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La Verkin resurrects talk of a U.N.-free zone

Issue is headed for ballot in November election

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LA VERKIN, Washington County — Anyone interested in writing a convincing 500-word essay on the merits of kicking the United Nations out of La Verkin?

How about pounding out a persuasive argument on why it's OK if the United Nations sets up shop in this peaceful southern Utah town?

The opposing views will center on an issue that brought this city of 3,500 a considerable amount of worldwide publicity— the U.N.-free zone ordinance that was passed in 2001 and then repealed in 2002.

The issue now is headed for the November ballot as a referendum where voters can decide whether they want the original ordinance reinstated.

"We're getting ready to develop our voter pamphlet, so we need to solicit authors of both viewpoints," La Verkin city recorder, Debi Groves, told City Council members last week.

The opposing views will be published in a voter information document mailed to every La Verkin household. The pamphlet will also include the ordinance that could be resurrected if voters choose to do so.

The only qualification to be an opinion writer, said Groves, is to be a La Verkin resident.

The first version of the United Nations free-zone ordinance, passed on July 4, 2001, was quickly revised after the Utah attorney general and city attorney both said it was unconstitutional because it violated an individual's rights.

A revised, watered-down version of the ordinance was passed July 24, 2001, and then repealed during the first council meeting of 2002 by the new council.

The ordinance would restrict the city from making financial contributions to the United Nations and forbid flying a U.N. flag on the city flagpole. Any U.N. tax or international court decree issued by the United Nations would be invalid in the city, and no U.N. troops could be stationed in town. Violators could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor.

La Verkin Councilman Al Snow, an original sponsor of the ordinance, said he would like to be one of the opinion writers in favor of reinstating the ordinance.

"But I'm not a sponsor of the referendum. There are 12 others ahead of me," said Snow.

"I think it needs to be a simple explanation. It needs to be clear tome," said Lloyd Howard, whose son, Dan, was La Verkin mayor when the ordinance was passed and then lost his bid for re-election. "A vote to reinstate the revised ordinance is a vote to reinstate a U.N.-free zone in La Verkin."

Up to five opinion writers on each side of the issue are allowed by law to contribute to the voter information pamphlet, said Groves.

"Please keep in mind this is a controversial issue and time is of the essence," Groves wrote in a memo outlining a schedule for completion of the pamphlets. Groves hopes to have the documents ready for publishing by the end of July.

E-mail: nperkins@infowest.com