Fireworks measure heads to ballot

The Huntington Beach City Council voted Monday to place a measure on the November ballot that would prohibit the city from banning the sale and discharge of "safe and sane" fireworks.

The council voted 4 to 3 in favor of placing the measure on the ballot after a long debate and a slew of comments from residents who described a chaotic Fourth of July holiday.

"There was nothing but a war zone surrounding me," said resident Joseph Lascola, who showed pictures of large fireworks going off in his neighborhood.

"Nobody came to stop it," he said. "I did call the police. Nobody came."

Lascola said he received a call from police Lt. Mitch O'Brien the next day apologizing on behalf of the department for not providing the service he needed.

The police department's phone lines were jammed with calls and, at one point, officers were 135 service calls behind, Capt. Russ Reinhart said during the council meeting.

Fewer people spoke in favor of placing the initiative on the ballot.

Kari Cozza, whose son, Trent, belongs to the Edison High School swim team, which operated one of the booths selling fireworks, said everything went well and wanted it to continue.

Cozza added that the booth raised a little more than $100,000.

When the council voted 5 to 2 in January to lift the ban on the sale and discharge of safe and sane fireworks, it was sold as a two-year trial period and not a potential change to the city's charter.

Monday's vote led some residents to feel the council had gone back on its word.

"It seems like the mayor has misled the people of Huntington Beach," said resident Pam Vallot. "He sold legalizing fireworks as a two-year tryout. Now, at this meeting, he's asking the City Council to put a charter amendment on the ballot to permanently allow fireworks. I would like to know why."

Hansen said it was because, from the minute the ban was lifted, some people vowed to do all they could to repeal the decision.

"I'm not prepared to let the tyranny of the minority overrule what this community is all about," he said.

Hansen cited the words of Councilwoman Connie Boardman, who said in January that she would work as hard as she could to repeal the allowance of fireworks.

She and Councilman Joe Shaw were the only council members who voted against the plan, which the fire and police chiefs opposed. Both chiefs said legalizing safe and sane fireworks would increase the use of illegal ones, a prediction that came true.

Boardman said she rode along with several public safety officials on the Fourth of July and, the two days prior, and found that many people were using legal fireworks in an illegal manner, discharging them on the beach or in the middle of the streets, which backed up traffic.

She added that except for one, all of the emails the council received from residents were negative.

"I heard from police and fire reports that the trial didn't go so well," Boardman said. "I heard from you, the residents, that the trial didn't go so well."

Councilman Joe Carchio sided with Boardman and Shaw. He said he loves fireworks and wants residents to enjoy the tradition, but that he couldn't go back on his promise.

"I just think that we made a commitment to the residents for two years, and I think we should give them those two years," Carchio said. "I hate to see us go back on our word."

Councilman Keith Bohr said it was hard for him to argue against having the people make that decision in November.

"This one seems torn enough that if those emails were representative of the community, then this measure will go down," he said.

mona.shadia@latimes.com

Twitter: @MonaShadia

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