The Politics of Fireworks
By Kimo GandallGarden Grove High School football boosters, pictured above, raise 95% of their annual operating budget from fireworks alone. Photo Credits: Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register
“Bring back our fireworks!” declared Councilman O’Connel during his 2014 campaign speech. Others including Barbara Delgleize, Erik Peterson, and Mike Posey, all of whom now control positions on the new City Council, have also been speaking out in favor of “Safe and Sane” fireworks, the proposed brand of ‘safe’ fireworks offered in Huntington Beach. The quality of these fireworks vary greatly, however they are most noted by the fact they are not explosive; most include small, portable firecrackers.
Fireworks had a single trial year in 2012; during this time, fireworks raised nearly $400,000 in only four days. According to the HB Independent, “It is anticipated in 2013 . . . the sales volume will increase to more than $1.5 million gross and at least a 50% increase in funds raised for local nonprofits, totaling perhaps $750,000 dollars.” This surge in capital would essentially give nonprofit organizations such as Edison’s booster clubs vital pools of money to streamline their programs.
However, many citizens are voicing concerns regarding the dangers of fireworks, such as the fire hazard potential. While many of these claims are unsubstantiated, such as fireworks causing the “entire destruction of Huntington Beach,” the Fire chief and the Police chief have advised City Council against legalizing Safe and Sane fireworks. Other citizens contend that safety education for these programs to teach the vendors who sell the fireworks will likely be ineffective. Furthermore Mayor Hardy, at the recent City Council meeting, stated that “irresponsible kids” would be at risk, regardless of “how much their parents watch.” Councilman O’Connell responded saying “It’s an important responsibility for parents to monitor their own children.”
John Kelly, government representative of TNT Corporations, the company that manages Safe and Sane Fireworks, argued that “TNT Fireworks is committed to taking experience from the 2013 trial to help grow our efforts for safety.” He went on stating that “TNT will have a safety class for those vendors of nonprofits selling fireworks.”
Regardless of ongoing debate, the issue of fireworks is now on the footsteps of City Hall, and it’s already passed the first trial.
In November, Measure T, the legislation for a resolution to legalize fireworks, passed with 60.6% of Huntington Beach citizens voting in favor. On February 4th, Safe and Sane Fireworks passed 7-0 in City Council, with even Mayor Hardy, a former staunch objector to fireworks voting in favor of the resolution. During this time, Councilman O’Connel submitted the proposal to eliminate the fireworks regulatory fee, which, in previous years, cost nonprofits 10% of their revenue from fireworks. In response to this, Mayor Hardy voiced her concerns over the potential of the city to be at a “net loss,” and contended that “we need this fee to pay for 4th of July” citing the expenses accumulated by community activities and the committee’s lack of a definite source of income. The Mayor warned “removing the fee is easy… bringing it back in is much harder…” while arguing “[how] many groups would actually refuse to participate because of the fee… I’m guessing zero.” Regardless, the amendment passed 7-0 in the council chambers.
What does this mean to you? Essentially, for anyone involved in extracurricular activities (a) the race for obtaining raffle tickets starts NOW, meaning if you want to have the ability to get a stand, you better contact city clerk, considering only 15 organizations will have the chance to run a firework (b) smaller organizations, ones not part of larger entities, can easily participate without paying hefty fees.
However, don’t get your hopes; the lottery for firework stands goes only to 15 organizations, with high school groups only being eligible for 5 of these 15. The other 2 categories, “Youth Sports” and “Civic Organizations” belong to groups outside of the school, with “Youth Sports” including “little league, ‘AYSO’ soccer, youth football, basketball, tennis, and golf”, and “Civic Organizations” simply holding the intent “[of] civic betterment… charitable… or religious purposes”. While competition in these areas seems fierce, the real battles will be waged among the school organizations, whereas the city basically shoved 2/3rds of the applicants into a single section, rather than giving equal opportunity.
This sums up to meaning many school organizations have to possibly size up to 500 others: and all in a random raffle, basically spelling out that the individual organization has a 0.2% chance. Of course, this assumes ALL school organizations sign up for the raffle, which is presumably unlikely. Regardless, the chances of your individual organizations making it through the cities raffle is slim at best.
There is, however, a solution that involves alignment; much like super PACS, organizations will have the chance to team up with each other to increase their odds. For instance, Football can team up with Soccer to double their odds at successfully winning a bid; of course, this implies the two organizations must split the profits, potentially making the entire appeal to standing around 4 days in a wood box selling explosives that much less attractive.
The war for the right to sell fireworks is coming; will you be the organization, like others, to net nearly $26,000 (before taxes, of course)? Good luck; we’re all going to need it.