UPDATE: Mayor says POW/MIA flag will continue to fly while city develops policy
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UPDATE 9:30 p.m.
Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper overturned a decision by city attorney Randall Fife Friday night and announced The National League of Families POW/MIA flag flying outside of City Hall will remain in place for the time being.
Hours after EastIdahoNews.com reported that the flag was being removed, Casper released this statement:
“While I do appreciate the legal opinion of our city attorney’s office in this matter, I see no reason why the POW-MIA flag cannot continue to fly while a permanent city flag policy is being researched and developed. Therefore, I have asked city staff to keep the flag in place while the City develops a policy.
Those who are familiar with our community know that it goes without saying that we honor our Veterans and their service and we will continue to honor our veterans. In addition, it is my understanding that the legal advice never included a recommendation for the permanent removal of the POW-MIA flag. And rightly so. That is and always will be a policy decision.”
Casper drove to City Hall Friday night to see if the flag was still flying and, as of 9:30 p.m., it was on the pole and had not been taken down, according to city spokesman Bud Cranor.
Casper did not address the POW/MIA flag that was removed from the Idaho Falls Library many months ago, but a spokesman anticipates that will be part of the discussion moving forward.
IDAHO FALLS — In what’s being called an “appalling” and “ridiculous” decision, the city of Idaho Falls will no longer fly The National League of Families POW/MIA flag outside of City Hall.
The flag, which shows the silhouette of a soldier before a guard tower, has flown outside City Hall for at least 20 years and represents American prisoners of war and servicemen missing in action. It is raised daily at various city, state and federal buildings across the country but will be removed from the Idaho Falls pole permanently on Friday.
The decision to take down the flag comes under the direction of city attorney Randall Fife and is being done after a POW/MIA flag was quietly removed from outside the Idaho Falls Public Library many months ago.
“Our city attorney is working to create a policy governing the use of flags at city facilities,” Idaho Falls city spokesman Bud Cranor tells EastIdahoNews.com. “The POW/MIA flag may end up being flown at the War Memorial or other places and our attorney is trying to come up with the best policies.”
Cranor says the decision of what flags should fly at city buildings has been discussed for years, but a recent complaint led Fife to take action now.
“Someone recently complained about another flag being flown downtown that turned out not to be a flag at City Hall,” Cranor says. “That reignited the discussion, in addition to the city receiving requests from time to time from other groups to fly their flags on city flag poles.”
Cranor says there was also some confusion last week after City Hall flags were lowered to half-staff in honor of five people killed at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland.
“Somebody raised the flags back up and nobody could figure out who did it,” Cranor says. “It all converged at the same time and we decided we needed to figure out what we’re doing with the flags.”
A United States veteran, who works for the city of Idaho Falls but asked not to be named, says the decision to remove the flag is upsetting.
“I’ve contacted my friends and buddies who have served and it’s ridiculous,” he says. “I kind of understand the city’s position but what are we more concerned about? The veterans or other groups? It’s very unfortunate.”
The National League of POW/MIA Families passed a resolution in 2001 that “strongly recommends state and municipal entities fly the POW/MIA flag daily to demonstrate continuing commitment to the goal of the fullest possible accounting of all personnel not yet returned to American soil.”
Idaho Code 67-2303 allows for the POW/MIA flag to be flown on state property, but there are no laws regarding whether the flag can or should be flown on city or county property.
“For the city attorney, whoever that is, to make this decision is ridiculous,” says Ann Mills-Griffiths, the Chairman of the Board for The National League of POW/MIA families. “Of all the places, I never expected to have this coming from Idaho Falls, Idaho. It’s very short-sided on the side of the city attorney and it’s appalling. I think it’s asking for trouble.”
Mills-Griffiths points out that United States Postal Service facilities are required to fly the POW/MIA flag on certain holidays and many Post Offices have it up year round.
“It is not an organizational flag. It represents American servicemen missing in action and otherwise unaccounted for in our nations wars,” Mills-Griffiths says. “For this to happen now, after President Trump met with Kim Jong-un and arranged to have the remains of our soldiers in North Korea brought back to America, is simply ridiculous. Why would Idaho Falls be that silly?”
Fife and his office are now working on a flag policy that will be presented to Mayor Rebecca Casper and the City Council within a few months, according to Cranor. The city employee, who asked not to be named, hopes it includes provisions for the POW/MIA flag to return to City Hall.
“I’m really shocked that it would be coming from such a patriotic area of our country that has provided strong support for many years,” Mills-Griffiths says. “It’s incredible that Idaho Falls would be that disloyal to those who serve our country. I can not imagine the people in Idaho Falls are going to welcome this decision.”