Daily Herald
Vandals lower Mexican flags at Rolling Meadows apartments
By Deborah Donovan | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 7/30/2010 11:26 AM | Updated: 7/30/2010 3:43 PM

The Mexican flags at 12 Oaks at Woodfield apartments in Rolling Meadows -- controversial because they have flown at the same height as the U.S. flags -- will be lowered about one foot.

"How do you fight ignorance?" Michael Sparks said Friday. The apartment complex owner has always insisted that flying the two flags of sovereign nations at the same height is proper flag etiquette, but it has outraged some, particularly veterans.

Sparks flies 12 pairs of flags on 30-foot-tall poles throughout the 35-acre property.

He said Friday that someone lowered half of the Mexican flags to half mast Wednesday night. Occasionally vandals lower some of the Mexican flags, and the complex gets about six calls a week complaining about them, but this was the most extreme event, he said.

At least one pair of flags is visible from the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90), and veterans have been among people who have publicly complained about the way the flags were flown.

"It's part of our marketing program to the Mexican community," Sparks said in a January interview. "Seventy percent of our residents are Mexican. Why not? They're good, hardworking people, and they pay their rent."

Immigration policy is causing pain to people of many nationalities, and some politicians are fostering hatred against immigrants, and that could lead to rioting, he said.

Rolling Meadows Mayor Kenneth Nelson said Friday he deeply appreciates Sparks' taking this step, although he agrees it is apparently within the rules to fly the flags of the two countries at the same height.

"It's a good gesture on his part and I appreciate him doing it for whatever reason," said Nelson.

"A lot of people are concerned about it and make comments about it." said the mayor.

"Our flag is our flag. I have no problem with the Mexican flag being there as long as everyone is treated with respect."

Rick Williams of Downers Grove, who rides past the site as part of Warriors Watch Riders, a motorcycle group that honors military personnel and veterans by escorting them or their remains when they are casualties, agreed with the mayor.

"Having them lower the Mexican flag is highly appreciated," said Williams, who said he would prefer that the American flag fly alone.

"I'm not OK with it, but it's acceptable that it's lower. It's a first step - this is America, you fly the flag of this country," said Williams, a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

This is not a reaction to Mexicans or Hispanic people, said Williams, noting his group recently honored a young Marine of Hispanic heritage who died in Afghanistan.

The U.S. Flag Code seems ambiguous on the height of the flags of other countries. One website suggested by the Chicago regional office of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is a report from the Congressional Research Center, posted by the U.S. Senate at senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/RL30243.pdf.

It says, "No other flag or pennant should be placed above or, if on the same level, to the right of the flag of the United States of America ... No person shall display the flag of the United Nations or any other national or international flag equal, above, or in a position of superior prominence or honor to or in place of the flag of the United States."

However, a later section says: "When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height."

The congressional report says no penalties can be assessed for improper flag display, noting " ... the Code functions simply as a guide to be voluntarily followed by civilians and civilian groups."