Governor speaks on state fireworks ban, chosen name for Dixie State

In this on July 7, 2020, file photo, then Lt. Gov Spencer Cox speaks during a press conference at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City. | Photo by Rick Bowmer/Associated Press, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Gov. Spencer Cox addressed two issues pertinent to Southern Utah on Thursday, saying he wanted to enact a ban on the sale and use of fireworks but has his hands tied. He also addressed the Dixie State University name change.

In a file photo, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during his monthly news conference on March 18, 2021, in Salt Lake City, Utah | Photo by Spenser Heaps/The Deseret News/Associated Press, St. George News

Cox made the comments during the monthly PBS Utah Monthly Governor’s Press Conference program. During which, he said he wanted to enact a ban on fireworks in the wake of the increased fire danger this year but has been told by legal experts that he can’t legally do so.

“I received a legal opinion last night from the attorney general and my legal counsel that I do not have the authority to impose a statewide ban, though I think it’s a good idea,” Cox said, adding that it will be up to cities and towns to invoke their own restrictions. “I’m encouraging local communities to put restrictions in place. They have the authority to do that.”

In Southern Utah, St. George, Santa Clara and Ivins are among cities that have put restrictions on the use of fireworks during the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day holidays next month.

St. George has restricted fireworks use during the days around the two holidays to the 16 city parks. Ivins has enacted a similar plan, limiting fireworks to three ballfields divided among the city’s two parks. Santa Clara has restricted fireworks use to two paved areas in the city and Hurricane is also limiting fireworks to certain parks.

The governor said he has also tried to go to the state legislature to see if they would enact legislation against fireworks this year but has met resistance.

The scene of a brush fire near the St. George Veterans Center, St. George, Utah, July 4, 2020 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“I told the Legislature it’s a bad idea not to have additional restrictions and they haven’t shown an interest, so it will be up to local governments.,” Cox said.

The governor does have the power to impose a ban on unincorporated areas of the state, which he has. As far as the cost of dousing fires caused by fireworks, those who launch them will be on the hook if they cause destruction in place of awe. 

“If you start a fire, you will be held liable for that fire,” Cox said concerning the costs involved of fighting the fireworks-caused fires. 

Cox weighs in on Dixie State name

After being questioned on his opinion of the ongoing dispute over the name of Dixie State University, Cox said he thought back to 2013 when his alma matter Snow College announced it was adding orange to its blue and white school colors. 

“When we changed colors at Snow College, it was the most divisive thing in 100 years,” Cox said. 

Last week, a committee created to recommend a new name for Dixie State announced it has chosen Utah Polytechnic State University, or Utah Tech, as the school’s new name. The Dixie State University Board of Trustees will ultimately choose the final name that will go to the Utah Legislature for a final vote.

Protesters against Dixie State University’s name change gather on campus in St. George, Utah, Jan. 11, 2021 | Photo by Megan Webber, St. George News.

While the governor wouldn’t necessarily weigh in on whether “Dixie” should be removed from the school’s name in the first place, he did weigh in on “Utah Tech.”

“I would point out we’re talking about the Virginia Techs, Texas Techs, Cal Techs,” Cox said. “I always liked having the name ‘Utah’ in our public institutions.”

Cox also said people need to look beyond just whether “Dixie” is insensitive toward people of race for its connection to Black slavery and look at whether the word just causes perplexity toward building the school’s reputation beyond Southern Utah.

“It is a confusing name. Dixie is associated with another region. Most people outside Utah don’t realize St. George is known as Utah’s ‘Dixie,’” Cox said, also acknowledging those who say removing “Dixie” from the name is an affront to history. “I also recognize history matters, so we have to be very careful.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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