City ponders referendum on fireworks ban
Magginetti said in the meantime, because of the petition, the fireworks ordinance is suspended “and cannot be enforced until the city repeals the ordinance or the resolution declaring the result of the election is adopted.”
Talia and Magginetti gave a brief rundown of the procedures involved with an election, from the petition to the inclusion of the vote on an upcoming election.
The sales and use of fireworks was banned within the city limits at the Sept. 3 council meeting. Within three days, city staff had learned that referendum petition was being circulated around the community.
The fireworks ban was passed despite the protest of several charity and booster organizations who have annually used the sales of fireworks as a primary source of fundraising. Susanville Fire Department Chief Stu Ratner was among many of the fire experts who said the reason why the ban was brought into place was a matter of safety, not only to members of the community, but to the firefighters protecting it. He has also said the fire conditions in the city and surrounding areas are currently at an extremely dry level, compounding the fireworks situation.
“Just to be clear,” said Susanville Mayor Kurt Bonham at the Sept. 17 meeting, “The reason why this ordinance was brought forth and passed at this time of year instead of next June was as a matter of courtesy. We didn’t want to ban fireworks right after all these organizations had purchased the fireworks with the intent to sell.”
“A referendum occurs when an ordinance is adopted by the city council and challenged by petition during the 30-day period following the ordinance,” Talia said in his report. “The petition protesting the adoption of an ordinance doesn’t have to be circulated by a Susanville registered voter, but can be circulated by any person qualified to vote in the state.”
Talia said that if the petition is not submitted within the 30 days of the ordinance’s adoption, it becomes completely void. The petitioners have until Oct. 3.
As of the Sept. 17 meeting, a petition hadn’t been submitted to city staff. Magginetti said if the petition meets election code standards, and has sufficient signatures, the city clerk has 30 business days to verify all the signatures. County Clerk Julie Bustamante said the petition must have at least 428 signatures, which represents roughly 10 percent of the registered voters within the district.
After the clerk has verified the signatures, the clerk must then certify the sufficiency of the petition to the council at one of its regular meetings. The city council must then declare the election at a regular meeting.
The election must then take place at least 88 days after the declaration.
Magginetti highlighted in her report that it would be in the city’s best interest to consolidate an election with any upcoming statewide elections or special elections. A stand-alone election would cost the city anywhere between $35,000 to $40,000, whereas a shared election would cost the city between $15,000 and $20,000.
According to Magginetti and Talia’s report, the city may submit any number of proposed ordinances at the same election. Talia told the council that if the election does indeed go through, it might be possible to attach an ordinance for a parcel tax of somewhere between $15 to $20 a parcel to recoup city costs for overtime paid to firefighters and police officers, along with costs associated with the ensuing cleanup of fireworks.
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