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Cross Issue Returns to City Hall

A group that supports retaining the Mount Soledad cross at its current location submitted a petition signed by 89,237 people to the San Diego city clerk Thursday, seeking to reverse a March City Council decision.

At its March 8 meeting, the council voted 5-3 not to transfer the war memorial at the site to the National Park Service.

If the clerk’s office determines the validity of the signatures, the matter would go back to the council, allowing the council to reverse its earlier decision or put the issue on a future ballot. About 33,000 valid signatures are required to put the issue on the ballot. The verification process will take about a month.

The cross has been a contentious issue for more than 15 years following a legal challenge by an atheist who objected to the cross on city-owned land, and prevailed in a federal court ruling in 1991. The city subsequently transferred title to the land to a private organization, the Mount Soledad Memorial Association. Again, the courts found the transaction illegal.

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Last year, Rep. Randy Cunningham, R-Escondido, and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, attached a trailer to a bill that would donate the land to the federal government contingent on the city approving the transfer.

Voting for the transfer March 8 were Mayor Dick Murphy and City Councilmen Brian Maienschein and Jim Madaffer. Voting against the measure were council members Scott Peters, Michael Zucchet, Toni Atkins, Donna Frye and Ralph Inzunza. City Councilman Tony Young was absent.

Phil Thalheimer, the chairman of the group seeking to keep the cross at the site, said the petition speaks loudly to what the majority of city residents want.

“They want this important 50-year symbol of San Diego’s heritage with its plaques and cross to be protected,” he said. “Transferring the property to the federal government will accomplish that.”

Mike Allen

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