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Change of policy allows Mike O'Brien to fly the flag from his balcony

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Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 12:01 pm | Updated: 3:18 pm, Thu Mar 28, 2013.

UPDATE: Mike O'Brien called to say that the managers of Weeks Field Estates, Somerset Pacific, contacted him today to say there has been a change of heart on the no-flag policy. The flag was flying again today from the balcony, which is good news.

Here is the original story from Wednesday:

I understand that rules are rules.

But Mike O'Brien, who lives on the top floor of Building C at Weeks Field Estates, should be allowed to keep the American flag flying on his balcony.

No one has complained. He isn't bothering anyone. It is not a safety hazard. And it improves the look of the place.

It is true that the lease signed by tenants of the Weeks Fields Estates includes a provision that the patios are not the place for trash, decorations, empty boxes or other items, including flags.

But O'Brien, a 77-year-old disabled veteran and a deacon in the Catholic Church, said he put the flag up  a couple of years ago after getting permission. He said he is baffled by the demand to take it down.

"I'm proud of being an American," he said when I asked him why he has a flag.  On summer evenings he sometimes likes to sit on the balcony look out on Airport Way, from his perch across the street from what used to be Gottschalks and before that, Lamonts.

As we talked, O'Brien filled me in on his background and his 27 years in Alaska, which included a stint in Nome.

"I'm from the south," he said, "The south of Brooklyn."

He served in the Marines and in the Merchant Marines, traveling the world for many years and exploring all that it had to offer.

His physical condition has gotten worse in the past couple of years and he uses a walker and is on oxygen at all times. He has severe arthritis in addition to heart problems, lung problems, kidney probleme and other ailments.

"Other than that, I'm in good shape," he said the other day when I stopped by to read the notices he had received warning him that he would be kicked out of the complex if he doesn't take down the flag.

The latest came in a form letter dated March 22 and headlined "FINAL WARNING NOTICE."

It was addressed to "Dear Valued Resident," but the contents said that any valued residents who had flags, Christmas lights, garland, trash bags or empty boxes had to removed them by  Monday.

Failure to remove these items would trigger "a 30-day notice to vacate."

The complex is managed by an Idaho-based company, Somerset Pacific, that is being too heavy-handed in this matter.

I understand the idea that balconies should be kept neat and why empty boxes, trash bags and lights out of season are frowned upon. I do not see a problem with the flag.

Lawn furniture is allowed on the balcony, along with bicycles. Flags should be added to the list.

Darren Howard, the regional manager for the company, said in a phone interview that if  the company allowed an American flag, it would also have to allow a Nazi flag. The rules have to be consistent and fair, he said.

But there is no Nazi flag flying on the property and I don't expect there would be, even if flags were encouraged.

Howard said that the provision in the warning letter that said all information had to also be removed from the front door of the apartment would not apply to the "oxygen in use" sticker on O'Brien's front door.

This afternoon, the maintenance man at the site came to take down the flag, and put it inside O'Brien's apartment.

I understand that rules are rules. But the sensible thing would be to allow O'Brien to keep his flag on the balcony.



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