SANTA ANA, Calif.—The city of Santa Ana is drafting up an ordinance that would allow voters to decide whether to ban fireworks throughout the city.
The council agreed on Dec. 21 to draft an ordinance that will be reviewed by a committee before potentially being placed on a ballot.
Councilmembers Thai Viet Phan, Nelida Mendoza, David Penaloza, and Mayor Pro Tem Phil Bacerra voiced their concerns regarding fireworks including the effects of air pollution, costs of police enforcement, and city-wide cleanup measures.
While the council could have moved forward with the agreement of an ordinance being drafted, Councilwoman Jessie Lopez urged members to allow voters to decide on the fate of fireworks within the community.
“This is something the voters should decide on once and for all, have them settle this,” Lopez said during the council meeting. “I don’t think that government needs to have a say in every aspect of our lives.”
As a potential ban can hinder the revenue nonprofits make selling fireworks on the Fourth of July, Bacerra and Phan suggest the city consider ways to support these businesses.
“I understand there’s a handful of nonprofits that do fundraising this way, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of the air quality that we breathe, the trash that we have to deal with, [and] the public safety issues that we have,” Phan said.
Mendoza echoed the concern of losing the revenue fireworks bring to the city along with “excessive risk to property” and even death to residents.
The profits accumulated by firework sales are not comparable to the “negative” and “lingering” impact of the explosives, Mendoza said.
Rather than allowing for the individual sale of fireworks, Mendoza and Bacerra suggest moving forward with city-sponsored events where fireworks can be on display at places such as a stadium.
Throughout the city of Santa Ana, fireworks are an issue not only on the Fourth of July, but there are constant recurrences throughout the summer, Penaloza said.
While his colleagues were on board with potentially banning fireworks, Councilman Johnathan Hernandez spoke on behalf of the important role of fireworks within Mexican American culture.
“In our culture, fireworks play a central cultural role in celebration,” he said. “I don’t want to infringe upon the liberties our residents have to celebrate at home.”
Public commentators shared mixed feelings over the ban.
Leon Raya, the founder of the Raya Foundation, a nonprofit organization that strives to assist youth to transition into successful adults by providing athletic, academic, and family support services, wrote an email to the council to oppose the ban.
“Such a ban would be extremely detrimental to our Foundation,” Raya wrote. “The majority of our fundraising comes from the annual firework stand that we operate.”
Rather than allowing all fireworks to be banned, Raya suggested the council move forward by emphasizing the ban to apply only to illegal fireworks.
“We do not think the City has put enough effort, if any, into enforcing the current ban against illegal fireworks,” he wrote. “Anyone can drive down a City street during 4th of July and easily spot residents launching illegal fireworks.”
Other public commentators wrote to the council in favor of the firework ban, stating the negative impacts the loud noises have on animals along with increased costs in taxpayer money to deploy cleanup and law enforcement.
”There are illegal fireworks being used very often, not just on the fourth of July,” resident Beatriz Alarcon wrote. “The fireworks are also very messy and usually the trash is not picked up by the people who light up fireworks. My home has been trashed by the fireworks that go up in the air.”
Councilmembers Lopez, Penaloza, Hernandez, and Mayor Vincente Sarmiento voted to move forward with drafting an ordinance to ban fireworks.