June 27, 2007

We have heard it all before...

Well this article below by Mr Dillow is really just repeating everything that LAAG said last year. Nothing new here. The Fireworks companies have learned that the best way to insulate themselves from attacks is to jump in bed with the so called "booster/sports groups/clubs" and get them to make the fundraising argument for them. Again this has nothing to do with July 4 or patriotism. Its money. The problem of course as pointed out below and here before at LAAG: The money raised by these groups selling smoke and fire does not outweigh taxpayers funds to police the activity and the ancillary problems they create. But no one cares about taxpayer dollars. LA County Sheriffs clearly dont as they buy new SUV's on fireworks overtime and love to accommodate the city. The small number of people benefiting from the fireworks funds dont complain. And last but not least the US distributors of the Chinese work product surely are not complaining. Free labor at the stands, free police protection and they make their whole years profit in one day. God bless the 4th of July! Oh and dont think LAAG has missed the fireworks companies "safety" public relations blitz (BS) either. Fire danger? What fire danger they say...what about lightening...and on and on it goes.

The point is the city would be better off giving the damn money to the clubs than spending twice that amount trying to control the ancillary problems that "so called" "Safe and Sane" fireworks attract. (see related article here) Plus as an added bonus we could say good bye to all the air, noise and water pollution. Let alone the fires and injuries. All in all quite a silly proposition. But politicians cant say no to anyone fearing they may loose a vote. And in a city where it only takes 2,700 votes to get elected out of 80,000 residents, those votes are important.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

How sane are 'safe' fireworks?

Register columnist

The way Russ McDonald and some other folks in Garden Grove see it, there's no such thing as "safe and sane" fireworks. On the contrary, they think that allowing the private sale, possession and use of any kind of pyrotechnic devices over the Independence Day holiday is completely unsafe and dangerously insane.

"You can't believe how much fear there is here over these cotton-pickin' fireworks," says Russ, 61, part of a group of residents who are trying to have all fireworks banned from the city. "They're afraid of their homes being burned down, and their pets are being scared out of their minds. It's gotten completely out of hand. People are coming into the city from places all over where they don't allow fireworks to shoot them off here."

In fact, Russ, a Vietnam veteran, says that on the Fourth of July, "It sounds like mortar rounds going off. It sounds like we're under attack."

Of course, this issue isn't new. As one of only five Orange County cities that still allow "safe and sane" fireworks – the others are Buena Park, Stanton, Santa Ana and Costa Mesa – there has long been tension between pro- and anti-fireworks factions. (Generally speaking, legal "safe and sane" fireworks can only spark and whistle and smoke, while illegal fireworks are ones that explode or shoot into the air.)

Opponents say that "safe and sane" fireworks are simply convenient camouflage for the even more dangerous illegal fireworks, which fire officials say are readily available from out of state or foreign sources. Last Fourth of July there were no less than 1,200 incidents of illegal fireworks use in Garden Grove, and three buildings were set ablaze, with damages of about $165,000.

For obvious reasons, it's a problem that city police and fire officials wish they didn't have to deal with. They say that the $22,000 the city brings in from permit fees for fireworks sales – the 45 or so permits are issued only to non-profit groups -- is far outweighed by the almost $100,000 in increased costs for police and fire services on the holiday. And despite a new $1,000 fine for using illegal fireworks or misusing legal ones, they expect a hot time in Garden Grove on Independence Day.

"There are better ways to celebrate the holiday" than setting off fireworks, says Garden Grove Fire Marshal Dave Barlag. But he noted that while the city fire and police chiefs have gone on record opposing all fireworks sales and use, the City Council has decided otherwise.

And why? The answer is pure politics.

Never mind that almost any honest local pol will admit that fireworks are generally a pain in the neck. For example, Garden Grove councilman and former mayor Bruce Broadwater agrees that fireworks can be annoying ("It drives the dogs nuts," he says), that they bring in crowds of fireworks-frenzied outsiders ("That's a legitimate complaint," he says), and that fireworks block parties can get out of hand ("Sometimes it sounds like Vietnam out there," he says – again the fireworks-war analogy.)

But Broadwater also notes that dozens of school booster groups and other non-profit, youth-oriented organizations derive much of their annual income from Fourth of July fireworks sales. Collectively the groups raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit the kids -- and no politician with the IQ of an egg timer wants hordes of moms and dads of high school band members and cheerleaders chewing on his ear because he voted to shut down their chief fundraising source.

"It's a tough issue for a politician," says Broadwater – adding that he doubts the City Council will change its mind about fireworks anytime soon.

And frankly, it's tough issue for a columnist, too.

On one hand, it's clear that even so-called "safe and sane" fireworks can be annoying and dangerous in the wrong hands, particularly in high fire-danger areas. I can understand why some people want to ban them completely.

But I can also understand why other people see creeping nanny-state-ism in further restricting the use of fireworks by responsible people as well as the irresponsible ones. To them it's sort of like banning Fourth of July beer and hotdogs because some idiots will get drunk and drive.

So I'll weasel out of this one by saying that I hope the good people of Garden Grove will settle this issue in a democratic manner – which, when you think about it, is what Independence Day is really all about.

I'll be on vacation next week, attending a reunion in Las Vegas with some of my fine young Marine friends from Iraq and then taking a few days to physically recover from the experience. God willing, I'll return to this space on July 8.

In the meantime, here's wishing you and yours a happy and safe Independence Day.

Especially if you live in Garden Grove.

Contact the writer: 714 -796 -7953 or GLDillow@aol.com

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