Winter Park commissioners to consider limiting use of city's street pole banner program

June in Winter Park will likely look a bit differently this year. The rainbow-colored banners that once hung from some of its street poles the past two years to celebrate pride month will no longer fly.

"Not having the banners up this year, it's a hit, you know, it hurts," Thor Falk, president and founder of the Winter Park PRIDE Project, said Wednesday.

He first applied to fly the banners in 2021. City staff had no problem then approving them, but that changed this year when Falk went to reapply again. 

"I got a callback and they said, '… The banner program is very likely to change, and that's going to have an impact on whether or not you can fly banners,'" he said.

City commissioners met last Wednesday to discuss limiting the banner program to only city-sponsored or city-promoted events or, in rare cases, to promote a local historic, artistic, or educational nonprofit's events. Applicants would have the option to appeal if city staff denied their request.

(Thor Falk/Winter Park PRIDE Project)

"I don't think any banners should be displayed on city property that encourages, endorses, advocates, or supports any viewpoint which relates to a subject of any political nature," commissioner Marty Sullivan said at the meeting.

Longtime resident Bonnie Jackson, a former Republican candidate for Florida House District 42, says the city's proposed changes to its policy are a direct response to her request to fly a pro-life banner.

"It's a little yellow banner with a stick figure family, a traditional family, a boy and a girl and a pregnant mom. And it just said ‘choose life’ at the top, ‘celebrate family’ at the bottom," Jackson said.

She applied last summer to have it fly this June, but she says the city never approved or denied it. Now, if the proposed changes are adopted as written, she wouldn't even be allowed to apply.

"They were more offended by my banner than they were with a pride banner. And to me, that is the opposite of inclusive," Jackson said. "God forbid that somebody might think Winter Park is pro-family or pro-life. How horrible."

For Falk, the changes will mean having to find other ways to celebrate pride. 

"It won't ruin us, I can tell you that. We will still be here. Flags will still be flying in June," he said.

Commissioners will meet again next Wednesday, March 22, for a final discussion before adopting the policy.