Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer proposes 'Unity Park' as area for flags to fly, starting with Pride flag

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer proposed Thursday that Eaton Plaza in downtown Fresno become the city's freedom of speech area known as "Unity Park" that would have flag poles with the first flag to fly in the new space being the Pride flag.

Last week, Dyer openly opposed a resolution passed by the Fresno City Council that would allow local organizations to fly flags at Fresno City Hall.

RELATED: Fresno City Council debate gets heated over policy and Pride flag

Instead, he suggested the city installs flag poles at an open area nearby.

This conversation has been centered around the LGBTQ+ Pride flag, but Mayor Dyer says the proposed changes are not specific to any individual groups.

"After much consultation with community members and staff. I feel compelled to offer what I believe to be a reasonable solution," said Dyer.

Dyer announced a proposal Thursday for a designated free-speech area in downtown Fresno instead of the Flag Raising Resolution passed by the city council last week.

Instead of flying a flag outside of City Hall, Dyer suggested seven flag poles be installed at Eaton Plaza near Mariposa and N Streets.

He said he'd like the area to be known as Unity Park.

"That is my alternative solution to what I think to be something that, instead of being divisive, can be unifying," said Dyer.

City officials said the estimated cost to create and install the flag poles is around $15,000.

Dyer said Unity Park will allow all flags, including religious flags, to be raised, unlike the Flag Raising Resolution.

Organizations would have to apply through the city to raise a flag. Dyer said it was unclear if there would be an application fee for organizations, but said, if there is, it would be 'minimal'.

The city is still trying to determine which flags will not be allowed to fly and is working with the city attorney's office.

If approved, the flagpoles will be in by June 11 and the first flags raised would be LGBTQ flags. Dyer said those flags would stay up throughout the month of June.

Councilmembers Garry Bredefeld and Mike Karbassi stood in support of the mayor's proposal.

"In Unity Park, everybody will be able to raise their flag for whatever they believe whether you're a faith based person, or is the Pride flag or Black Lives Matter or Support Blue. That's what freedom is," Karbassi said.

Councilmember Tyler Maxwell, who voted in support of the Flag Raising Resolution, said he's surprised by the controversy because many other flags have flown in front of City Hall.

"I think it makes a lot of sense to have a designated free speech area here in the City of Fresno, but let me make one thing very clear, and that is that the LGBTQ+ flag will fly from those flag poles outside of City Hall," Maxwell said.

Maxwell and Councilmember Esmerelda Soria, who also voted in favor of the Flag Raising Resolution, said they're working to bring back an override vote, should the mayor decide to veto the Flag Raising Resolution.

"City Hall is the people's building and the LGBTQ community are part of Fresno," said Soria.

Dyer would not say Thursday if he planned to veto the Flag Raising Resolution.

He has until June 11to do so, if he chooses.

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