New Utah flag foes holding hearings; petitioning to retain old flag may start this week
The signature-gathering effort aimed at forcing the future of Utah’s new tri-color state flag to the ballot box could get going as early as this week.
A series of seven public hearings organized on the planned petition effort started Monday and were to conclude Tuesday, precursors to the launch of actual collection of signatures from Utah voters.
“We should be able to start practically immediately,” presuming the meetings don’t necessitate change to the language of the proposed initiative, said Fred Cox, a former state lawmaker from West Valley City who’s helping lead the fight against Utah’s new flag. Collection of signatures, he went on, “could happen this week.”
The first of the hearings on the petition drive, required under state law, was set for Monday in St. George. The other six are to take place late Tuesday afternoon or early Tuesday evening in Brigham City, American Fork, Fairview, Orangeville, Vernal and West Valley City. None are planned for Weber or Davis counties.
Cox said individual meetings could draw a full room of participants or just a handful. He suspects both supporters and foes of the new flag will attend.
Meantime, those who helped push creation of the new flag don’t seem to have any specific efforts planned in response to the foes. Gov. Spencer Cox inked Senate Bill 31 into law last March, but at the same time announced an executive order calling on the current flag, dark blue with the state seal in the middle, to be flown at the Utah Capitol building at all times.
“We’re not actively planning any events,” said Katherine Potter, deputy director of the Utah Department of Cultural and Community Engagement. “There’s nothing planned, I think, to come out of the (Gov. Cox) administration.”
The Utah Department of Cultural and Community Engagement spearheaded efforts to come up with a new flag design for Utah featuring a beehive in the middle and horizontal blue and red bands across the top and bottom, respectively, with a white mountain silhouette through the center. Lawmakers approved S.B. 31 in March, making the new flag the official flag effective March 9, 2024, relegating the dark blue flag with the state seal to secondary status as Utah’s “historic” flag.
The votes on changing the flag in the Utah House and Senate were relatively close, and all along, a vocal contingent of foes, including Fred Cox, defended the original, dark blue flag and decried efforts to change it. They unsuccessfully petitioned after S.B. 31 passed to get a question on the November 2023 ballot to challenge the measure. After that failed, they announced plans to petition to get a question on the matter on the November 2024 ballot.
They’ll need to gather 134,298 signatures from registered voters around the state by Feb. 15, 2024, once they start. Fred Cox, though, noted those against the new flag will much have longer than the 40 days of the first effort and he thinks they’ll succeed, possibly reaching the signature threshold by the end of summer. They collected around 50,000 signatures the first go-round and will have more time for the second effort.
“We’re going to work the entire state,” with door-to-door signature gathering and collection at large events, he said. “We’re not going to skip any place.”
Supporters of the multicolored new flag see it as a way to better promote Utah and raise the state’s profile. Critics defend the imagery in the original, like the U.S. flag and the sego lily, the state flower.