Tuesday, November 27, 2007

State Buildings Fail to Comply with Gov. Culver’s First Executive Order

Gov. Culver’s intentions may have been in the right place when he signed his first executive order as Iowa’s commander-in-chief, a directive that calls for flying flags half-staff to honor Iowa’s newly fallen soldiers. But the question still remains whether the governor intends to put his foot down and enforce its compliance. Although the flags on the State Capitol grounds were flying half-staff on Saturday under a directive signed by Culver, two buildings flanking the capitol, the Iowa Workforce Development (pictured to left) and Iowa Department of Public Safety buildings (pictured below the fold), failed to comply.

Culver’s first executive order in office, signed Jan. 27, recognizes and honors all of Iowa’s soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Culver’s order stipulates that Iowa’s state flag and the flag of the United States of America are to be flown at half-staff on all properties under the state’s jurisdiction when:

1. A member of the Iowa National Guard is killed in the line of duty.
2. A member of the Iowa Air National Guard is killed in the line of duty.
3. An Iowa resident serving as a member of the United States Armed Forces is killed in the line of duty.
On Saturday, all flags in the state were supposed to be flown half-staff in honor of Army Sgt. Adrian Hike of Sac City, who died while serving in Afghanistan on Nov. 12. Hike, who was awarded a Purple Heart after sustaining injuries while serving in Iraq in 2005, was killed in Afghanistan when insurgents set off an improvised explosive device next to his vehicle during a combat patrol in Bermel. His funeral was in Carroll on Saturday.

Noncompliant flags fly full-staff in Iowa Deptartment of Public Safety, which is located just southwest of State Capitol

The governor’s executive order also encouraged individuals, businesses, schools, municipalities, counties and other government subdivisions to fly the flag at half staff on Saturday as well as a sign of respect for the fallen soldier. This recommendation presents a problem, however: How does the governor’s office effectively communicate this directive to the aforementioned entities?
This communication gap was highlighted in an August column by Des Moines Register columnist John Carlson, who related the incident of a “borderline disgusted” caller, who was upset by the number of flags that were not at half-staff in honor of Marine Sgt. Jon Bonnell, Jr., 22, of Fort Dodge, who was killed in Iraq on August 6, 2007.

P.J. Sesker Green, the aunt of Sgt. Daniel Sesker, an Iowa National Guard soldier killed last year, wondered why a number of businesses were not flying their flags at half-staff on the day of Bonnell's funeral. So Sesker-Green stopped at a few places and asked questions. "I told them the governor asked everybody to do it on the day of a funeral as a sign of respect," she told Carlson over the phone. "Some people told me they'd never heard such a thing. Some told me they didn't know anything about the Marine being buried that day. I think all of them were embarrassed."

To help address this communication gap, the governor’s office added a new feature to its refurbished web site, which allows people to sign up for e-mail updates regarding flag notifications. The e-mails are a start, but on Saturday, the majority of Des Moines’ businesses’ flags were not lowered in recognition of Hick’s sacrifice. While patrolling the downtown area in my car, the only businesses and institutions I observed flying their flags at half-staff were the Principal Financial Building, WOI television station, and Central Campus.

Granted, it was Saturday, a day when most government buildings shut down for the weekend holiday. Unfortunately, for those government employees serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war does not take a holiday.

U.S. flag flies half-staff Nov. 24 2007 in honor of Sgt. Adrian Hike, who was killed while serving in Afghanistan

Originally posted on "Iowa Independent"

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