Flag stirs controversy in Kemah

Article Courtesy of the Clear Lake Citizen
Posted April 16, 2003 

An ordinance passed by the Kemah City Council does not give a resident the right to fly the American flag anywhere she wants on her property, according to officials with the Kemah Oaks Homeowners Association.

Claire Worthington, a self-described "Army brat" living in the subdivision, said she wanted to show her patriotism and honor her late father by having a flag pole erected on her front lawn to display the flag.

"It was always a part of our lives," Worthington said of the flag.

But Kemah Oaks is a deed restriction neighborhood, and flying any kind of flag, American or otherwise, on flagpoles in your front yard are against the rules.

Joe Betters, homeowners association president, said the issue is not with the flag, but rather the way Worthington is displaying it.

"It's not the flag, it's the flagpole" Betters said. "This association has never restricted anyone from flying the flag."

Worthington said she was aware of the rules, but understood residents could go before the homeowners association and have them changed.

"It's been done before," she said.

Worthington said currently there are two other residents living in the subdivision who have flag poles in their yards.

Betters said they are also in violation of the rules. He said Worthington and the other residents will receive letters from management.

Last week, Worthington and other neighbors took their case to Kemah Mayor Bill King, and an ordinance was placed on the council agenda saying residents cannot be restricted from displaying a flag at their home.

On April 3, the City Council passed the ordinance, which carries a fine of $200 a day for each day of interference. 

Before the council adopted the ordinance, Ralph Yarborough, of Kemah, stood before City Council and expressed his disapproval of the homeowners association's rules. 

Yarborough does not live in Kemah Oaks, but said he is a friend of Worthington.
"I don't see how you can tell someone that they cannot fly the flag," Yarborough said. "If the Supreme Court rules that we can burn the flag, we can sure fly it."

Betters said if residents want to change the rules, it must be passed by 75 percent of the association's members in a formal vote. Issues are voted on twice a year.

He said currently the association's attorney, along with the city attorney are discussing the matter because Worthington is still in violation of the rules.

Currently, she has two flagpoles in her yard - one displaying the American flag and another with the Texas flag.