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Alliance Raises $4 Million for Community Center

Alliance Raises $4 Million for Community Center

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Alliance for Unity announced it has raised $4 million for a west-side community center that is a key part of a proposal to resolve the feud over free speech on the Mormon church's Main Street plaza.

The city would still need to come up with money to operate the new center.

The community center would be build on two acres owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Under the proposal, the church would give the land to the city in exchange for the city giving up the public easement on the block of Main Street it sold to the church.

The alliance said Monday that it collected $4 million from about three dozen donors, including $250,000 from the LDS Foundation, a charitable arm of the church. Billionaire James Sorenson already had pledged $1 million for the planned Glendale center.

A month ago, the alliance said it would not have the money until after the City Council voted on Mayor Rocky Anderson's land-swap proposal, which could happen next month.

But Jon Huntsman, alliance co-chairman, said the strategy shifted because people were questioning whether the alliance could raise the money.

"It threw another possible complication in the situation," he said Monday. "We did not want to jeopardize in any way the future of the plaza or the importance of the project in Glendale by not having the money pledged and committed and in hand."

If the council rejects the proposal, the donations will be returned, Hunstman said. Some of the money is in a bank account; the rest is pledged.

City Councilwoman Nancy Saxton said the announcement does not change her preference for the city keeping the easement while adopting speech regulations that meet constitutional standards.

She met Friday with church attorney Alan Sullivan to urge the church to consider city-enforced time, place and manner regulations.

"The public as a whole sees the church as having the power, the influence, the money. They have everything. Benevolence would bring about them doing what's right and best for the community as a whole and not just serving themselves," she said.

Anderson said of Monday's announcement, "I am thrilled and very grateful. I did not expect that the money could be raised this quickly."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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