Flag flying controversy prompts bill introduction

Posted at 4:13 PM, Oct 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-02 16:14:10-04

LANSING, Mich. -- A controversy over flags flying at a popular Grand Rapids restaurant has made its way to Lansing. Earlier this year, the city ordered Brann's Steakhouse to take some of its flags down even though they honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The city said having too many flags violates city ordinance.

State Representative Jason Wentworth said he heard about the issue on the news. So he introduced House Bill 6063 which would allow businesses to fly as many flags as they'd like if they're honoring first responders who've died in the line of duty, soldiers who've died in combat and veterans.

"We did not want his supreme sacrifice to ever be forgotten," Maria Kosminski said.

Kozminski testified before the Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, Tuesday morning. Her son is fallen Grand Rapids police officer Robert Kozminski, and a flag outside Brann's bears his name.

Restaurant owner Johnny Brann said someone complained to the city in February about the number and size of the flags on the building. It's a violation of city ordinance. He said he has yet to be fined and isn't taking them down.

"It's about the families honoring their sons and that's critical to them, as the testimony showed today," Brann said.

Wentworth said, "I love driving down a main street and seeing those flags, and I love seeing commemorations that honor the fallen. To me, I think we should encourage businesses and our organizations to honor those and not restrict or prohibit."

David Warsen Sr. said the pain of losing his son never goes away, but the daily drive by Brann's on his way to work brings him comfort knowing his son's memory is being kept alive. Like Kozminski, a flag also bears the late, Navy seal David Warsen Jr.'s name.

"So I go and I ask, will I look and pass down the highway and be able to see my son's flag, his sign up there and give a shout out? And it does put a smile on my face," Warsen testified.

Brann said he was told by the interim city manager at the time that his building's square footage allows for up to three flags. He currently has seven flags.

The Michigan Municipal League testified, stating their concern is the abuse by other businesses if the law were to change. No vote came out of the committee meeting pending further discussion.