On June 16, several people came to the Lompoc City Council meeting to complain about a seemingly endless series of explosions associated with illegal fireworks.
According to a Noozhawk report on June 26: “Lompoc police dispatchers reported 147 fireworks calls between May 1 and June 23. For the same time last year, the total was 10.”
Since this issue wasn’t on the June 16 agenda as a discussion item, Councilman Jim Mosby later requested the police chief provide a status report on the number of reports and number of citations issued over the last five years.
Mayor Jenelle Osborne asked that Mosby amend his motion to include a total review of the policy; and as is his style, he dismissed her request saying he “only wanted the analytics at this time.”
I guess in his mind simply knowing how many times folks call the PD about the explosions and smoke and exactly how many citations had been issued and dismissed would be “responsive” to citizen complaints.
Then on July 3, the frequency of explosions increased and on the 4th there were more explosions than I have ever heard since coming here in 1975. During the July 7 City Council meeting, the city manager reported that between June 23 and July 4, there had been 272 reports for fireworks and two citations issued.
After the city manager’s report, Councilman Mosby noted that he had requested fireworks analytics at the June 16 meeting and added, “How we are doing with our ordinance; do we need to strengthen it?”
Mayor Osborne then requested a clarification of his statement. She acknowledged the council had supported Mosby’s request for analytics and then asked “if a discussion of the ordinance” was being added to his original request.
Mosby then replied with a curt “no;” so we are left with the question: why did he even mention the ordinance in his remarks just seconds before? Doesn’t he listen to what he is saying?
More than an hour of the meeting was consumed with public comment concerning fireworks. An overwhelming number of speakers expressed their discontent with how the city has been handling this issue.
One speaker commented: “You were all elected to be our leaders and not to be reactive but to be proactive.” Another said, “We are living down” to the assertion that Lompoc is the “armpit of the county.”
Another asked if we knew “how full of pollution these fireworks are, the heavy metals that are in our air and will stay in our air and cause cancer and asthma in our kids; why are we fund raising with things that can cause us harm?”
And lastly, “Our town was being bombarded until after 2 a.m. on the Fourth.”
Former mayor John Linn, who is chiefly responsible for bringing so-called safe and sane fireworks to Lompoc, said one purpose of the program was to increase enforcement against illegal fireworks, however “that enforcement program has not been effective.” But the message conveyed to many people at the time was that “fireworks are legal in Lompoc” and while mayor he did nothing to correct that message.
To help understand the potential problems, we must understand what occurs when the fireworks’ fuse meets black powder — it causes potassium nitrate, charcoal and sulfur to combine. Small particles of these metals are dispersed by the fireworks’ explosions; barium, compounds of which can be used to give green colors, is one such example.
If the use of fireworks of any kind were a permitted activity requiring an Air Pollution Control District permit it would either be denied because the amount of material being released by these explosions couldn’t be controlled, or required to have significant and costly mitigation measures to prevent the release of toxic substances and particulate matter into the atmosphere.
The use of fireworks is out of control. Enforcement of the current regulations would require simultaneous deployment of scores of officers all over town specifically dedicated to fireworks enforcement on the days leading up to the Fourth of July and several other days of the year. The fee collected from safe and sane sales is totally inadequate for this purpose.
Asking the public to accept personal responsibility to control the issue is laughable in a community that ignores neighborly practices like maintaining their property’s appearance. A new strategy is needed, and it begins with enforcing the penalties allowed for in the ordinance.
— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committees since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to read his previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.