July 20, 2008

Will the fireworks money win like it did in Lakewood?

Well we wish Petaluma a lot of luck in dealing with the fireworks industry and their lobbyists (the so call civic groups or "non" profits) in the story below. I for one love to see all the money thrown around. Proof once again that its not patriotism but cash that drives the fireworks lobby. Its a bit like fighting the SUV driving soccer moms and their allies the oil companies when it comes to off shore drilling. Hey California only had one spill...Hey Petaluma only had a few fires caused by legal fireworks (that we KNOW of). Its very hard to wean people off their addiction to oil just like fireworks when the only immediate beneficiaries you can point to are the environment and the peace and quiet that all the other residents not working for a so called "civic group" enjoy (as do the animals). Where is Al Gore when you need him?

Battle over fireworks heats up
Council members favoring ban face opposition from nonprofit groups, pyrotechnics industry


Published: Sunday, July 20, 2008 at 4:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, July 20, 2008 at 10:55 a.m.
A political brawl shaping up in Petaluma over whether to outlaw fireworks could mirror one in Santa Rosa nearly five years ago that set records for campaign spending and ended in a citywide ban.

Battle lines were drawn during the recent Northern California wildfires when Petaluma Mayor Pam Torliatt appealed to the City Council to place a prohibition on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Although none of the fires were started by fireworks and there have been few mishaps in the city that can be traced to them, she said residents have expressed concern about dry conditions and are asking to put the matter to a vote.

Several council members appeared to support the idea and some said they favor an immediate ban to spare the $7,000 to $14,000 expense of an election. A decision is expected at the Monday council meeting.

"It becomes an issue and has been an issue over the years," Torliatt said July 7.

However, opposition is mounting from 16 city nonprofits who sell fireworks to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year and leaders in the fireworks industry who organized the Santa Rosa campaign.

New rules suggested

Dennis Revell, a spokesman for American Promotional Events, the distributor of Red Devil, Freedom and TNT fireworks, said in a letter to Torliatt and council members that outlawing state-approved fireworks is wrong.

Instead of a ban, he asked the council to consider restricting sales and use and imposing stiffer fines for first-time violators, which could put money in city coffers.

Rather than allowing sales for the six days before the Fourth of July, Revell said the city could reduce it to four days. Likewise, the use of fireworks could be cut from 96 hours over 6½ days to 13 hours on the holiday only.

A fine of $1,000 would make people who possess or use illegal fireworks such as skyrockets say "ouch," Revell said in his letter.

"Everyone agrees that when it comes to fireworks, the problem has always been and continues to be illegal fireworks, not state-approved fireworks," Revell said.

Nonprofits also object to any ban.

Dick Sharke of the McDowell Drug Task Force said fireworks have allowed his group to raise an average of $53,000 a year since 1999 to spend on worthy programs that benefit students, Vietnam veterans and the poor.

He has vowed to fight any effort to stop fireworks.

"(The group) has been in the community for 26 years and has never asked for or received any local, state or federal funding," Sharke said in a letter to council.

Similar arguments were made in Santa Rosa in 2003, when the council enacted a ban after a house was destroyed by state-approved fireworks.

SR referendum lost

The fireworks industry brought a referendum to voters in March of the following year and lost, 57 percent to 43 percent. The two sides in the fight over Measure F spent a combined $372,130, a record for municipal elections in the county.

American Promotional Events, a Florence, Ala.-based fireworks distributor, and its allies spent more than $280,000.

Yes on Measure F forces spent $87,634. Most of the money came from companies that do business with the city or rely on the city for building approvals.

On Monday, the Petaluma council will consider options that could trigger similar responses from the industry and nonprofits.

Three scenarios

Fire Marshal Michael Ginn said the council can decide to place a ban on the November ballot, enact an outright prohibition or do nothing.

If the council enacts a ban, opponents likely would begin the referendum process to put the question to voters in November 2010, Ginn said.

Certification of a referendum would temporarily suspend any ban until voters can chime in, he said.

The Fire Department has long fought for restrictions over the years, but Ginn said there is little evidence that state-approved fireworks are to blame for fires.

On July 4, one person was cited for possession of illegal fireworks and a small grass fire was blamed on the legal kind, Ginn said.

The city will have to decide if the risks outweigh the benefits, he said.

"One misused firework and we could have something like what happened in Santa Rosa a few years ago," Ginn said. "I hate to be the guy saying, 'the sky is falling,' but the potential is there."

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 762-7297 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com.

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Lakewood, CA
A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™

click here to receive LAAG posts by email

No comments: