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Provo's banner is a bummer.

That's the assessment of the North American Vexillological Association, which recently released a survey that rates Provo's flag as one of the 10 worst municipal flags in the nation.

Indeed, Provo's pennant vexes vexillologists (flag fanciers) and people who took part in NAVA's survey of 150 municipal flags.

Provo's finished 143rd.

The design from Washington, D.C., was tops, while the flag from Pocatello, Idaho, was the mother of all flops. At 99th, Salt Lake City's banner was no great shakes, either.

"Some flags are reason enough to keep flag burning legal; if I were in Pocatello or Provo, I'd buy up the entire stock of their flags and use them for winter heating," writes one respondent on NAVA's Web site.

"B-O-R-I-N-G," Provo's Joel Stevens agrees. "It looks like the designer took a white sheet and scrawled 'Provo' on it with a black magic marker, then used crayons to draw the multi-colored line underneath the name of the city."

Although NAVA is not so proudly hailing Provo's flag, the survey is not creating much of a flap in Utah's third most populous city.

"We're flattered that they would notice our flag," Provo spokesman Michael Mower says. "And, quite frankly, we agree with their conclusion. . . . We're certainly open to suggestions" for improving the flag.

Designers would be pressed to fashion a flag much worse, experts say.

"From a distance, all you would see [of Provo's] is a smudge on a white flag," says NAVA treasurer Ted Kaye, survey designer and author of the booklet Good Flag, Bad Flag. "When a city puts its name on the flag, it shows it is insecure in its symbolism. There must be something more symbolic in Provo than simply writing its name on the flag."

Salt Lake City's flag is full of symbols - seagulls, a beehive, a pioneer family - but they aren't visible from afar.

Mayor Rocky Anderson's spokeswoman, Deeda Seed, says a councilman has likened Salt Lake City's banner to a "bedsheet when the wind isn't blowing."

Salt Lake City is sponsoring a contest to replace its current 1963-vintage model.

Utah's state flag - rated in 2002 as one of the nation's homeliest - was also slated for replacement until traditionalists objected.

Adopted during the nation's bicentennial in 1976, Provo's first flag was red and blue with a white stylized "P" on it. The current model replaced it in 1990.

Despite its deficiencies, Provo's flag might wave on.

"A flag is nice," Mower says, "but we're much more focused on providing great public safety and public services."

Some flag-design tips from the North American Vexillological Association:

* Keep it so simple a child can draw it.

* Use symbols unique to a city or area.

* Limit colors to three that contrast well.

* No lettering or seals on flags.

* Make it distinctive from other flags.

Note: Results of the city flag survey can be found at http://www.nava.org

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