Months past original due date, state seal commission eyes start of ‘real work’

  • The Massachusetts state flag AP FILE PHOTO/STEVEN SENNE

State House News Service
Published: 8/17/2022 1:48:28 PM
Modified: 8/17/2022 1:45:00 PM

After receiving two extensions already, the special commission tasked with redesigning the state seal and flag is staring down a timeline of just over four months until the latest deadline with the “real work” not yet underway.

The commission, which is set to expire at the end of December, earlier this summer sought another extension to March 31, 2023 to allow themselves the time to gather design proposals, solicit feedback, and file a formal recommendation with the new General Court sometime after inauguration day.

That extension was folded into the Senate’s version of the economic development bill along with a $100,000 budget – the commission’s first – which Co-Chair Brian Boyles said would include funding for initial design work.

At a commission meeting Tuesday, Boyles noted the economic development bill remains on ice after lawmakers failed to reach agreement by the end of formal sessions.

“That is a challenge for us,” he said, adding, “At this point, we are speaking with some legislators but really, I think, waiting – as they are – to find out if that economic development bill will be resurrected, and/or if either of these requests need to be broken out into their own separate requests to the Legislature over the next couple of months.”

Tuesday’s meeting included a review of a calendar of internal goals as the panel works toward a Dec. 31 deadline – “just in case,” as Boyles put it. The timeline for October, for example, calls for the Research and Design Subcommittee to “drill down into an RFP” and reach out to initial designers.

“This is very ambitious, and I’m wondering how realistic it is,” Indian Affairs Commissioner Jim Peters said of the timeline. Peters recommended that the commission hedge its bets by pushing for a deadline extension through legislation outside of the stalled economic development bill.

The commission was established in January 2021 with an original due date of October 2021. Amid two extensions to its deadline, the panel began setting up its internal structure in early 2022.

Members on Tuesday adopted a set of rules to govern their meetings. Co-Chair Brian Moskwetah Weeden said the rules were needed to “refocus” the group because “we feel as if we’re kind of getting behind the eight-ball here.”

“The work has obviously begun, but now the real work really begins,” Weeden said.

The one-and-a-half-year-old panel was discussing some basic elements of the state’s heraldic symbols this week.

Because the state seal is statutorily drawn from the state’s coat of arms, any recommended changes to the imagery and motto would be target changes to the coat of arms, too, Vice-Chair Brittney Walley said.

Walley briefed the group on that section of state law and said it opens up their options. Right now, she said, the seal, flag, and coat of arms are all linked, but the commission could recommend a divorce between those symbols and explore different designs for each.

That discussion prompted Donna Curtain of Pilgrim Hall to ask, “Would a seal have to be circular?”

Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Len Kondratiuk, longtime historical officer of the state National Guard, said circles are traditional but some states use a shield shape.

Weeden liked the circle for its significance to the Indigenous community.

“We use circles because the sun is a circle, you know, Mother Earth is a circle, we go through the circle of life, in a circle nobody’s more important than anybody else and we’re all kind of equal,” said Weeden, the elected chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

“I have seen the Great Seal in action in the secretary of state’s office. It is round and it’s big,” said Brona Simon, executive director of the state Historical Commission.

As the commissioners considered the physical Great Seal and its use on important documents, Curtain said that’s just “another little wrinkle for us to think about.”

Unless the Legislature extends its deadline, the commission has 136 days remaining to hand over design proposals to the branches.


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