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LA Times Today: Patt Says: Fireworks boom despite L.A. ban
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LA Times Today: Patt Says: Fireworks boom despite L.A. ban

Watch L.A. Times Today at 7 p.m. on Spectrum News 1 on Channel 1 or live stream on the Spectrum News App. Palos Verdes Peninsula and Orange County viewers can watch on Cox Systems on channel 99.

The Fourth of July is still a way off, but why not start freaking out about fireworks now, and beat the rush?

In some California cities and counties, you can legally buy and sell and set off approved “safe and sane’ fireworks. In others, like the city of L.A. and many parts of L.A. County, any fireworks are illegal.

It’s a weird patchwork: you can buy them legally in one city but if you take them home to a city that bans them, you are breaking the law.

Yet in almost every L.A. neighborhood, illegal fireworks stun the senses like a battlefield.

But we’re stuck with this haphazard crazy quilt. Almost half of the county’s 88 incorporated cities let service groups like the Lions Club sell them around the Fourth.

Why is it like this? In a state of brush fires and air pollution?

Once it was a free-for-all. Actual explosive fireworks made July Fourth carnage so routine that The Times in 1900 printed the headline: “Usual Fourth of July Casualties … Cheerful Idiots in Evidence.” L.A.'s ban on fireworks of any kind, passed during World War II, has stayed on the books.

Yet in the 1980s, a Sacramento fireworks lobbyist schmoozed and dropped big, sometimes covert campaign donations. He pressed the flesh – and provided it, with prostitutes at fancy shindigs for lawmakers.

Using money, persuasion and high pressure, he got the whole legislature, Democrats and Republicans, Assembly and Senate, to pass a bill to prevent any California city or county from banning “safe and sane” fireworks. It would have doubled his multi-million-dollar income. Only Governor Jerry Brown’s veto stopped it.

But the wheels came off his scheme – the investigations blew up the careers of at least 17 public officials and sent the fireworks mogul, one of his pals, and three city council members to prison. When the lobbyist tried to stop the investigation, especially the part about the prostitutes, a state senator went right off to the DA.

I mean, it was juicy.

Fireworks bills still show up in the Legislature, but mostly they’re about making it harder to get them and the penalties stricter.

But celeb culture rules. Six years ago, some Kardashian pulled this stunt: eight obnoxious minutes of thunderous professional fireworks exploding above a party yacht offshore from Marina del Rey. It had the approval of the county fire department, but not of the thousands of humans and dogs scared out of their sleep from Santa Monica to Redondo Beach.

Best advice: if you want to watch explosions on July Fourth, watch some of these movies – rated as having THE best blowings-up in movie history. Boom!