Voters may decide whether to legalize so-called safe and sane fireworks in Huntington Beach.
The City Council this week took the first step toward putting the issue on the Nov. 4 ballot.
More than 100 people applauded when the council voted 5 to 2 on Monday to direct city staff to begin the referendum process. Council members Jill Hardy and Connie Boardman dissented. A second council vote on the issue is scheduled for July 21.
City Atty. Jennifer McGrath said a future City Council would determine who can sell the devices and when and where they can be lighted.
Councilman Joe Carchio said he would like the city to adopt the same process used during its recent two-year experiment with legal fireworks, whereby athletic booster clubs, nonprofits and other organizations wanting to sell the devices applied for a place in a lottery.
Hardy, who said she has known victims harmed by fireworks, disagreed with the path toward legalization.
"When asked to vote between money and safety, I chose safety," she said. "I do not support a ballot measure that jeopardizes the safety of the Huntington Beach community."
Police Chief Robert Handy and Fire Chief Patrick McIntosh said they could not recommend legalizing fireworks because of safety and law enforcement concerns.
Boardman reiterated her worry that fireworks companies may influence a campaign, as they did by contributing to measures in Buena Park and Anaheim.
"If this is an issue on the ballot here, I think the same situation's going to happen," she said. "The pro side is going to have the financial support of the fireworks companies ... that have direct financial interest in the outcome of the election."
Carchio said the issue isn't a stance for or against fireworks but simply a way to give voters the authority to decide a contentious issue.
"I'm not going to go into a long dissertation about what's good about fireworks and what's bad about fireworks," he said. "I brought this forward because I felt that the people of Huntington Beach needed to have a say, needed to have their voice heard, and they needed to have this placed on the ballot and let them decide whether they want fireworks, and we can put this to rest once and for all."
Resident Norm Westwell, 55, said that while council members are elected to make decisions, some issues warrant ballot measures.
"It's the people's right to decide," the former council candidate said. "If we want to be idiots and light a sparkler and stick it in our ear, it's our right to be stupid. Please put this on the ballot."