January 26, 2007

Fireworks: unsafe, insane

Fireworks: unsafe, insane

Whittier Daily News, CA - 1/25/06

FIREWORKS is an explosive issue right now in Whittier.

However it is also a no-win issue.

And, it can be a politically, good ol' boy type of issue.

It is kind of like the question: "Have you stopped beating your wife?"

Well, you get the idea.

Even as this editorial is written, we find ourselves occasionally stopping and wondering if those we have chosen to criticize actually may make more sense than we think.

We fight off that moment of ambiguity and proceed straight ahead.

So where is straight ahead?

We find ourselves standing unequivocally in favor of safety for all living things and protection of property.

We believe that to vote in favor of lifting Whittier's 20-year fireworks ban is to approve of a certain amount of unnecessary risk to local life and property. And this is to say nothing about the terror that fireworks strike into the hearts and psyches of our beloved house pets and the flora and fauna in the Whittier Hills we claim to hold so dear.

We can't have it both ways, folks.

Tuesday, we watched oral communications at the Whittier City Council meeting on television and saw a significant parade of residents go to the podium to speak against legalizing "safe and sane" fireworks. One opponent brought a petition against fireworks signed by 17 people. Only one man, employed by a fireworks company, spoke in favor of lifting the ban.

Mayor Cathy Warner and council members Bob Henderson, Greg Nordbak and Joe Vinatieri voted to lift the ban and allow the sale of fireworks from

9 a.m. to 10 p.m. from June 30 through July 4, and allow the use of the fireworks only on July 4.

Only Councilman Owen Newcomer opposed the motion, citing essentially the same reasons that we do.

Proponents of bringing back local sales and use of fireworks cite patriotic tradition and righteous celebration of the birth of the nation as well as nostalgic recollections of their own family fireworks traditions as reasons to lift the ban.

They also see a financial benefit to the local non-profit organizations that will be able to obtain permits to operate 10 fireworks sales booths as well as fees brought into the city to pay for increased law enforcement to locate violators who use "unsafe and insane" (read: illegal) fireworks.

As far as we are concerned, that fundraising "benefit" is no longer worth the risk to people and property.

We would much prefer for the city to bring back a city-sponsored, city controlled July 4th fireworks event in a park or on a school campus.

The bottom line, all-important point to be made is this: Whether Whittier continues with a fireworks ban or not this county will "explode" with illegal fireworks before, after and during July 4th until more violators are caught and receive stiff penalties.

Until we get serious about controlling the illegal fireworks traffickers and users in this county and in all of our cities, lives and property will continue to be lost to this childish folly.

As far as we are concerned, the blatant, uncontrolled, noise and extreme hazards created around July 4th make no more sense than a riot.

Editorial: Creating more risks
Article Launched: 01/30/2007 07:10:22 PM PST

"Don't confuse me with the facts; my mind is already made up" is an old adage that we have all heard many times.

At the Jan. 23 Whittier City Council meeting, this attitude was in evidence on at least one matter. The proposal to lift the ban on fireworks in the city and allow legal sale and discharge of so-called "safe and sane" fireworks was passed without meaningful discussion.

A majority of the council members seemed unconcerned about the physical jeopardy to both persons and property that this action might cause. Whittier needs concerned care, not opportunities for carelessness to wreak harm upon its citizens and their property.

The rather flimsy and shallow reason offered for this action was that "we need a way to express our patriotism," as if mimicking the sounds and sights of war is an intelligent way to show our love for the democratic institutions that insure our cherished freedom and independence.

We all know that the practice of war is a manifestation of man's failures and that killing and destruction is sure to lead us to oblivion. Some of us counseled against starting up a war in Iraq four years ago, but what good did it do?

As reports of injuries from "legal" fireworks come in, some can say, "I told you so." But what good would that do? When the first reports of property damage come in, some can say, "I told you so." But what good would that do?

At this same council meeting, the county fire chief recommended that his new permitting ordinance not be passed. But what good did that do?

Some suggested that a lifetime of

professional experience and education dictated that placing our lives and our property at needless risk is unwise. But what good did that do? There are enough risks in our everyday world. We do not need to create any more for the sake of a few cheap thrills.

Robert J. Cantrell


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