City Hall officials hoping to run their ideas up the flagpole and see if anyone would salute them ran into a problem yesterday. Bruce Porteous was already atop the flag poles, removing the flags -- thus inhibiting everyone's saluting instincts.
Porteous, a Rec and Park tree-top worker, dangled precariously over Civic Center Plaza in a cherry-picker truck, removing the city's 18 historic flags and replacing them with shiny new ones. This, he says, is a chore that befalls him once a year. Or sometimes more: "These things really end up looking like shit because of the wind."
That's a testament to how windy and dirty our city can get -- because, rest assured, these are not cheapo, translucent Taiwan-made flags. They're hulking, thick items, American-crafted to military specifications
. And they ain't inexpensive.
All of the city's historical flags are purchased from Stevens Family Business Items and Flags
a San Francisco institution since 1927. Dick Stevens wouldn't tell us
exactly how much each flag cost, but he did note that a six-by-10 foot
number like those fluttering over Civic Center Plaza would likely run
"a couple hundred dollars easy." It all depends on the flag
-- and whether the buyer gets a "frequent flier discount." That is, for
flags that are flown 24/7, he'll give you a "significant" break in the
Of course, he says, it's actually cheaper to buy several flags and rotate them than fly one flag until it resembles a rag that went through a labrador retreiver's digestive system. In fact, the city government's use-it-up, throw-it-away method is probably the least economical way to go.
But, then again, Porteous' time in the cherry picker isn't free. If he was out there every other week, he might get flagged -- by the city's bean-counters.