La Verkin now feels vindicated in declaring town "U.N.-free
Deseret News correspondent
LA VERKIN, Washington County, Utah — The southern Utah community
of La Verkin received international attention — much of it negative
— when it essentially, if temporarily, banned the United Nations from
town two years ago.
Now, buoyed by a state legislative committee's passage of a resolution
asking Congress to get the United States out of the United Nations,
one City Council member in this rural town, a gateway to Zion National
Park, is ready to leap into geopolitics once again.
"This helps give our referendum credibility," said Al Snow
after reviewing the language of the resolution before the Legislature.
"Everybody tried to make me out that I was paranoid about the
U.N. or something. I feel like I'm vindicated."
Feb. 11, 2003: Utah
House committee advances anti-U.N. resolution
Jan. 17, 2002: La
Verkin repeals U.N. ordinance
July 26, 2001: La
Verkin waters down U.N. law
July 5, 2001: La
Verkin Council declares town a U.N.-Free Zone
City Council members, in a 3-2 vote on July 4, 2001, passed a controversial
"United Nations Free Zone Ordinance" that banned the international
body from La Verkin. Three weeks later the ordinance was revised,
removing sections deemed unconstitutional by Utah's attorney general
and the city attorney. Once again it passed on a 3-2 vote.
The council's action didn't sit well with most voters. Citizens refused
to reinstate the mayor for a second term, even though he didn't have
a vote in the matter. He did, however, vigorously support the ordinance.
In addition, two police officers quit in protest, and two council
members who supported the new law didn't seek re-election.
Those candidates who did win a seat on the next council were not fans
of the city's anti-U.N. stance. In fact, as its first action of official
business in 2002, the new council voted to revoke the ordinance that
had thrust this small town into the spotlight.
The Utah House resolution was forwarded to the full House on Tuesday.
It doesn't require state Senate or gubernatorial approval. If it passes,
it will be sent to the Utah delegation and Congress
The measure carries no power of law.
Still, Snow, the council's original supporter of the anti-U.N. ordinance,
sees the legislative effort as validation of his successful effort
to gather enough signatures to place a referendum on November's ballot
to overturn the council's decision and reinstate La Verkin's revised
Debi Groves, the city recorder, said developing the referendum's language
so that it is clear and not misleading will be a challenge.
"I want people to know exactly what they're doing when they vote
yes or no on the referendum," said Groves. "The terminology
on the referendum needs to be straight and forthright."
La Verkin Councilman Al Snow displays a sign representing his
sentiments on the United Nations.
Nancy Perkins, Deseret News
Voters could easily get confused on the referendum's purpose, since
the United Nations Free Zone Ordinance was passed, then revised and
passed a second time, and eventually repealed, she said.
"I am definitely going to send out a voter information pamphlet
sometime after July," Groves said. "We've talked about having
open houses and getting public input on the referendum language, but
I don't know if we'll do that for sure. But the desire is there, and
that's my intent."
The original ordinance made it illegal for U.N. personnel or facilities
to be located within city limits and for any U.N.-funded programs
or sponsored activities to take place there. It also sought to protect
residents from being forced to serve the United Nations in any capacity
and restricted the city from investing in anything related to the
Those who worked for La Verkin were prohibited from cooperating with
U.N. activities, and residents who worked for any U.N.-financed project
were required to file an annual report of activities with the city
and post a sign stating "United Nations work conducted here."
The revised ordinance banned U.N. personnel from La Verkin and prohibited
the city from flying a U.N. flag at the city offices or making financial
contributions to the global organization. The ordinance also made
any U.N. tax or international court decree issued by the United Nations
invalid in the city. An enforcement clause would charge violators
with a class-C misdemeanor.
The ordinance, even in its newest form, is bad law, says La Verkin
Police Chief Kim Seegmiller.
"I don't think the referendum should pass, and I think it's unenforceable,"
Seegmiller said. "I simply believe the referendum imposes an
individual's opinion about the United Nations on others, and government
shouldn't do that."