LA VERKIN — The city motto for this desert town closeted between Hurricane and Toquerville at the end of the great Zion Plateau is plastered on everything city-owned — utility trucks, fire engines, police cars, the welcome signs on each end of town. The motto reads: "A Proud Past, A Promising Future."
Yeah, well, not if Libya decides to start dropping bombs.
After a century and a half of keeping itself off the map, La Verkin put itself on the map this month by declaring itself out of the United Nations. Reportedly, there were problems with a local land deal involving federal property that got complicated, and some people in high places interpreted it as the final straw when it came to government interference. The U.N. got blamed and that was that. La Verkin was outta there.
The City Council met on the Fourth of July to pass the ordinance by a Supreme Court-like 3-2 margin.
Ever since, many La Verkin-ites have been trying to sort out what happened, characterized more often than not by a phrase I heard several times while driving through what is now believed to be America's first U.N.-free zone.
"We did what!?"
At the post office, a clerk looked up from the counter and said, "I think most people think like I do, that this doesn't reflect the community. We're not all a bunch of radicals."
He then picked up a package and shook it to make sure it wasn't ticking.
A woman walking out of Kent's Drive-In, where you can order a combo meal consisting of a cantaloupe shake, an elk burger and fries, whispered conspiratorially, "I think somebody's trying to get out of paying their taxes, that's what I think."
Then again, there are those who are squarely behind the move. Bernie Harris doesn't live in La Verkin, he lives in Rockville, but he admires La Verkin's U.N. defection and wishes Rockville would do the same thing. "This is why we left England," he said while filling his Dodge quadcab at the Sinclair station.
So much debate has been stirred up since the Fourth of July that a public hearing will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the La Verkin city offices. Among items to be discussed is the problem of two police officers who resigned out of some kind of conflicted constitutional torment.
June Jeffery, the city deputy recorder, verified the time and place of this week's public hearing while holding down the city fort, so to speak, on a recent weekday afternoon. The mayor was off to his day job in nearby St. George, as usual.
June said the biggest commotion regarding the ordinance came in the first few days when the switchboard was swamped, mostly with way-to-go calls from right-wing supporters around the country. One large batch of flowers surrounded by more than two dozen red, white and blue helium balloons arrived and took up so much counter space people couldn't pay their utility bills. June called the mayor's wife and she came and got the bouquet.
"We're very patriotic here," said June, flanked by American flag decorations. She said she listens to Rush Limbaugh on a regular basis on AM 890, and she's not alone.
Nobody's angling to get out of the United States in La Verkin.
Just the U.N., and the sooner the better. At least for the time being.
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and faxes to 801-237-2527.