Thursday, April 19, 2012

4th of July and Fireworks: Patriots, Fun Seekers and Pinheads

The annual 4th of July celebration of our Independence from Britain will be here in just over 2 months. Along with that will come the fireworks set off by the city, along with the sales of private fireworks that will be set off all around the county. People of all sorts, fun seekers from all over Clark County and Portland, Patriots hoping to honor the birth of our nation and undoubtedly the pinheads who don’t have a lick of common sense in the use of simple fireworks will be hitting the various fireworks stands spending obscene amounts of money to purchase them.

The purchases also give the city and county a revenue boost from the sales.

Along with that will come the usual Letters to the Editor condemning private fireworks, complaining about the noise, lack of courtesy of the pinheads who don’t have the sense to use them, effects on Veterans, animals, children, the elderly, what have you, the complaints will flow just as they have for years.

The Vancouver City Council held a workshop on March 5, 2012 where the discussion centered on, “considering further restrictions on sales and use days, eliminating sales of aerial and other more dangerous fireworks, or a possible multiyear phase-out to a total ban,” moving the city closer to Portland, Oregon’s limitations to the use of only “safe and sane” fireworks, if not an outright ban.

City council members are receiving letters and emails urging bans on our use of fireworks, much like was posted in the Columbian’s All Politics is Local last year, as seen here and here.

Each article is met with those opposing further restrictions and bans in the comments underneath.

Personally, I have no use for the fireworks. They do bother me somewhat and remind me of some scary times in Vietnam, such as the April 6, 1970 Sapper Attack in An Khe where 12 Helicopters were completely destroyed and 5 more heavily damaged, one from my unit being reduced to dust. When the Sappers returned and could not access the flight line due to increased guards, they attacked Hooches, killing men from the Finance Company.

I recall seeing an ammunition bunker hit by mortar fire, exploding and burning. My best buddy was shot down late in his tour, crashing in a ball of fire and killing the man in the back seat and burning my buddy pretty bad. So I don’t buy any fireworks and don’t set them off.

However, I don’t advocate banning them either. I get through every year with minimal irritation to me and can’t in good conscience, advocate those that do enjoy them be denied a couple days pleasure. I am reminded that we fought for every bodies freedom and that must also extend to their use of fireworks on the one day a year we celebrate our Independence.

Pinheads don’t fall in that category, though. As council member Jeanne Stewart said in the workshop,
“I know a lot of families get a lot of enjoyment in having fireworks parties. But really, with all the fireworks that are sold and used, there are some pinheads … who just go crazy.”

Mayor Tim Leavitt, who I most often disagree with, made a relevant observation when he said,
“There are pinheads who abuse fireworks, but there are pinheads out there who abuse every ordinance we have. I’m not finding right now enough compelling evidence to commit to an outright ban at this point.”

I have to agree with him there as I believe we have a far larger problem with DUI’s, drunk drivers causing accidents, injuring innocent people. Yet, no one proposes banning cars.

Council members Bill Turlay and Larry Smith, both also Vietnam Veterans and two men I hold in high regard, seem to advocate banning fireworks. Turlay citing how they might affect Veterans who saw combat and Smith noting the cities density has increased to the point that we are just too large for them.

I have seen a communication to the Mayor and city council from a person who has lived in our community for just one year, having moved from a city that banned fireworks and now uses their “phobia of gun type noise” urging the banning of fireworks, claiming, “For four days a year I'm forced to flee my home,” and stay in a hotel room near Portland’s Airport.

Since it is common knowledge that fireworks are legal in Washington State, Clark County and Vancouver, I am left to wonder what made this person ignore their own “phobia of gun type noise” and move to a community where fireworks are legally set off every year.

As a Veteran, I too have a problem with sudden loud noises and it happens close to me and you don’t seem me jump or duck, rest assured my stomach just turned to jelly. I also remember that the worst I was ever personally affected by fireworks was not by private fireworks being set off by my neighbors, even the pinheads, but by the city’s display down near the Old Fort many years ago. Apparently I was a little too close as I not only felt the concussion of fireworks going off overhead, but smelled the after odor we often describe as the “smell of cordite.”

I felt like things were closing in on me and began developing tunnel vision, with sounds around be beginning to sound muffled. I got up out of the chair I was in, turned away from the fireworks display and walked away from them a little distance and cleared my head. Clearly, the fireworks were having an adverse affect on me.

I have never gone back down to the cities 4th of July Celebration and I don’t recall anybody advocating banning the cities yearly celebration either. I would oppose it if they did for the same reasons mentioned above, other people’s freedoms that I served and fought for.

Clearly, this is another issue that raises strong feelings all across the board. Even though the last few years have seen a marked decrease in incidents involving fireworks misuse, acknowledged here and here, supporters of a ban have a strong argument supporting their position.

I am also left to ponder, should they succeed in banning fireworks in weeks and months ahead, how would they enforce it? Surely they realize that even if the city of Vancouver banned fireworks, those wanting them, including the pinheads, will just drive north into the Hazel Dell, Salmon Creek area to purchase them, since the County has shown no desire to follow any such ban.

Those wanting their own fireworks can also make a short drive into Cowlitz County jut north to buy them too.

Being one of those issues that hold such strong community opinions, perhaps the matter should be put to the people and not left solely in the hands of 7 elected council members. Regardless of where we each come down on this, I feel it falls into a majority rules position instead of just the city council, that seems to have no shortage on what they would like to see banned.

It leaves me wondering just what will they do when they have nothing left to ban?

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