Texas School’s Controversial Mural Getting Another Paint Job — Back to Red, White and Blue

CBS4 Screenshot
CBS4 Screenshot

Following months of bickering between the residents of a master planned community and its developers over the fate of a mural in the likeness of Old Glory, a small West Texas town finally resolved the matter. The red, white and blue won out over the shocking orange concrete wall that currently adorns an elementary school under construction.

The patriotic sentiments of the El Paso suburb of Canutillo had been stymied by developer Hunt Communities LCC, whose approved color palate did not include these stand-alone primary colors. Hunt had always maintained that these hues did not “comply with the allowable colors” contained in the Cimarron Home Owner Association (HOA) covenant, the El Paso Times reported.  Desert tones were authorized to match the geographic backdrop.

El Paso School Painted over flag with orange paint.

El Paso School Painted over flag with orange paint. CBS 4 Screenshot

The $24.1 million Silvestre and Carolina Reyes Elementary School is slated to open in August and serve approximately 500 students. Breitbart Texas reported that it was the school’s namesake, former US Congressman from El Paso and Vietnam veteran Silvestre Reyes, who asked Canutillo Independent School District (ISD) officials if the wall could be star spangled.

Thus, there was a subsequent understanding that the patriotic rendering of the American flag was going to happen to honor Reyes for his public and military service.

In early March, the situation flared up when the American flag was mocked up on the campus wall at the district’s expense of $3,500. One neighbor complained about the color scheme and the developers stepped in with their sanctioned color wheel and the wall went orange.

The Cimarron community has a sizable military veteran population. They did not take too kindly to the stripping of the U.S. flag and its replacement with the freshly repainted eye-popping solid slab. This led to an outcry.

Hunt caved to the pressure, but only to a point, initially. He told the residents the flag might grace the wall if they could muster up more than 50 percent of the Cimarron Community residents to approve the flag mural, if the school board submitted a proposed design, and if they got a confirmation of compliance from the US Department of Veteran Affairs, or similar agency to ensure the design met required flag depiction codes.

In the interim, the developers also made a $10,000 peace offering to the district that included a flag, pole and monument in lieu of the mural. The district; however, had already purchased its flag and rejected the developer’s offer.

KFOX 14 reported that when they spoke to Cimarron residents, they received overwhelming support for the patriotic mural. One resident named Sam McDowell, told them, “Being military, we have lived in a lot of places and so we have had HOA enforced communities before and they don’t enforce anything here. So I find it ironic that somebody complained and used the HOA rules to get rid of the flag in the first place, because there’s a lot of violations in this neighborhood — even though it’s brand-new.”

According to the El Paso Times, of the 33 percent of respondents to a paint job survey put out to Cimarron residents, 23 percent supported the Americana vision, it said in a letter that Hunt Communities President Justin Chapman wrote to the school board. Canutillo ISD school board president Laure Searls read the letter at their March 30 meeting.  Chapman noted, “we believe we have enough responses to determine that a decision favorable to your request is warranted.”

KFOX 14 also reported that in his turn-around letter, Chapman verified that even if not all 50 stars and 13 stripes were depicted in the mural, it would not violate US flag code according to the national office of the American Legion. This had been one of Hunt’s concerns.

“With that, it sounds like we’re a go on the flag,” Searls said at that last school board meeting. This was met with a rousing round of applause. She added, “God bless America and the Canutillo school district and the red, white and blue flag.”

Not all residents were happy with the outcome. “This is not about patriotism,” said Terrence Powers. He told the El Paso Times that he was against the district painting the mural. He believed the issue at-hand was about the school district honoring its original contract with the developer. Powers acknowledged he would not object if the residents voted for the American flag in a March 24 letter to the editor. Other residents like Hector Gallardo were jazzed about the flag mural. “We should be patriotic,” he told the newspaper.

The mural will cost around $50,000, money that is not budgeted by the school district for this undertaking, Canutillo ISD spokesman Shane Griffith told the El Paso Times, although he added that veterans and others from across the country have pledged money and time to paint the flag mural.

Griffith also said that if enough donations are raised, district officials will contract painters in one to two months. Meanwhile, Air Force veteran, community member, and entrepreneur, Jarred Taylor, who had been active in the fight for the flag wall, told the school board that he and his business partners were willing to spearhead the fundraising effort.

He called the result of the mural battle, “a victory for veterans across the United States.”

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.