I carried Seattle's flag and got laughs
By Jean Godden
I carried Seattle's flag through a banquet hall in Vancouver a few years back, likely in 2013. I was a delegate to the Association of Washington Cities annual convention and cities were expected to parade their flags through the room.
Until time to march, I kept Seattle's flag tightly furled, hesitant to display our teal and white banner. When I finally passed the banquet tables, I thought I heard laughter and saw finger pointing. I could barely wait to furl the flag and pack it back in its carrier for return to the city archives.
Seattle, like most Washington cities and towns, has its own flag. Ours was designed by the late Paul Kraabel, last Republican to serve on the city council. Kraabel was a good councilmember, a thoughtful and witty guy, but no flag designer.
Paul sketched a possible design on a napkin while dining at an Italian restaurant in Wallingford. Afterwards, he got help from friends, among them attorney Jerry Hillis, who helped refine the design. On July 16, 1990, the city council formally adopted Paul's banner. It was unfurled in time for opening of the Seattle-based Goodwill Games, an international sports competition.
The flag is a teal and white banner that manages to violate most principles of good flag design. It exhibits a lifeless profile of Chief Seattle, surrounded by too much lettering ("City of Goodwill" above and "Seattle" below). It's been variously described as "sperm fertilizing an egg" or perhaps as "the city's namesake held hostage by a den of snakes."
There are only two copies of the flag in the city's municipal archives. A third one was misplaced a while back and cannot be found. However, it apparently is still possible to order one from Amazon.
Seattle obviously needs to do better in flag competition. Serious critics score Seattle's teal travesty as 30th among "worst city flags," ranked along with Milwaukee's silly mishmash and Detroit's orgy of clip art.
Some of our so-called sister cities like Portland have classier banners. Portland's flag highlights a four-pointed star that radiates blue stripes and yellow bars against a solid green background. The flag has meaning: green for the forested city; yellow for agriculture and commerce, and blue for nearby rivers.
Even Tacoma's flag outdoes Seattle's. The neat purple field is emblazoned with the city's gold seal, an elegant one featuring Mount Rainier. Bellevue's flag too is a simple statement -- a green field with a simple blue canton inscribed with the city's seal.
There's no doubt that Seattle's flag is overdue for a makeover. One thoughtful redesign proposal has come from Riley Raker of Blank Space. It's a simple and uncluttered look at Chief Seattle in profile, envisioning the chief as a square-jawed presence: teal for the chief, green for the backdrop. Raker's version is more like the Chief Seattle shown on the official city seal, rugged and imperial. Just that and nothing more.
Raker's simple design has strength and simplicity, reminiscent of the "12 Man" banners that are being waved everywhere. They don't need anything extra to show our support for the Seattle Seahawks. If the team can produce a workable flag, so can the city of Seattle.
Run Seattle's official banner up the flag pole today and you're more apt to get a rhubarb than a salute.