On display at the La Crosse Regional Airport are the flags of eight countries, representing the city’s sister cities.
When Russia invated Ukraine, however, the Dubna, Russia, flag hanging at the airport bugged some people.
After a long debate last night at the La Crosse city council’s monthly meeting, that flag will be removed while the war continues.
The decision was not part of a resolution already on the agenda to support the people of Ukraine.
Chris Woodard, on the city’s International Committee, was a sponsor of the resolution to support Ukraine, but opposed the flag’s removal.
“Removing it, I believe, would be a slap in the face to them,” he said of Russian citizens, “while they are struggling (in) this time of turmoil, as well.”
The council vote will not affect the official sister city bond between La Crosse and Dubna. A city flag representing Dubna is expected to temporarily replace the Russian national banner.
Chuck Hanson, who heads the La Crosse-Dubna friendship group, was not in favor of the change.
“The Russian flag doesn’t just represent (Vladimir) Putin,” Hanson said. “It represents all the people of Russia, and it represents the people of our sister city.”
The day before the meeting, Mayor Mitch Reynolds discussed on La Crosse Talk PM the idea of removing the Russian flag from the airport.
“To be fair, we don’t actually have a policy for how we decide to severe these relationships — that was never created,” Reynolds said. “That’s something that we’re actually looking at, right now — understanding how that happens. At what point do we decide that these relationships are damaged by the actions of the dictators that are essentially running the government?”
Reynold said it would be up to the International Committee to decide on whether to sever ties with Dubna.
The vote to take down the Russian flag was 10 to 2.
Council member Doug Happel said there is precedent for such a change, noting that La Crosse renamed Berlin Street to Liberty Street during World War I, because the U.S. was at war with Germany.