The debate on whether Huntington Beach should continue to ban state-legal fireworks continues to burn brightly in the city's council chambers.
Council members voted Monday to continue the prohibition of the possession, sale and use of the celebratory device. They also allowed a proposed ordinance, which aimed to assist safety officials with enforcement, to fall by the wayside because of fears that it could open the city to litigation.
"I remain opposed to the sale of 'safe and sane' fireworks in Huntington Beach and I would like to give police and fire the tools they need to enforce that," Councilwoman Jill Hardy said. "However, I feel that this ordinance provides for too many opportunities for false accusations and irresponsible behavior."
The proposed ordinance, which passed 4-3 during its first reading on April 21, would have allowed police and fire officials to cite people for using fireworks based on the evidence left behind on their property, such as one's driveway or backyard.
Because existing city laws only allow officials to cite a suspect while they are in the act of setting off the device, the city attorney's staff believed the proposed rule would allow safety officials to fine those who try to hide or flee from the scene.
Hardy, who supported the item when it was introduced during the April 21 meeting, reconsidered her approval of the proposed rule after concluding that the law could drive people to use their fireworks on their neighbor's property if they were not home.
"I'm very concerned about creating an incentive to light fireworks illegally…on someone else's property to avoid getting caught," she said.
Mayor Pro Tem Joe Shaw, who also supported the item at the last meeting, changed his mind as well, stating that the proposed ordinance as it stands is "a little too draconian."
Longtime resident Craig Frampton has been upset with the fireworks ban for years and said he hasn't seen state-approved fireworks to be a nuisance. He believed that the city should focus on enforcing existing laws.
"Illegal fireworks have always been illegal and I think that there's a pretty general consensus that that's where the majority of the problems come from," he said.
Having heard the agreements and disagreements over fireworks from his dais colleagues and residents, Mayor Matthew Harper said the only way to end the debate is to have the issue placed on the ballot to be voted on.
After the previous council meeting, many residents were furious that the City Council didn't approve placing the plastic bag ban issue on the November ballot to have voters decide its fate.
A handful of public speakers as well as a few council members Monday suggested that the fireworks debacle should also be tested at the ballot box.
"This is our national holiday. We deserve that national holiday, and we shouldn't take it away from the voters to let them decide," Councilman Joe Carchio said about using fireworks during the Fourth of July. "The folks of Huntington Beach should be able to decide whether they want the fireworks or don't, not seven council members."