Ed Hansen has a Confederate flag displayed from the back deck of his West St. Paul house.
Normally, that probably wouldn't be newsworthy, but Hansen isn't just any Joe Shmoe -- he's a City Council member in the suburban town, located in Dakota County directly south of St. Paul. He also owns Rocco's Pizza in Little Canada.
West St. Paul's mayor and some of Hansen's neighbors are upset about the flag, but he has no plans to take it down, characterizing the decision to fly the stars-and-bars as free speech.
[jump] Hansen, 41, has been conservative on taxes and spending since being elected to the West St. Paul council in 2010. He began flying the flag last summer, and told the Pioneer Press that "what I choose to do [at home] does not represent the city." West St. Paul is 87 percent white and just under 3 percent black.
"It represents sovereignty, individual rights, and individual liberty," Hansen said. "It's my free speech, and that's my choice."
Despite the flag's association with slavery, Hansen claims he's not a racist.
"I'm not a racist, and I don't think it's racist," he told the PiPress, adding that "people like to play the race card, though, when they don't get their way."
A home builder across the street from Hansen said a prospective buyer decided to look elsewhere after seeing the flag at Hansen's house. For his part, Mayor John Zanmiller said he asked Hansen to take down the flag to no avail.
"I reached out to Mr. Hansen and asked him to remove the flag... because it does not represent West St. Paul or what we stand for," Zanmiller said. "The decision is entirely his to remove it. That's about all I can do."
Remember Neal Carlson, the St. Francis high school student who was recently banned from school because he refused to cover up his stars-and-bars triceps tat? It sounds like there's a West St. Paul home on the 1100 block of Felix Street he might be interested in. And if he needs a job, presumably Hansen would have little problem hiring him at Rocco's Pizza -- assuming Hansen shows his true colors at work.