Fighting illegal fireworks with practical efforts, community participation

Reaching a sensible middle ground with fireworks in our community is an ongoing effort taken seriously by your Santa Maria City Council.

The most practical approach is educating residents about fireworks safety and enforcement. We annually spend about $30,000 on these efforts. We also partner with County Animal Services, which provides advice and pet crates for loan.

Our fireworks ordinance (I invite you to read it at www.cityofsantamaria.org/fireworks) integrates community input, and strives to balance the demands of people opposed to illegal fireworks – many of them noise-sensitive residents and/or those with pets, with available public safety resources, the California Health and Safety Code, and the City’s longstanding tradition of allowing sales of “Safe and Sane” fireworks by nonprofits.

 The fireworks ordinance was updated a few years ago following two City-hosted community meetings at which dozens complained about the disruption caused by fireworks. We increased the penalty to $1,000 and empowered third-party citations which, by law, require a witness.

We do our best to enforce as many violations of illegal fireworks as possible. Officers are already responding to calls of illegal fireworks usage and are ready to issue citations. We will have 12 officers on special fireworks patrols June 29 to July 5.

This is a difficult issue to address because of the discretion most violators use, the quickness of the violation, and the inevitable time delay between when it occurs and when the police can arrive.

We do not expect members of the public to place themselves in harm’s way, but our police need a general location and time frame, for example, “the 700 block of West Cook Street around 10 p.m.”

In allowing “Safe and Sane” fireworks sales at booths June 28 to July 4, the City Council understands this is a vital fund-raising mechanism for about two dozen nonprofits, each of whom can raise several thousand dollars in a week that goes right back into our community.

Hundreds of California communities struggle with fireworks and to my knowledge none have come up with a perfect solution. Here in Santa Maria, we rely on these practical efforts and community participation.

Alice M. Patino

Mayor of Santa Maria

Allowing people to live on streets is inhumane

The recent news about Britney Spears’ conservatorship fight has reminded me about the movie "Love and Mercy". The movie told the story of Brian Wilson’s struggle with his conservator. I don’t know much about Britney’s case or how much of the movie was based in fact. In both cases though, millions of dollars in potential income for the two artists is certainly a factor that could motivate attorneys and conservators to keep the conservatorships going for as long as possible.

The Brian Wilson case has long since been resolved. In Britney Spears’ case, she has certainly generated a lot of sympathy for herself. From what I have read and heard reported I can understand that. It seems to me that conservatorships, even in cases where much less money is involved, have a potential for abuse if not monitored by a disinterested party.

While there seems to be a lot of interest in the Britney Spears case, it seems there as been little interest in the thousands of mentally ill homeless people living on the streets. These people self-medicate with street drugs, live in tents or in doorways and relieve themselves in public places. In the 60s we opened the state hospitals and sent them out to live where they could find shelter (ultimately the streets). This was all done in the name of freedom, liberty and, oh yes, to save money. This doesn’t seem humane to me.

I’m not necessarily in favor of state-run hospitals. Nor do I think that all mentally disabled people should be locked away. Like the conservatorships, taking away some one’s liberty for mental disability could also be abused. But allowing these people to continue to live on the street is inhuman. There needs to be a community based endeavor, maybe county based. Charities and churches should have an active role. Britney Spears may garner a lot of attention, but the real need is much closer to us.

Fredrick Lee

Santa Maria

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