IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — The Idaho Falls City Council conducted business before a packed house on Friday, October 26.
Most in attendance had one reason for being there: voicing their opinion about the city’s continuing controversy surrounding the recommendation by city attorney Randy Fife in July to remove the POW*MIA flag while the city creates an official flag policy.
While the flag was never taken down, the suggestion has sparked a passionate debate among Idaho Falls residents and the city council meeting on Friday was no exception.
“You take that away and you do a dishonor to this country, to the people which shed their blood so you could have this seat you’re sitting in,” one man said during the public comment portion of the meeting. “So, when you go to bed at night, ask yourself who gave you that pillow to sleep on in peace.”
Mayor Rebecca Casper has continued to affirm the recommendation and the proposed flag policy is by no means an effort to disrespect military service members. City attorney Randy Fife, Casper told KID NewsRadio earlier this year, is simply trying to keep the city out of court over first amendment violations.
“His first inclination was not, take the flag down, his first inclination was, we need a policy on this and then when he thought it through, he said and until we have one, we’re vulnerable and then to make ourselves less vulnerable, maybe you better take that down so that while council’s hashing out policy, nobody could complain or have grounds for a complaint,” Casper told KID NewsRadio.
Still, the fate of the POW*MIA flag at city buildings in Idaho Falls is still far from over. During a city council work session on Monday, October 22, council members reviewed drafts of resolutions that would remove the POW*MIA flag from city owned buildings.
“So, enacting [Resolution 1] would remove the POW*MIA flags at Idaho Falls Power, and the airport, and those two government buildings would be, under this policy, for request,” a council member asked during the work session.
Fife confirmed the first resolution would require the council to approve the flag flying on city flag poles, depending on how the council votes on Resolution 3, which would determine if the city would provide a limited public speech forum on it’s flag poles.
“Flags say something,” Fife said. “They stand for something, that’s what a flag is, and as you can see in some of the conversations and some of the comments made about the conversations about my legal advice, the people are passionate about flags.”
The city council has not made any official decision about a flag policy yet, but Mayor Casper did mention during the work session she’d hoped to have the policy figured out by the November 8 city council meeting in time for Veteran’s Day on Sunday, November 11.