City voters will decide fireworks question
The coouncil then gave city staff the direction to put the ordinance on the next available ballot election in the state. The council will confirm at its Dec. 3 meeting when the election for the ordinance would be held.
City Attorney Peter Talia said that by rescinding the ordinance the council now has the ability to hold the election whenever it wants. All of the councilmembers were in agreement that they didn’t want to hold a special election unless it was necessary as it would cost roughly $40,000 to hold a standalone election. Both the council and staff expressed they wanted to save cost as much money as possible.
Without an election, the council would revert back to relying on Susanville Fire Department Chief Stu Ratner to ask for fireworks ban days.
The city council’s decision to ban the sales and use of fireworks within city limits has met with opposition since the ordinance was passed at the Sept. 3 council meeting. Since that meeting, a group of citizens collected enough voter signatures for a referendum demanding the ordinance be put to a vote.
The group had until Oct. 3 to collect at least 428 votes, which County Clerk Julie Bustamante said represented about 10 percent of the registered voters within the city. City Attorney Peter Talia said more than 700 signatures were submitted on Tuesday, Sept. 30.
Some voters were at the Nov. 19 council meeting. Representatives from the groups that sell fireworks and Dennis Revell, chairman of Revell Communications, were also there. Revell Communications is the governmental affairs/public relations representative for American Promotional Events, Inc., which is the state’s leading wholesale distributor of Safe and Sane fireworks.
Revell has been at previous meetings when the city was first dealing with the fireworks ordinance. He presented the council with alternatives that it could use other than an outright ban, from harsher penalties for abusers to shortening the number of days fireworks would be for sale.
Mayor Kurt Bonham said he felt Revell’s proposed alternatives hadn’t changed much since he originally came before the council in August and the number of inconsistencies and lack of additional research didn’t impress him.
Bonham said he personally felt the way Revell and his colleagues spread misinformation in order to obtain the roughly 750 signatures for the petition, while completely legal, was horrendous. He said when the issue finally goes to election, both sides will be able to be represented fairly.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again,” Bonham said. “The misdirection of your paid signatories was horrendous. They didn’t need to go that way to get the signatures. They said once they had the 700 signatures, this meeting didn’t even have to take place, and that it didn’t go to the ballot. I really do find that interesting and perplexing.”
Councilmember Doug Sayers reiterated he was the only councilmember who opposed the fireworks ban. He chimed in during Bonham’s comments to Revell by saying that Bonham was trying to “run down” Revell for collecting the signatures.
“That’s not right,” Sayers said. “The people spoke tonight. Let it die right there, and don’t ridicule them anymore. That’s stupid.”
Bonham said the council’s first and foremost responsibility was the protection of the city. He said everything else was just extra. He explained that he didn’t like the inconsistencies in enforcing current laws. He said when people used fireworks during the winter months it wasn’t that big an issue. It was during the dry summer months, when fire conditions are at their worst that he was concerned with. He said allowing people to use fireworks when all other incendiary devices are prohibited didn’t make sense.
Lassen County Fire Warden and Fire Chief for the Lassen-Modoc Unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Brad Lutz, reiterated his position and answered questions from the council. He said his position was simply anything that could be done to prevent any kind of fire danger or consequences from fire danger was necessary.
Ratner was also on hand to answer any questions, and said his position was essentially the same as Lutz’s.
The council meets at 7 p.m. at 66 North Lassen Street on Wednesday, Dec. 3, in the Council Chambers.
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