Ken Solorzano photographs relatives recreating The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album cover Tuesday on a recently repainted rainbow crosswalk at the intersection of Central and Water streets in Hallowell. The crosswalk was painted Tuesday in the colors of the Progress Pride flag. Pride Month events in Hallowell include a parade along Water Street this Saturday at 2 p.m. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — A new crosswalk decoration policy, drafted after a downtown business owner expressed concerns that Augusta is not perceived by some as welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community, has been endorsed by city councilors unanimously.

The policy, approved on Thursday, is expected to result in two downtown crosswalks being painted in the rainbow colors of Pride Month this June.

Advocates for the new policy say Augusta was slow to join the movement of many other Maine municipalities, including notably neighboring Hallowell, in showing support for the queer community. Supporters of the policy expressed hope the new effort will demonstrate Maine’s capital city is welcoming to everyone.

“In the two years since I’ve moved to Augusta I’ve not seen many public displays of support for the LGBTQ+ community, despite many of us living, socializing, working and visiting here,” said resident Samuel Baker, “yet when I bike or walk just 2 miles down the road I see rainbow crosswalks and flags in the city of Hallowell.”

Baker said as an adolescent growing up in rural Pennsylvania he hid who he was from his family and even tried to hide it from himself, feeling alone, different and sad.

“It is a stark contrast that sends a message saying LGBTQ+ Mainers might be more welcome in Hallowell than they are in Augusta,” he continued. “Public signs and symbols like the rainbow and all the Pride colors can demonstrate a community is an inclusive, safe and welcoming place. It is important Augusta sends this message to the queer people who live here, as well as their families, friends and neighbors who love and support them.”


The policy was drafted after Clark Phinney, a downtown resident and owner, with his wife, Kim, of downtown businesses Amour World Market and Lilac Mixology & Catering, approached councilors about a month ago. Phinney told officials some of their customers had expressed the perception Augusta wasn’t as welcoming as it could be to the LGBTQ+ community, and asked that the city paint some downtown crosswalks in the rainbow colors of Pride Month, which is June.

Councilors agreed with the sentiment but expressed concerns the city could find itself in legal trouble if not careful about infringing on constitutional free speech rights by potentially picking or choosing what causes could, or couldn’t, be recognized by city government. Some also expressed  concerns about pedestrian safety in decorated crosswalks, and about allowing decorations without a policy in place.

So councilors had the city attorney draft a policy to lay out when and how the city might allow crosswalks to be decorated.

Stephen Langsdorf, the city’s longtime attorney, noted one section of the new policy specifically seeks to avoid legal pitfalls by stating crosswalks should be decorated only at the request of city councilors, not at the request of any non-governmental group, individual or entity.

“The significance here is government speech, when you’re making the decision to support a cause here, and paint those crosswalks, you’ve made the determination on your own and government is free to express itself in this manner,” Langsdorf told city councilors prior to Thursday’s unanimous vote in favor of the new policy. “If requests are coming to you and you’re choosing among them, that’s when it can become a problem, or discrimination, on the basis of a free speech right. Because not every cause that comes before you is going to be as popular as others, there are some very unpopular causes that have the same free speech right as any others do.”

Immediately following passage of the policy, councilors approved a proposal from At-Large Councilor Courtney Gary-Allen to decorate some crosswalks in downtown Augusta with the rainbow Pride colors. Gary-Allen last year sought unsuccessfully to have the city display a Pride flag on city property.


She had originally proposed the city paint the crosswalks at the prominent four-way intersection of Water and Bridge streets but agreed to reconsider that plan after learning from city staff of the cost of painting at that busy site.

Tyler Pease, city engineer, estimated it would cost about $13,500 to paint the crosswalks at the Bridge and Water street intersection, largely due to the cost of traffic control there.

A dog named Oliver Twist and Julia Underwood walk through the recently repainted rainbow crosswalk Tuesday at the intersection of Central and Water streets in Hallowell. The crosswalk was painted Tuesday in the colors of the Progress Pride flag. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Instead the proposal is now to paint two crosswalks on Oak Street, a short street between Water and Commercial street. Pease said painting that less-busy site would not require traffic control as Oak Street could just be closed, leaving only the cost of the paint, which he estimated at $1,000.

Councilors noted that site is an especially appropriate spot for the Pride colors to be painted because it is also the location of the Augusta Teen Center. Officials and advocates said LGBTQ+ youths often feel alone and alienated and need to know their community supports them.

Alden Wilkinson, a Cony High School freshman and representative of Cony’s Teen Health Center, urged councilors to vote for creating a Pride crosswalk to help counteract recent negative images that have been posted on social media directed at the LGBTQ+ community.

“Teen health center representatives, as well as many other members of the student body, are concerned for our peers’ mental well-being,” Wilkinson said. “We feel the painting of one of these crosswalks will remind the LGBTQ+ students that this community does support and accept them.”


Wilkinson noted that according to the Maine Integrative Health Survey, in 2019 LGBTQ+ youth reported they had attempted suicide at a rate three to four times that of their peers. “Research has shown that school safety and a feeling of belonging in their community has a strong protective factor,” the Cony freshman said. “We urge the council to vote unanimously in favor of this proposal.”

Gary-Allen said she expects the city will have the crosswalks painted by the end of June.

Councilors, in a motion made by Ward 4 Councilor Eric Lind, removed a section of the policy that specified what events or causes could be recognized by decorating crosswalks, which listed Black History Month, Memorial Day, Pride Month, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Indigenous People’s Day, and cancer, mental, or other public health awareness days.

Lind said by putting some specific events in the policy the city would effectively be excluding others.

Pease said one difficulty in getting the crosswalks painted could be the current lack of workers in the city’s public works department, which he said is down eight or nine positions and some days just barely has enough workers to pick up rubbish.

Some city councilors, and resident Scott Mocha, said they’d be willing to volunteer to paint the crosswalks.

“We’re the capital of Maine and represent the state as a whole, so we need to put our best face forward,” Mocha said. “We need to show as much acceptance and inclusivity and welcoming as possible. I’m certain if we need volunteers we’ll be able to find some.”

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