City of Idaho Falls introduces proposed flag policy following POW/MIA controversy
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IDAHO FALLS — The Idaho Falls City Council is asking the public for input as an official flag policy is under discussion.
In July, city attorney Randall Fife recommended removing a POW/MIA flag that has flown on a pole outside City Hall for years. City employees told EastIdahoNews.com they had been instructed to remove the flag on July 6.
The National League of POW/MIA families blasted the city’s recommendation calling it “ridiculous” and “disloyal to those who serve our country.”
Hours after EastIdahoNews.com posted a story about the pending removal of the flag, Mayor Rebecca Casper announced it would continue to fly until the city came up with an official flag policy.
The proposed policy is now under discussion and was discussed for nearly an hour during a City Council work session Monday. It essentially revolves around three parts.
The first part deals with the three main government flags: the national flag, state flag and city flag. It also details how flags flown on city property are to be treated in regards to being raised, lowered, replaced and lowered to half mast.
The second part of the policy officially adopts a city flag. The city has a seal which is flown as the city flag; however, Fife mentioned that he could not find anywhere where it had officially been adopted as the city flag.
“The idea is to control what is on your flag poles,” Fife told the council, explaining why it was important to officially adopt a city flag. He explained that designating government flags makes it possible to fly them at any government building without worrying about creating, what he called, “a limited public forum.”
Fife said allowing flags to be flown on government property that are not official government flags could create a limited public forum which would require the city to allow citizens and organizations to request their flags be flown as well. If the city denied a request, it could be sued.
“It’s like having prayer,” Fife explained. “If you decided to have prayer in council (meetings), it would have to be fair (to everyone).”
The third part of the flag policy would allow the POW/MIA flag to be flown year-round at the War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. It would also allow the flag to be flown only on certain dates at City Hall such as Memorial Day, Independence Day and National POW/MIA Recognition Day.
“The POW/MIA flag is not a government flag,” Fife said. “It’s a flag that’s been recognized by the federal government as symbolic of what the federal government thinks should happen with POWs and MIAs of the Vietnam War.”
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.” United States Postal Service facilities are required to fly the flag on certain holidays and many Post Offices have it up year round.
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.
Fife and Casper expressed concerns about creating a limited public forum if the third part of the flag policy is adopted.
“Aren’t you going to be so sorry when NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association) comes to you and asks for it,” Casper told council members. “Aren’t you going to be so sorry when the Nazis come and the Confederates come. I’m asking you to be careful. I’m asking you to consider this carefully. I’m not telling anybody what to do…What we have to do is make sure our flag policy captures, to the greatest extent possible, what we would like to see here in our community.”
City leaders encouraged the public to contact council members before the vote on Nov. 5.