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In The Pipeline: The bright side of fireworks

February 08, 2012|By Chris Epting
  • A sample of "safe and sane" fireworks that are legal in California.
A sample of "safe and sane" fireworks that… (Courtesy The California…)

You can't say he didn't start things off with a bang.

One of Mayor Don Hansen's first orders of business after being appointed last year was to try and lift the 24-year ban on state-approved fireworks in Huntington Beach.

In December, Hansen outlined his concept of a two-year pilot program that would allow what are called "safe and sane" fireworks on sidewalks and alleyways on Fourth of July only, from noon until 10 p.m.

Additionally, the plan includes "fireworks-free zones" to be located in parks, at beaches, within environmentally sensitive areas and downtown. (The plan would also require, in accordance with law, that organizations obtain proper permits before selling fireworks.)

This past week, the City Council passed the plan 5 to 2, with Joe Shaw and Connie Boardman opposed. Huntington Beach is now one of seven cities in Orange County that will allow fireworks (currently, Buena Park, Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Costa Mesa, Westminster and Stanton allow the "safe and sane" variety).

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Had they had a vote, the police and fire chiefs no doubt would have voted against the fireworks as well, as represented by their thoughtful comments during a recent public hearing.

It's been a predictably polarizing, contentious debate the last few weeks. I'm acquainted with, to some degree, all but one of the City Council members, and I think everyone represented themselves true to their values and beliefs. But I was curious why the mayor chose to essentially start his term with an issue this hot.

After the vote Tuesday, we spoke for a while.

Hansen told me the idea was "sparked" last year, sitting in his driveway having a discussion with some neighbors on the Fourth of July. The group was lamenting the fact that they couldn't enjoy a small, reasonable show in their driveways.

They talked about growing up and the fun they all had setting off fountains and lighting sparklers and how they wished their kids could experience the same thing. That's when Hansen tossed out the idea of lifting the ban. The reaction was swift and thorough throughout the neighborhood: "Do it!"

And while it may look like this was a short-fused priority, Hansen said the timing was merely to give people enough time to absorb the idea — nearly five months to get educated and prepared.

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