DALLAS — The city of Dallas does have a banner recognizing Black History Month. It’s just not at the place originally planned for it.
In a last-minute push to do something more to honor Black history, Dallas City Councilor Kirsten Collins asked that the city invest in displaying banners or flags in the downtown core. The request was made at the Jan. 4 council meeting.
Collins made the suggestion after she said she couldn’t find events or activities planned in Dallas. February is Black History Month.
“For Black History Month, historically we have done some activities at the library. They’ve had some guest speakers,” City Manager Brian Latta said in response. “That obviously can’t happen this year with our gathering restrictions.”
Latta said he would speak with Mark Johnson, the library manager, about what is planned for this year.
The library building is now closed to the public, but its Facebook page featured virtual events and activities that could be done at home to celebrate Black history.
Collins then made a reccomendation.
“I would like to talk about the city purchasing some flags or banners and flying them in our downtown corridor,” Collins said. “We are looking at a very small amount of money to do so. I know we are on a tight time frame.”
City Manager Brian Latta said the topic could be discussed at the council’s public administration committee.
Ann Hurd, the president of the Friends of the Dallas Aquatic Center, took up the charge of raising money to purchase a banner. She reported to the city council on Jan. 19 that the Friends of the Dallas Library had taken over the project and would apply to have it displayed across Main Street leading into downtown.
That is where the cause hit a snag.
The city approved the group’s application to hang the banner on the city’s poles across Main Street. However, Main Street is a state highway, meaning it is property of the Oregon Department of Transportation. ODOT only approves banners meeting certain requirements, specifically that they must advertise an event.
Dallas did not have an event planned this year to celebrate Black History Month.
“ODOT denied the permit because the banner did not fit their definition of an event,” Latta said. “I went up the chain of command at ODOT to the Region 2 Regional manager, and was told every time that the permit could not be approved.”
He said the city tried to look at other options to hang the banner on Main Street.
“The city tried working with Pacific Power, who did permit the banner to be displayed on their poles,” Latta said. “However, we could not find a great location where their poles would work to display the banner.”
Eventually the banner found a home, though it was put up about a week late.
“In the end, I decided to display the banner above the Library’s Main Street entrance,” Latta said.
He added the incident will change the permitting process for hanging banners across Main. ODOT approval will be sought first from now on.