Fireworks ballot measure fizzles

A proposal to decide whether Huntington Beach voters should make so-called "safe and sane" fireworks legal beyond a two-year test run failed this week.

The City Council did not get enough votes for a ballot measure that would let voters decide whether the sale and discharge of fireworks should be included in the city charter. Such a charter protection would prohibit future city councils from outlawing sparklers, fountains and other small fireworks allowed by the state.

Authority of whether residents can continue to sell and set off legal fireworks — as they did for the first time in 25 years this month — will remain with the council for the duration of the two-year trial period.

After the 2013 Fourth of July, the city will analyze the pilot program and decide the next steps.

At Monday's special council meeting,

the proposal failed after Councilman Keith Bohr decided to change his vote from the measure's first reading.

He argued this time that the charter shouldn't be changed until city officials get a chance to objectively analyze fireworks' impacts on residents, businesses, public-safety workers and the community.

"I think we're just going too far," Bohr said, adding that although he personally supports legal fireworks, he has to take into account the police and fire chiefs' analyses.

A first reading of the measure, proposed by Mayor Don Hansen,

passed earlier this month with a 4 to 3 vote, with council members Connie Boardman, Joe Shaw and Joe Carchio opposed.

Bohr's initial position tilted the first vote toward approval. But a second vote was needed, and on Monday his change of heart snuffed out the measure.

The fireworks were legalized this summer for the first time in more than two decades. That effort of lifting the ban was also headed by Hansen, who said Huntington Beach's residents and children should enjoy the patriotic holiday like those in neighboring cities. The two-year trial period was later approved.

Some residents said Independence Day went smoothly this summer, but many others described chaos and an increase of illegal fireworks.

Police and fire officials in January raised concerns about legalizing fireworks. After the holiday, they reported that their resources were strained and the use of illegal fireworks increased alongside the legal ones.

Hansen, however, said Fourth of July was proof that Huntington Beach residents can use fireworks responsibly.

Boardman, a staunch critic of legalizing fireworks, had vowed in January to do everything in her power to ban their sale and discharge in the city.

During Monday's meeting, Bohr asked Boardman to compromise and hold off efforts to ban fireworks until the trial period ends.

Boardman agreed, saying, "I think a two-year trial is better than this being in the charter."

Twitter: @MonaShadia

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World