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Time to wave goodbye to Utah's flag? Competing proposals heading up the mast

PROVO — Businessman and onetime GOP gubernatorial candidate Richard Martin says the current state flag, which has remained essentially unchanged for the past 100 or so years, has too many symbols, an overall poor design and no longer carries meaning for the average Utahn.

To rectify the issue, Martin, with the design help of his son, has come up with an entirely new flag concept and says he's found a Utah legislator to sponsor a bill proposing to replace the current flag with the updated model. But the idea could be running up against another legislative proposal that's taking a different, and more collaborative, approach to freshening up the banner.

Martin said he's long been a fan of flags and believes, as far as Utah's version goes, it just isn't cutting it any more.

Residents are invited to the city’s fourth annual Holladay History Night on Thursday, Nov. 15.
The current Utah state flag waves in the wind.
Adobe Stock

"Ever since I was young, I've loved flags," Martin said. "There's just something about a great flag design. But Utah's flag … I would never call it ugly, but I noticed from the first time I saw it that I couldn't identify with it."

Martin, who started working on a redesign almost a year ago, said he was shooting for a simpler, more visually powerful look that didn't need interpretation to get to the meaning behind the colors and symbols used to represent the state.

"The symbols should speak for themselves," Martin said. "The colors should be deep and rich."

Martin's flag idea, to be sure, is markedly simpler than the current version, opting for a red-white-and-blue background over which is a beehive design, a red star and a single date, 1847. He noted he reviewed over 130 designs before getting to the final idea, a design which was created under the direction of his son, Jonathan Martin.

Martin the younger said he was shooting for a flag design that would make a statement and be memorable, like those flown by states like Texas and California. A flag, he said, that Utahns would be proud to fly themselves.

"When's the last time you saw anybody waving the Utah flag in their front yard," Jonathan Martin mused. "It's about state pride and representation. A lot of people don't identify with the flag … we simplified the design and we told the story of Utah through the design of the flag."

Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, told the Deseret News he wholeheartedly agrees with the Martins about the need to update Utah's flag, but is proposing an entirely different approach to getting to a new design.

"I became convinced last summer, after visits from constituents, that today's Utah flag is not representative of them," Handy said. "They included amateur vexillologists, who are people that study flags."

Handy said he was motivated by the concerns he heard in those conversations to put a legislative proposal together, HB219. The bill would, if passed, create a commission drawing from a wide range of stakeholders to first assess the current Utah flag and then, if deficiencies were identified, move forward with a redesign effort.

Handy noted, however, that just putting one design forward and looking for an up or down vote from legislators, as the Martins were hoping to do, was not the way he believes the process should work.

"I don't think you can run a bill that says 'this is our new state flag,'" Handy said. "That's way out there and I don't think the public can accept that."

While Richard Martin said his local legislator, Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, would be carrying the flag proposal bill, no bill file is currently opened in Stratton's name and the Utah County representative did not immediately respond to a request from the Deseret News for comment.

The current Utah state flag was modified somewhat in 2011 but has remained essentially the same since the early 1900s.