March 31, 2007

Independence Day comes early for Whittier CA

LAAG congratulates the good folks of Whittier who were able to convince their city council (without the expense of an election) that they had lost their mind allowing fireworks money to taint their community. The Whittier folks had spoken with LAAG before the vote and quite frankly we were skeptical that residents could pull this off. But apparently they got the ear of the council before the "fireworks machine" did. Unfortunately for Lakewood getting fireworks out of the city is like getting the Mafia out of Sicily. Its too ingrained and there are too many people addicted to it like "Meth addicts". It never was about the fireworks, in Lakewood or Whittier. It was all about the money. That same fireworks money paved the way for an ad blitz that assured victory for the political party of "smoke and fire". Again, we hope that more cities stand up and add their names to those cities that think progressively. Soon fireworks companies will be viewed like the tobacco companies.

Fireworks ban applauded
Article Launched: 03/29/2007 08:16:58 PM PDT

WHAT could be more fitting than for the people to prevail in an issue involving Independence Day?

The people of Whittier did just that.

Tuesday night, four members of the Whittier City Council rescinded their action taken in February which legalized the sale of safe and sane fireworks prior to the Fourth of July and the use of those fireworks on the Fourth of July.

The council action in February ended a city fireworks ban that had been in force for 20 years.

Owen Newcomer was the only council member to vote against ending the ban from the beginning.

Once the 4-1 action to end the fireworks ban went into effect, 32 local organizations applied for the 10 permits to sell fireworks allowed by the new ordinance.

But, the council's action ending the fireworks ban sparked opposition among residents and fire officials who emphasized that Whittier is a community of precious hills and wildlife and this is one of the driest years on record.

Week after week, the fireworks opposition grew into a firestorm of its own, with hundreds of protesters, including former mayors and community leaders showing up at council meetings to urge repeal of the ordinance.

Suddenly, last week, the lottery for fireworks sales booths was called off and the issue was placed on the March 27 council agenda.

Prevailing logic told everyone that this meant that the council very likely would rescind its legalization of fireworks.

And that's precisely what happened.

After the long procession in Council Chambers of fire department executives and many others against legalizing fireworks, council members one-by-one announced that they would vote to rescind the ordinance making fireworks legal again.

Nordbak became our hero when he actually admitted he had been wrong and apologized to his constituents.

"In hindsight and listening to the comments, I apologize, I missed the boat," he said. "When I voted, I thought I was doing the right thing."

He said he had received 2,400 comments on the issue and only three were in favor of fireworks.

Councilman Joe Vinatieri, who put the proposal for lifting the fireworks ban on the agenda last October, voted to rescind also, but added, "I'd like us as a community to come up with some idea for doing something like an old-fashioned Whittier July 4th celebration."

Councilman Bob Henderson agreed with Vinatieri that some kind of Fourth of July event should be explored. He also emphasized that "the incredible dryness of the year," made this an exceptionally bad time to bring back fireworks.

We support the idea of exploring a future patriotic community event and believe it would be best for such an event to originate with a city department, commission or community organization and come to the council as a proposal for whatever action would be required.

Councilman Owen Newcomer should be thanked for his good sense and courage to stand alone from the outset against an obvious danger to local lives and property.

Finally, we echo the sentiments of Councilman Nordbak, who urged that youth groups and churches that now will not reap the anticipated funds from fireworks sales be generously supported by local businesses and individuals.

Council reverses stance on fireworks

By Mike Sprague Staff Writer

WHITTIER - The Whittier City Council reversed itself Tuesday and voted unanimously to ban July 4 fireworks.

The council in February had voted 4-1 to legalize fireworks for Independence Day. But since then, many residents have gone to council meetings, e-mailed and talked to council members individually asking them to rescind that decision.

"In hindsight and listening to the comments, I apologize," Councilman Greg Nordbak said. "I missed the boat. When I voted, I thought that I was doing the right thing. I think in hindsight, I missed it."

The council still must vote again in April and approve a new ordinance reinstating the ban on fireworks.

Nordbak said he was looking for a way to help local nonprofit groups raise money, but he found that even those people didn't support legalizing fireworks.

About 100 people were present at the meeting, with most of them in opposition to fireworks.

Four of the five council members changed their votes. Only Councilman Owen Newcomer had opposed legalization in the February vote.

Nordbak said he had received about 2,400 comments about fireworks. But only three supported keeping fireworks legal.

"That's a lot," he said. A big concern of all five council members was the lack of rain this year and what that could mean to the hills.

"We have something unique this year - the incredible dryness of the year," Councilman Bob Henderson said. "We now have a moisture content that is equivalent to what we normally have in September."

Councilman Joe Vinatieri, who put the proposal to legalize fireworks on the agenda in October 2006, said he still wants to find a way to celebrate Independence Day.

"There is no independence celebration in Whittier, which is inconsistent with our patriotism," Vinatieri said. "I'd like us as a community to come up with some idea of doing something of an old-fashioned Whittier July 4 celebration."

A couple of residents asked the council not to change its mind.

"The people in the hills are controlling the rest of Whittier," said resident Michael Schmidt. "The majority of people have forgotten what it's like to be a kid. They don't like noisy kids or dogs. They're at the sunset age."

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