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Pledge of Allegiance safe in Talent — barely

It took just 29 seconds for Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood to invite city councilors and the audience to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance and recite the words before moving on to the agenda in Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

But the pledge wouldn’t have happened without Ayers-Flood’s tie-breaking vote Aug. 1 that defeated an effort to discontinue the practice at council meetings.

Council rules of conduct do not call for reciting the pledge, said Councilor Stephanie Dolan, who made the motion to drop the practice. During discussion several members stated the practice took time away from council business.

“This is not a political statement. Obviously, I love my country and my flag,” said Dolan. “We all swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States when we take the oath of office. It seems kind of redundant. To stand up like a grade-schooler and pledge to a piece of cloth, it seems kind of un-American to me, and I show my loyalty in other ways.”

Ayers-Flood said that even though a requirement for the pledge was left out of a council rules revision, she has continued the practice. She said reciting the pledge before getting down to business serves as a focal point.

Dolan and councilors Emily Berlant and Daria Land voted for the motion to drop the pledge. Councilors John Harrison, Ken Baker and Ryan Pederson voted against the motion. With a tie, council rules call for the mayor to cast the deciding vote. Ayers-Flood said before the vote that she would follow the direction of the council in accordance with the body’s rules.

“I’ve gotten a lot of letters that have expressed appreciation for my willingness to maintain the practice. The one change I made is to try to make it more of an invitation,” said Ayers-Flood. She had received no messages against her stand or asking that the pledge be dropped.

“We are not following our rules set for ourselves, regardless of personal feelings. I feel like we should be following our rules,” said Berlant. A moment of silence to allow people to come to the meeting fully focused and connected to the community might be incorporated, she suggested.

Dolan noted that some cities have dropped or limited the practice. Olympia, Washington, has discontinued the practice. A proposal to say it before every Eugene council session was voted down, but a measure to recite it at meetings coinciding with the Fourth of July, Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Flag Day was approved.

“Everyone has a right to do it and not to do it. It’s a proud practice. This is a patriotic town. Let’s keep the practice,” Harrison, a veteran, said in an interview. “It kind of caught me off guard. Even though I don’t agree with what (Dolan) had to say, I will defend her right to the death to say it.”

Harrison said his friends were surprised by the proposal when he told them about it, but most were too busy with their lives or other issues to spend much time on it, he said.

Ashland, Jacksonville and Phoenix regularly begin meetings with the pledge. The Medford City Council begins each meeting with both the pledge and a prayer.

Eagle Point’s Aug. 14 council agenda listed a “Flag Salute and Invocation” after a call to order. “Pledge of Allegiance” is shown on the agenda for the Aug. 9 Central Point council session.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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