SOUTH PORTLAND (AP) – The monthlong period in which yellow ribbons were allowed to be placed on utility poles and other public property following the deaths of two soldiers has expired. Now there’s a new effort afoot to make it a permanent change.

Louis Maietta, a former city councilor, believes the ribbons should be allowed year-round and 2,000 signatures have been collected in a petition drive.

It’s a controversial issue in South Portland. In 2003, the City Council rejected a request by a soldier’s mom, Valorie Swiger, to allow yellow ribbons on public property. Critics viewed the ribbons as a political statement showing support for President Bush and the war in Iraq.

But the council set aside the rules for 31 days after Swiger’s son, Army Sgt. Jason Swiger and Marine Cpl. Angel Rosa, also of South Portland, were killed in Iraq. A donor came forth with 2,000 ribbons, and the ribbons blanketed the city.

“Granting an exception to the ordinance was never about politics, whether you favor the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, or whether you oppose them,” said Mayor Claude Morgan. “It was a tribute to the soldiers from South Portland.”

Just as he did four years ago, Maietta believes the ribbons should be allowed year-long as a message of thanks to troops.

“That’s the big push right now,” said Maietta, who has asked the city attorney to review legal issues related to changing the ordinance. Maietta plans to take the matter to the council after he hears from City Attorney Mary Kahl.

Maietta said people wanted to press councilors right away to extend the ordinance, but he decided to hold off at least for a month. “I didn’t want it just to become a sympathy thing for Valorie,” Maietta said.

The original intent of the ribbons was simply to honor military personnel serving overseas. Maietta said no one wants a repeat of the acrimony of 2003.

“When that yellow ribbon thing got started, it got dragged out for almost a year,” he said. “The real meaning of the yellow ribbons just got lost in all that.”

Linda Boudreau was on the council in 2003 and voted to uphold the ordinance.

She supported the temporary suspension of the ordinance but does not favor changing it. “We have been through this already,” Boudreau said.


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