VALATIE–Residents of Upper Main Street came to the Village Board meeting on Tuesday to express their concern that a local business was flying the Confederate battle flag out front of the store.
Deborah Marinelli told the board that the flag is outside Shooters, the sporting goods and gun shop across from the apartment building Ms. Marinelli and her husband, Larry, own. “Larry and I are urgently asking you to address this issue,” she said to the board at the July 14.
She talked about the flag being used as a symbol by hate groups and about the murders of nine people in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina in June. The man charged in that mass shooting put pictures of himself posing with the flag online. The issue has caused discussion about the Confederate flag being flown over state government buildings in many southern states, and South Carolina has removed the flag from the grounds of its state capitol.
Mr. Marinelli called flying the flag a “public safety issue,” and said having the flag was intimidating to the African-American tenants in her building.
“I am deeply concerned about the safety of our tenants,” she told the board.
Village Attorney Rob Fitzsimmons said that board did not have any law to act on that would enable the town to take down the flag at a private business. He said the Village Board can regulate flags that are used as signs, such as flags announcing a sale, but the Confederate battle flag is excluded from those laws.
“I don’t know what we can do to a private business owner,” said Board member Dave Williams.
Mayor Diane Argyle asked the Marinellis to reach out to the storeowner and voice their complaints since the village could not infringe on the owner’s First Amendment right to free speech. Though the mayor did question why Shooters would choose to fly the flag, saying, “I have a hard time understanding that.”
Ms. Marinelli said she went to talk to the owner but “felt unsafe when we tried to do it.” She talked about how the flag reflected poorly on the village and the other businesses on Main Street. “Valatie, quite frankly, cannot afford that reputation,” she said.
No one from the store attended the meeting.
Also at the meeting:
- High Street will be closed for four days to do drainage work. The mayor said that neighbors on the street will be notified
- The board discussed parking tickets. Before moving forward, the mayor said the board will have to contact the state Office of Court Administration to determine which municipality will keep the money from the fines, the town or the village
- Well #2 in the village has been revamped, according to the mayor, and is now pumping another 100 gallons a minute. Mayor Argyle said the village is looking into state grants for water upgrades the village needs
- The Village-wide Tag Sale is this Saturday, July 18. Maps of where sales will be are available on the V.E.R.A. website at www.veravalatie.com
- Village Clerk Barbara Fischer is looking into hosting another electronics recycling day. The village collected unwanted electronic devices one day last month, which Ms. Fischer said was successful. She also said she would look into having battery recycling bins at the village hall office.
The next Village Board meeting will be Tuesday, August 11 at 7 p.m. in the Martin H. Glynn Municipal Center.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email