city and the UDC group had  long had an agreement that the flags were flown in the brackets of light posts  at the intersection annually on January 19, to commemorate the birthday of Robert E. Lee.

When Lee’s birthday falls on the Monday of the Martin Luther King holiday, the flags are flown on the 18th instead. Since the brackets are already attached to the flag poles, all that was required was to place the flag poles in the brackets. The flags are purchased and paid for by the Chapter and had been delivered to the City. It was the statement of the City Manager that due to the inaugural activities and the historic scope of the weekend, the City would be unable to  expend the resources to  put flags in the brackets at the corner of Prince and Washington Streets.


With luck, it might have taken five minutes to accomplish the task.  

To add insult to injury,  Richard Baier, director of trasportation and environmental service, called to advise that the changes was “due to our history.”   No explanation as to what “history”, and the UDC’s property in Alexandria has had a long and peaceful “history” of quiet residence there.

Ms. Deborah  Mullins, Chapter President,  asked the city to promptly deliver the flags back to the chapter, and they did so. A politely irate phone call was made on Friday to Mike Miller, City Librarian, and to Wally Owen, Assistant Director at Ft. Ward.  Both were properly shocked at the treatment the ladies  had received, and Mr. Owen went to the city offices to attempt to see what  had happened.

It seems that the City Manger had been overwhelmed by the various issues and strictures imposed upon him and the City of Alexandria by the Department of Homeland Security (after all, Northern Virginia is a definite terrorist hang-out, thus necessitating the shutting of all bridges and patrolling of the Potomac near the river side of Alexandria), and in the midst of the total turmoil, received a call from our friends on 15th Street — the Washington Post.  Those good folks wanted to inquire if the City of Alexandria planned to fly a Confederate Flag on the weekend before the first African-American President was sworn in. This was all that was required to send the City folks into the first phase of  PANIC MODE ONE.

He called Lance Mallamo, Director of the Office of Historic Alxandria, a relative newcomer to his job and a transplant from New York.  Rather than inquire of Mr. Miller what it was all about, which would have brought up the 30+ year agreement, he heard “Confederate Flag”, obviously thought that meant the frequently controversial Battle Flag and promptly went into PANIC MODE  TWO.  Forget the salient fact that even if Mr. Mallamo knew nothing about the number and differences of Confederate flags, he could have simply ASKED, or in a real case of emergency, LOOKED AT THE FLAGS IN THEIR BOXES IN HIS OFFICE!!!

Mr. Owen attempted to exlain to them that it was not a Battle Flag, that it was the First National Flag of the Confederacy, and that “they had no idea what they had started by irritating a group of Southern women.”   Apparently they were reluctant to beard this group of indignant Southern ladies, so asked Mr. Owen to make their apology. It makes one wonder just how many ways there are to mishandle a situation.  Nothing was said about flying the flags.

It appears that the right approach is to send polite, appropriate letters of concern to the following Alexandria individuals:

James Hartman, Office of the City Manager, 301 King Street, Suite 3500,  Alexandria, VA 22314

Lance Mallano,  Director, Office of Historic ** Alexandria 220 N. Washington Street,  Alexandria, VA 22314

** As an aside, 220 N. Washington is pretty “historic” to the UDC ladies, as it was the site of their first meeting in 1895. Is that “historic” enough for you, Mr. Mallamo?

As always —” a kind answer turns away wrath, but  grievous ones stirreth up anger.”  Stay tuned…..