Half-staff order affects county, state facilities
On April 30, I noticed that the Hawaiian flags at the state Capitol and the Fasi Municipal Building were at half-staff, while the U.S. and Hawaiian flags at the Honolulu Post Office were at half-staff, and the Hawaiian flag at Iolani Palace was at the top. What's going on? Who determines when the flags are all the way up or half way?
Q: It was aggravating to see many U.S. and state flags flying at full staff during the monthlong observance for President Gerald Ford's death in December. When the governor orders flags to be flown at half-staff, why isn't this enforced? I asked a policeman and he said they don't bother with that. If anyone can do as they wish, what's the point of the governor's order? What do the federal and state laws say?
Answer: When the governor orders the state flag to fly at half-staff, the order is mandated for all state and county buildings and facilities, but does not cover federal or private properties.
A notice went out to all state and county agencies ordering that the flag be lowered in honor of former state Rep. Akira Sakima on April 29, for former city Prosecutor Charles Marsland on April 30, and for entertainer Don Ho on May 5.
In each case, the flags were to be lowered on the day of each man's memorial or funeral service, from sunup to sundown.
The governor has the discretion to order the flag to be lowered in honor of Hawaii residents, in most cases, government officials or other prominent community members, spokesman Russell Pang said.
In the case of Iolani Palace, he did not know why the flag was not lowered, but said it was probably "inadvertent."
When an oversight like this is brought to the administration's attention, "we do call the agency or the office and remind them the flag has been ordered to half-staff and request that they follow that order," he said.
But this is an administrative, not a criminal, matter, so it does not entail having police officers enforce the order or result in a penalty, he said.
Pang also noted that when the American flag is flying at half-staff, by protocol, state flags would be lowered, because they should not fly higher than the American flag.
As for why the state and American flags were flown at half-staff at the federal Downtown Post Office, it's because the U.S. Postal Service and the state have an agreement that, when the governor orders the flag lowered, the Downtown Post Office will follow suit, said Lynne Moore, manager of consumer affairs for the Postal Service in Hawaii.
That station, because it is in the Capitol District, is the only one affected by the agreement, she said.
We previously explained federal guidelines for flying flags at half-staff (starbulletin.com/2004/07/04/news/kokualine.html).
In brief, the American flag is flown at half-staff on four occasions: Memorial Day, Peace Officers Memorial Day (May 15), by order of the president and by order of a state's governor (to honor notable citizens from that state).
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