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Posted: 7/6/2001 9:37:38 AM EDT
Thursday, July 5, 2001 BY THOMAS BURR THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE LA VERKIN -- City leaders declared their independence Wednesday -- from the United Nations. During a special Fourth of July meeting, the City Council voted 3-2 to make this southwestern Utah city a United Nations-free zone. The proclamation, possibly the nation's first, forbids use of the U.N. insignia on city property and spending any city funds to support the global organization. Individual residents are still free to back the United Nations, but must file annual reports to the city and post a sign noting their support. The town of Virgin, six miles to the east, plans to consider a similar ordinance July 19. Some La Verkin residents wonder why their city leaders are dabbling in international politics. "This is dumb," said Rebecca Beckham. "Why is it any of their business to deal with the United Nations? They should fix the potholes." Jerry Benson agrees. "They have enough to deal with," he said. "They're a group of people with power that has gone to their heads." However, La Verkin's anti-U.N. stands seems to enjoy some support -- inside and outside Utah. An earlier Salt Lake Tribune story on the issue generated dozens of responses praising the town's action. "These folks [in La Verkin and Virgin] should move to Washington, D.C., where we could really use them," read one e-mail. City staffers also have fielded calls from supporters, several asking for copies of the legislation to present to their own city leaders. Councilman Victor Iverson would like to see other cities follow La Verkin's lead. He said a grass-roots, anti-U.N. movement could spark a public dialogue about U.S. involvement in the world organization. "We want to frame the debate," Iverson said. "We want to get people talking." Iverson acknowledged that the ordinance is largely symbolic and would not be enforced in this town of 3,400 about 20 miles north of St. George. "I don't have any grand illusions that I'm re-signing the Declaration of Independence," he said. Neither does Councilman Daren Cottam, who insists that council members are not "wackos" but merely public servants standing up for what they believe. "Anytime I get the chance to uphold the state constitution or the Constitution of the United States, I'll do it," he said. But the American Civil Liberties Union sees constitutional problems in the ordinance, especially the requirement that U.N. backers post signs indicating their support. "That certainly is an invasion of privacy," said Carol Gnade, executive director of the ACLU's Utah chapter. Gnade likened the "preposterous" provision to the identification Jews were forced to wear under the Nazis. If La Verkin residents complain, she added, the ACLU might help fight the ordinance. tburr@sltrib.com _________ Tribune staffer Julie DeHerrera contributed to this story. © Copyright 2001, The Salt Lake Tribune All material found on Utah OnLine is copyrighted The Salt Lake Tribune and associated news services. No material may be reproduced or reused without explicit permission from The Salt Lake Tribune.
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