Will fireworks be allowed? City to consider letting voters decide

Huntington Beach will hold a special meeting Monday to decide whether residents should be given the final say over whether to ban fireworks.

Council members will vote on whether to add an item to the Nov. 4 ballot amending the city's charter to allow the use of "safe and sane" fireworks in Surf City on the Fourth of July. The measure would also give the council the ability to choose who can sell fireworks and when and where they can be set off.


The meeting will be held at the City Council chambers at 6 p.m.

Safe-and-sane fireworks were legal in the city during a trial period in 2012 and 2013


If council members agree, then city staff would be directed to write a resolution to place the item on the November ballot.

A second vote would need to be held at the July 21 council meeting and, if approved again, 14 days would be set aside for the receipt of arguments and rebuttals. The public would be allowed to review these comments.

"Whether you're for fireworks or against fireworks is not the matter," said Councilman Joe Carchio, who raised the issue with Councilman Jim Katapodis. "I don't really care one way or the other what anybody's opinion is. The reason why I brought this forward is to give the public the opportunity to weigh in on this and to express their feelings with a vote."

He added that the decision to allow fireworks "is too large for seven council members to make ... for 200,000 people."


Councilwoman Connie Boardman was not happy when she heard that her colleagues decided to hold a special meeting to repeal the fireworks ban. She said she especially disapproved of them trying to amend the city charter, which is essentially the city's constitution, to legalize the devices.

"I don't think fireworks are important enough to be in our charter, so I oppose a charter amendment," she said. "This is not the way to conduct the business of the people. This is not an emergency item. This could have been brought up in March, May or June, at a regular meeting where the public could have the opportunity to express their opinion."

Boardman also had concerns about firework companies influencing the election.

"In 2003, Buena Park City Council banned fireworks, and the fireworks companies spent $187,000 in a town of 80,000 to qualify a referendum and have an election," she said. "I typically spend $30,000 to $40,000 on my council race in a town of 200,000, so that gives you an idea on the amount of money they'll spend."

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Shaw, having been vocal about his disapproval of fireworks, said he will vote in favor of the ballot measure to allow Huntington Beach residents to decide for themselves.

Boardman and others have argued that the use of fireworks, whether state-approved or not, is disruptive to neighborhoods and a danger to property and people.

Those who support the devices, like Mayor Matthew Harper, argue that the sales of safe-and-sane fireworks have helped raise money for local school sports programs, nonprofits and even the professional Fourth of July fireworks show.

"The city of Anaheim unanimously voted to place this on the ballot in the primary election, and we've seen the city of Westminster place this on the ballot a couple of years ago, and it was not controversial to just simply place on the ballot so that the voters could decide," Harper said. "My hope is that it's not controversial in our city."