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Salt Lake Mayor Backs Free-Speech Plaza Ruling

October 23, 2002|From Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Mayor Rocky Anderson on Tuesday said he would keep the sidewalks through a Mormon-owned Main Street plaza open to free speech, in compliance with a ruling by a federal appeals court.

In a 22-page memo released Tuesday, Anderson also said he would not renegotiate the contract in which the church bought the property in 1999. The city kept an easement for public access, and the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that people using that easement retained their free-speech rights.

Anderson said he was compelled to agree with the court's ruling that the city was responsible for controlling conduct on the public sidewalk, not the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which had imposed a long list of forbidden behaviors.

The mayor's statement came after two closed-door meetings with advisors. The mayor said he would like reasonable and constitutional restrictions on the sidewalk, and would take to the City Council recommendations for so-called time, place and manner rules.

"If, hypothetically, they came up with something that was constitutionally suspect, I would veto it. We've had enough of this division in the community," Anderson said.

Anderson also issued a plea that visitors to the plaza "be peaceful, respectful of others and -- most of all -- kind and friendly in our interactions."

The church still plans to appeal the 10th Circuit ruling. The appeal would be filed today, the action's deadline, church lawyer Von Keetch said Tuesday. He said Anderson's decision was disappointing.

The "prime solution" would be for the city to give up its easement to the church. The church in turn would grant 24-hour public access, subject to the church's behavior restrictions, Keetch said.

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