If you stroll around the streets in the Rockville Town Center area, you might find yourself wishing Sheldon Cooper and Amy Farrah Fowler were handy for a “Fun with Flags” walking tour. For those of you unfamiliar with this Big Bang Theory reference, the Sheldon character is an expert flag enthusiast who had a YouTube show exclusively on the subject. We could all use his help to identify the flags now flying throughout the City!
On Tuesday, the City of Rockville installed more than 150 flags from all the United Nation countries on flag poles. Additional flags will go up over the next six weeks. Altogether, 193 international flags will be installed around Rockville.
The idea for the flags emerged out of the Diversity Town Hall held February 9, 2017. Residents suggested that an international display of flags would not only demonstrate the city’s commitment to inclusivity, but colorfully represent Rockville’s multicultural appeal.
As previously reported, the City planned to restart the seasonal banner program in the Town Center area and funds were set aside last November for that purpose. According to Marylou Berg, Rockville’s Director of Communications, after the Diversity Town Hall, the City Manager’s office suggested flying the international flags rather than the banners. City Manager Rob Despirito surveyed the Mayor and Council about the change and the flag idea took flight.
The cost for the banner program was set at $51,120, with an ongoing annual cost of $11,790. The flags required less funding with a startup cost of $21,748 and an ongoing annual cost of $15,436. The funding’s for labor, brackets and straps, flags, poles and truck rental.
“I had a couple of phone calls and people were just – touched,” said Berg the day after the installation.
As a U.S. citizen who was born elsewhere, a mother pushing a stroller in Town Center commented, “The fact that they are even trying is a lot more than other people, so God bless the fact that they are trying.”
During the Mayor and Council meeting discussion on the next steps after the Diversity Town Hall, Mayor Bridget Newton said, “I love the idea of the flags going up.”
While discussing the Diversity Town Hall, councilmembers agreed there were so many great ideas generated, that it was difficult to process.
(Read the Diversity Town Hall themes on the City’s website.)
During the discussion, Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr was the first to suggest another city-wide meeting about the themes. Councilmember Mark Pierzchala agreed and Councilmember Beryl Feinberg had no objection to a follow up.
In the meantime, Feinberg also wanted to schedule meetings out in the community at such places as dry cleaners, ethnic markets, and houses of worship. along with more neighborhood walking tours in the summer or early fall.
Councilmember Virginia Onley noted it was important to keep the conversations going to “make sure everyone knows they are welcome.” Onley was also adamant that the City would not tolerate hate crimes and she wanted everyone to know the City is taking a stand against them.
In February, Rockville made the WalletHub top ten list for being one of the most culturally diverse cities in the United States. In cities of equivalent size, Rockville ranked fourth. More than a third of Rockville residents were born outside the country, according to Census data.