Thomas (Ski) Demski is unflappable even if the flags atop his 132-foot flagpole aren't.
The crusty businessman says he will not bend to the demands of Long Beach officials who want his 40-foot American flag lowered at night.
"When they start picking on the flag, I'll go to jail over it if necessary, " Demski said. In the latest skirmish over Demski's flagpole, city officials have told him that the flags flapping outside his home at Lime Avenue and 4th Street are too noisy. Demski has until Friday to start lowering them each evening or face possible prosecution.
But Demski says it would be impossible to lower the flags on windy nights without tearing them. Demski, one of nine candidates running for mayor, dubbed the city's request harassment, and he questioned the timing as politically motivated.
Vows to Fight
"I'm going to fight them," Demski said this week. "It seems awfully funny they're asking me to do this right now."
Environmental health officer Donald Cillay said Health Department officials "responded to this situation like we would do to any complaint."
The city received numerous complaints from neighbors and a petition with more than 25 signatures, Cillay said. In February, readings taken from neighboring houses on two days exceeded the permitted noise level, Cillay said.
In a residential zone, noise is not allowed to exceed 35 decibels between 10 a.m. and 7 a.m., Cillay explained. Readings taken inside the neighbors' homes showed that Demski's flags were rippling away at 36 to 46 decibels during the night of Feb. 27, and from 45 to 58 decibels on Feb. 29.
Cillay noted that the noise in decibels is comparable to that made by daytime traffic. "But this is the middle of the night and can be annoying," he said. He added that an electrical transformer in a power plant registers 50 decibels, and a freight train 70 decibels.
One neighbor, who led the petition drive but didn't want her name used, said: "He is breaking the law and alienating the neighbors. We aren't unpatriotic. We want to sleep at night. It's a terrible sound, and when it's wet, it really snaps." She added that they weren't complaining out of any political motives but because they recently found out that they could seek recourse through the Health Department.
Jean Couvillion, an assistant manager of Covenant Manor, which houses 104 elderly residents across the street from the flags, said, "The general consensus is that the flags bother people only when it is very windy."
If Demski does not comply by Friday, the Health Department plans to turn the matter over to the city prosecutor.
Demski, who in December won the right to string hundreds of colored lights from the pole during Christmas, said he doesn't intend to budge in this case either.
"I think it's one way the city is trying to get me to take the flagpole down. They're jealous that Ski Demski has all these affairs (flag-raising ceremonies) at my place," said Demski, who runs a bumper-sticker business from his home. "And I'm going to continue having them."