Mar 18, 2022 - News

George Flagg's family asks Des Moines not to scrub name from parkway

A photo of George Flagg.
George Flagg. Photo courtesy of the city of Des Moines

George Flagg's family is asking the city to consider the late, former Des Moines City Council member's entire record before stripping his name from a city street.

Driving the news: Flagg's three sons sent an email to six of the city's seven council members Wednesday, shortly after Axios first published an article about community efforts to rename George Flagg Parkway.

  • Councilperson Indira Sheumaker was excluded from the message. The family members didn't respond to Axios' question about why.

Catch up fast: Several residents are urging the city to rename the parkway over concerns about Flagg's xenophobic actions and views while serving as a councilperson.

  • Critics contend the parkway bearing his name celebrates racism and white supremacy.
  • The push comes as Des Moines considers a proposed street project that would realign the parkway, which advocates view as an opportunity to change its name.

Flashback: Flagg voted to deny at least 137 liquor license permits whose applicants had "ethnic-sounding names" because he said he couldn't be certain they were living in the country legally, according to a Des Moines Register article published in 2001, just months before his retirement.

  • That same year, he also voted against a city ordinance that outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment and public accommodations.
  • The City Council unanimously approved renaming Valley Drive to George Flagg Parkway as a surprise for him during his last meeting.

What they're saying: Flagg, who died in 2006, was a distinguished community advocate who had financially supported a Salvadoran refugee family, his sons wrote this week.

  • He was recognized for his efforts to improve minority hiring practices in the police department by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), they noted.

The other side: Acts that may show tolerance towards some minorities can't excuse, cancel out or justify Flagg's legacy of racism, Joe Henry, of LULAC Iowa, told Axios this week.

  • Paula Plasencia, a former LULAC council president who helped recognize Flagg decades ago, told Axios that she also believes the street should be renamed.

What's next: LULAC recommends name-change supporters contact City Council members, none of which were on the board in 2001.

  • Most of the current council members told Axios this week that they were unaware of Flagg's history and are open to considering a name change via a citizen-initiated effort.

Read the full email

A clip from a newspaper.
Image: The Des Moines Register, Oct. 15, 2001
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