Old Glory, Old North State, Trump?

Updated 47 weeks ago Sundae Horn
UPDATE: Captain and crew were suspended for seven days without pay.  
Old Glory, Old North State, Trump?

A statement from the N.C. Ferry Division was issued today, Friday, August 10, 2018: "An NCDOT review of the July 26 incident in which a campaign flag was flown on a state ferry concluded that the agency employees involved in the incident violated state law. No matter one’s political affiliation, putting any sort of campaign material on a state-owned vessel is not appropriate. The crew member and captain of the ferry involved in this incident have been issued seven-day suspensions without pay for unacceptable personal conduct." 

Original story, posted Friday, July 27, 2018: On the evening of Thursday, July 26, 2018, an Ocracoke resident shared a photo on Facebook. It was of a “Trump 2020” flag flying aboard the M/V Frisco, a ferry that runs between Ocracoke and Hatteras.  

Mayhem ensued. Politics can be ugly. 

The photo made the rounds on Facebook and was shared to the NCDOT Ferry Division's Facebook page. I know I wasn't the only one, but in the interest of full disclosure, it's important to note that I brought the photo to the attention of Jed Dixon, deputy director of the NCDOT Ferry Division. 

But the flying of this flag doesn’t need to be argued.  

“Any sort of campaign material is inappropriate aboard a state-owned vessel,” said ferry division spokesperson Tim Hass. “It doens’t matter which candidate it supports, political statements are inappropriate.”

As of Friday morning, Tim reported that Jed Dixon is on his way to Hatteras to investigate the situation.

“We need to find out when it happened, where it was, who put it up,” Tim said. “We’ll investigate the matter then take the appropriate disciplinary actions."

The flag is not, of course, still flying. In fact, it was taken down soon after the photo captured it. 

We at the Ocracoke Current don't make our political affiliations secret, and on our Facebook page, we've been accused of posting this photo because we don't like Trump.  

But this isn't about anyone's feelings for or against Donald Trump. It's about the law. 

Several Facebook commenters pointed out that NC governor Roy Cooper's photo is displayed aboard the ferries. That's true.  

"It doesn't matter who the governor is," explained Tim. "The ferries always post his or her photo. It's a photo of the current governor and doesn't give their political affiliation." 

(Just like, for instance, NC Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry's photo in every elevator in North Carolina. Don't you just love to say Cherie Berry? I've heard that her first name is pronounced Che-REE. So I like to say Che-REE Ber-REE, too.) 

Anyway, as I type this, I've not yet heard what the disciplinary action will be. I'll update this story as soon as I find out from Jed or Tim.

UPDATE: As Tim explained in a text: "State employees go through a hearing process before any disciplinary action is determined." So -- we might have to wait a while before we know the fate of the ferry flag-flyers.

Meanwhile, this story has caused a great deal of confusion about the non-partisan issue of political statements from government employees. It's really quite simple: it's not okay.

The governor is already the governor. That's why his photo, but not any campaign material for or against him, is displayed on board the ferries. When he's no longer governor, another's photo will take his place.

Some have suggested that our ferries should display a photo of Pres. Trump. It's not NCDOT policy to display photos of the U.S. president aboard state-owned boats, but if it were, Trump would be there, just like Obama would've been before him, and Bush before that, Clinton before that, etc. But since that's not the policy, none of them have been displayed. If you think that policy should be changed, tell the DOT and, more importantly, tell your elected state representatives. 

Campaign materials are different from photos of people currently in office. The photo of Gov. Cooper states a fact: he is the current governor. The "Trump 2020" flag expresses an opinion – this person wants Trump to win a second term. It seeks to persuade – to show partisan support for an event that hasn't happened yet. 

No POTUS has had his own flag; the U.S. flag suffices to honor him, the office, and the country. 

Yes, the ferry division is flying Blackbeard's flag this year. That's to boost tourism during the 300th anniversary year of Robert Maynard's defeat of the pirates. It's historical, not political. 

One more thing: posting a story about this incident, and any other news we find interesting or timely, is the Current's job. 

     
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