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West Valley City • This spring, the City Council declared March 13 L. Ron Hubbard Centennial Day. But council members recently took a pass on a request to proclaim this coming Nov. 13-19 National Elevator Escalator Safety Awareness Week.
The difference? It all comes down to who made the request.
The request to recognize the 100th anniversary of the birth of Scientology's founder came from local residents, while the pitch to raise awareness about the safe use of elevators, escalators and moving walks originated with an Alabama-based group.
The West Valley City Council which, by the way, is all in favor of elevator safety doesn't have a written policy on proclamations. But in general, the declarations that are approved come from a local resident or group, or are issues that the city historically has supported, such as victim advocacy, according to Mayor Mike Winder.
And a national proclamation sometimes ties in with a local project. West Valley declared August as Neighborhood Nights Month, an event supported by the U.S. Department of Justice and Bureau of Justice Assistance, and held local crime-prevention programs as part of the national effort.
Council agendas show that West Valley issued about 15 proclamations in each of the past two years.
They included declarations of Family Day a Day to Eat Dinner With Your Children; Utah Rental Housing Appreciation Month; Extra Mile Day (honoring volunteers); and National Caffeine Awareness Month (warning that consumption of the substance has been linked to some diseases). Identity Theft Awareness Day and College Colors Day also were acknowledged.
"A lot of these groups want to have a proclamation because it does bring awareness to an issue you don't think about normally," Winder said.
Neighboring Taylorsville also has no specific guidelines on proclamations. In making a selection, Mayor Russ Wall and other elected officials review the dozen or so requests received each year to determine if they meet the city mission, spokeswoman Aimee Winder Newton said.
Recent decrees have recognized outstanding teachers, cheered the Taylorsville High School Chirons drill team for placing first in a national competition and declared April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Missing from the list? Newton said, tongue-in-cheek, "The mayor wishes he could make Atomic Fireballs the official candy of Taylorsville."
Cottonwood Heights has declared Sept. 4 Falon Dafa Day in a show of support for the community's diversity. City spokeswoman Stephanie Archibald said the request for the proclamation came from a resident involved in the traditional Chinese spiritual discipline.
Not all proclamations help a cause. In 2006, Kanab adopted the conservative Sutherland Institute's natural-family decree, which held up the traditional two-parent family as the ideal. Women's advocates, gay-rights activists and others derided the resolution; some, including travel writer Arthur Frommer, called for a boycott of area businesses.
Gary Rhoads, a marketing professor at Brigham Young University, said proclamations should focus on subjects that are important and relevant to a community. For example, a decree highlighting a successful business can promote economic development, he said.
"Everybody wants a community where jobs are available," he said.
Rhoads also said that whether proclamations change attitudes or prompt any action depends on "what else is behind it." Putting a sign with safety tips next to an escalator would have a greater impact than a decree, he said.
Tim Brown, a partner in Salt Lake City marketing agency Richter7, said a proclamation can make an issue newsworthy and rally organizations to educate the public about their concerns. "If they do it right, it's a great opportunity," Brown said.
Winder said proclamations are part of a city hall's ceremonial role. He noted that then-Mayor Dennis Nordfelt issued a proclamation in 2005 honoring the 125th birthday of Winder Farms, his family's West Valley City-based business.
"To this day, that proclamation is framed and hanging in the lobby of the business," Winder said. "Did it change city policy or change the world? No. It recognized the positive contributions of the business."
Cottonwood Heights •Falon Dafa Day.
Murray •Ribbon Week Safe and Healthy Community Proclamation.
Salt Lake City • Ab Jenkins Day, in honor of the late David Abbot "Ab" Jenkins, a former mayor and record-setting race car driver.
Salt Lake County • Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
Taylorsville • Child Abuse Prevention Month.
West Valley City •National Kids to Parks Day.