Fireworks Speech 7-6-04

DECEMBER 16, 2002

Good evening.

My name is Dan Simpson.

I'm here tonight to talk about Measure M which will be on our local ballot on March 4. If passed, Measure M will ban consumer fireworks from Azusa.

I strongly support Measure M and believe it's time to say no to firework nightmare in our city.

So thank you for putting the measure on the ballot. I commend you for it.

I have lived in Azusa for 12 years now with my wife and our three children. This is a good community. We like living here. Except around the Forth of July!

As we all know, our normally peaceful neighborhoods turn into hellish war zones. M-80s exploding, rockets shooting into the air bursting over our heads, firecrackers sounding like machine gun fire. Smoke everywhere. It's absolutely crazy.

And it seems to be getting worse every year.

Now those who want to keep fireworks will argue that the problem is not the "Safe and Sane" variety that are sold by our local groups--the problem is illegal fireworks. And indeed, when you look at, for example, LA County statistics -- from 1991 through 1999, the reported fire loses attributed to all fireworks-related fires between June 17 and July 16 averaged $810,677 a year. And well over 90% of that was caused by illegal fireworks. And the same ratio holds true with the hundreds of fireworks-related emergency room visits. So it would be easy to point to illegal fireworks as the problem.

However, that argument breaks down because evidence shows that the sale of legal fireworks in a city fosters an environment in which the illegal fireworks thrive. It’s futile to fight the dangerous fireworks while the Safe and Sane ones are being sold.

We can look at examples such as Monrovia, which allowed sale of legal fireworks, and also had the same kind of problems we are having with the illegal ones. So when they banned fireworks in their city, it solved the problem. The illegal fireworks are vitally gone. And other Southland cities have also experienced the same. It can take several years for the enforcement efforts to fully take effect. But banning the legal fireworks gives a fighting change in curbing the illegal ones

This past July holiday period, Azusa police filed 179 incident reports of illegal fireworks, which represents literally hundreds of phone calls that our police responded to. Yet in spite of their best efforts, there's not much they can do to keep our neighborhood from being dangerous war zones. I’ve talked to our Chief of Police King Davis, and he’ll admit that police are at a real handicap in being able to effectively curb the frenzied discharge of illegal fireworks.

Now, for the citizens of Azusa to make a decision to ban fireworks is both easy and hard. It's easy because of what I just described. We all want the nightmare to go away. It’s hard because we have 20 some groups and organizations in Azusa who use fireworks sales as fundraisers. Each fireworks stand averages about $7,000 each year. For many of them, that's their bread and butter means to raise money. And that money goes directly into our community to support worthwhile programs. My daughter is in the Gladstone band and directly benefits from fireworks sales.

But, I contend that clearly there are lots of other ways for groups to raise money, but there are no other viable solutions to our illegal fireworks nightmare in Azusa except to ban fireworks in the city.

There are two important issues here:

One, why should families like mine be subject year after year to the nightmare of illegal fireworks? Why should I lay in bed at night with the sounds of rockets and bombs exploding all around our neighborhood, wondering if I'm going to have to jump out of bed and run outside in my underwear to fight a fire? Why should my children dread to going outside for fear of being struck by a wayward bottle rocket? Why should our senior citizens be holed up in their homes wondering if this is Armageddon?

The other issue is this. We all know that if this fireworks problem is allowed to continue, it is inevitable that there sooner or later we will suffer a tragedy. Someone is going to loose a hand, an arm, an eye, their face, a house, a forest, a life! And then there will be public outcry to ban fireworks. My point is, why wait for the tragedy before we take action? Let’s ban them now. Let’s end this insanity.

So my request of each of you, mayor, and city council members, is to take stand to ban fireworks. Publicly endorse Measure M. Help us protect the people of Azusa and restore civility, peace, and safety to our neighborhoods. I know it's tempting to remain neutral on the issue, but we need your help.

In the next 2 months, the fireworks industry will spend thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars to defeat Measure M in Azusa. They already started. And if the statement they submitted to be published in the official voter pamphlet is any representation of their campaign, they will use deception, manipulation, distortion -- they will say anything necessary to protect their profits. And I’m not talking about our local groups who sell fireworks. They’re not the bad guys here. They are engaged in honest enterprise to fund their worthy programs. It’s the out-of-town fireworks industry that is driven by big profits rather than the concern for the safety of people. And they’re running a misleading, perhaps honest campaign.

So, we need your help.

In Azusa, we cannot afford to allow measure M to be defeated. Let's not wait for a firework-related tragedy. Let's take action now. I commend you for putting the measure on the ballot. Now I urge you to publicly endorse it and help us get it passed.

And once Measure M passes, I’ll be the first one to roll up my sleeves and join arm and arm with the rest of you to help our local groups find other ways to support their worthy causes. But we all know that as long as we permit fireworks sales in our city, we unfairly subject the majority of our citizens to the danger and chaos of the blatant, pervasive discharge of illegal fireworks.

Let's restore, peace, civility, and safety to our neighborhoods once again.

Thank you.

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