Unofficial Bellingham flag could get official embrace from city

Brad Lockhart, standing on a city rooftop, holds the Bellingham flag he designed.
Brad Lockhart, standing on a city rooftop, holds the Bellingham flag he designed. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The green, blue and white Bellingham flag that has been popping up all over town could soon be embraced by the city as the unofficial flag.

The flag, designed by Brad Lockhart as part of a Downtown Bellingham Partnership contest, has gained popularity over the past several months, with businesses flying it and selling merchandise emblazoned with its colors.

Since Lockhart gave a presentation to the Bellingham City Council in late August, the flag has continued to show up all over town, and some council members figured it was about time for them to decide whether to adopt it in some official way.

“We originally brought this forward because we were getting a lot of comments from a lot of people about Brad Lockhart’s flag,” council member Terry Bornemann said during the council’s Dec. 5 meeting. “The question is do we want to adopt this as Bellingham’s city flag.”

Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville recommended adoption in an unofficial way.

“You could make it the unofficial flag and let people hug it and kiss it and love it just like they do now, ’cause it’s everywhere, which would be my preference,” Linville told the council.

Council member Michael Lilliquist said the flag had good symbolism and suggested the city draft a resolution to endorse the flag, but not officially adopt it.

“I don’t want to go too far and wrap it in regulations and make it too official and kind of take away some of the charm,” Lilliquist said at the meeting. “Making it too official would almost ruin some of the spirit, but without some official acknowledgment I think we drop the ball.”

Lockhart designed the flag with basic criteria for good flags laid out in a Ted Talk by Roman Mars and Ted Kaye’s 2006 guide, “Good Flag, Bad Flag.”

The flag’s four green stripes in alternating shades represent the four cities that joined to become Bellingham: Whatcom, Sehome, Bellingham and Fairhaven. The blue half circle on the left of the flag represents Bellingham Bay to the west. Within the half circle, two white stars represent Lummi Nation and the Nooksack Tribe, and between the stars, three wavy white lines represent noisy waters, “which is the translation of the word Whatcom, that comes to us from the Nooksack people,” Lockhart said.

Council member Roxanne Murphy wanted to make sure the tribes were consulted before using their names in connection with the flag.

“One concern I have as a tribal member, I don’t know if this has gone through cultural resources review on the part of the tribes, and if you’re planning on using Nooksack and Lummi’s name as part of explaining the flag, I would encourage that,” Murphy said.

In a Dec. 5 email to The Bellingham Herald, Lockhart said he had emailed the tribes months ago, and already had a “unanimously voted on Resolution in support from the Nooksack,” and was trying to get in touch with Lummi for a similar document.

Lockhart, who has always insisted the flag is in the public domain and free for anyone to use, replicate, or sell in any way they want to, drafted an official letter to the city to put that in writing.

The letter basically protects the city from any legal troubles from Lockhart as the designer.

“I appreciate the opportunity for this flag to be adopted by the City of Bellingham,” Lockhart’s letter says. “All those concerned may copy, modify, and distribute the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission or providing attribution.”

Lockhart said in an email Thursday that he was given the “Peace Builder Award for the Arts” from the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center last month for his work on the flag, and he has been asked to speak at the Whatcom Museum Art Career Day in April.

“The flags out there in the wild now number over 700, and they’ve been shipped out to as many as 18 different states and several countries,” Lockhart said. “Bellingham ex-pats all over the world are getting on board it seems.”

A resolution to support the flag could go before the City Council early next year.

Samantha Wohlfeil: 360-715-2274, @SAWohlfeil