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Posted: November 20, 2013

Rundles wrap up: Proposed ā€œCā€ state flag raises hackles

Jeff Rundles

DENVER, COLORADO, JUNE 1911 – Controversy erupted in the State House today with the introduction of a bill to approve a new State Flag, which bears two blue bands on the top and bottom, a white band in the middle and a red “C” slightly off center, filled with a yellow ball. The colors are said to symbolize Colorado’s abundant blue skies, snow-covered mountains, our ruddy soil and the plentiful sunshine, but oppositionists said the “C” flag would confuse people.

Gov. John Shafroth, a champion of the new state symbol, said the “C” flag was an example of modern “branding,” that will set Colorado apart from the other 45 states and will have a unifying effect on statewide marketing efforts, as each of the state’s agencies band together under the new banner. The effort for a new design was one of six objectives Gov. Shafroth announced last year as part of the “Colorado Outline” to prepare the state for new business initiatives. The new flag will adorn state carts, wagons and drays, and will be a featured on state office doors and stationary.  

“We did extensive testing of the new design with the state’s leading industrialists, and most all agreed that it was time for us to enter the 20th Century,” the governor said. “The existing flag says ‘Nil Sine Numine.’ What the hell does that mean? Latin is so 19th Century.”

Detractors, led by Denver Mayor Robert Speer, countered that the proposed “C” symbol lacks dignity, doesn’t address the state’s strength in mining and will have visitors thinking something is wrong.

“I just don’t know what is wrong with the state flag as it is,” said Speer. “People will think we’re California or something. Besides, the new design looks like one of those warning signs the health department slaps on a tenement when the residents come down with consumption.”

Added Kristine Wagon Blue, head of the state’s new-fangled “advertising” agency Cart and Wagon: “It’s not a design I would put my name on. It looks like a drawing my kid did that I taped onto the ice box.”

The proposed new state flag was designed by Andrew Carlisle Johnson, named head of Gov. Shafroth’s new branding commission, “Making Colorado Better.” Johnson is no stranger to the pitfalls of image changing. The former chief of a soft drink company changed the name of his signature drink from Carlisle’s Sarsaparilla to “Root Beer,” and much consternation among loyalists ensued. “Our customers eventually came around,” said Johnson. “The new name set us up for the future, and that’s exactly what will happen with Colorado’s new flag.”

Not everyone is buying it, however. Mel Black, executive director of the Colorado Office of Mining, said the existing state flag, featuring mining implements, is proven to be the best builder of business since the state was founded in 1876.

“We’ve had a very successful mining development plan in place for many years under the existing flag and our slogan ‘Come to Mine,’ and we’re not about to change that,” said Black.

Word from around the state is mostly negative. The sentiments are best summed up by the lead editorial in the state’s oldest newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, which simply stated, “Is this the best we can do? We think not.”

And state switchboards are a-twitter with social commentary from state citizens, many of whom, in short commentaries, have called for the firing of the whole Making Colorado Better board.   

State identity chief Johnson defended the new “C” flag, arguing that it goes beyond mining and unifies all of the efforts in the state.

“The current state flag speaks to mining and construction, but it doesn’t do anything for the farmers and ranchers, and our new industries, like brewing and rubber making, want something that can help them advance,” he noted. “We need to move forward.

“Many people are afraid of change,” Johnson added, “but change is good for Colorado. It’s our nature.”

Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at jrundles@cobizmag.com.

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