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Culver City Recasts Fireworks Measure

May 15, 1986|JEFF BURBANK | Times Staff Writer

A proposed law banning the sale and use of fireworks in Culver City next year was tabled Monday by the City Council, which then called for simplification of a measure it had already decided to put on the Nov. 4 ballot.

In a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Paul A. Jacobs dissenting, the council directed acting City Atty. Joseph W. Pannone to write a simply worded measure to allow residents to vote yes or no on so-called "safe and sane" fireworks.

The council on April 28 had voted to prepare a law banning fireworks in 1987. After that vote, one of the council members proposed a ballot measure that would have called for the reinstatment of the sales.

But Pannone advised the council to table the ban and not pursue that ballot measure, saying it was badly worded.

Monday, the council took his advice and called for a new ballot measure. Pannone said the tentative version states, "Shall an ordinance to permit the sale and use of fireworks within the city of Culver City be adopted?" If the measure passes, the council must adopt such an ordinance. If it is defeated, all five members have pledged to vote for a ban on fireworks sales.

"The only way to make the change is by a vote of the people," said Councilman Richard Brundo, who supports fireworks. "Councils come and go. I think this is an important enough issue that the voters of the city should make the decision--do we or don't we continue to sell fireworks."

"It's a tough one to call," said Paul A. Netzel, who is against fireworks sales. "I've heard some people say that a vote on this issue is a crap shoot." He said he hoped that putting it before the voters would remove the fireworks sales controversy from the political arena.

"We cannot have this issue continue to be brought to the council and have the council swing back and forth each year over (it)," he said. "I think there should be a decision that has some staying power."

Jacobs, whose motion to ban fireworks this year was defeated April 28, said the fact that a fireworks opponent, Jozelle Smith, recently unseated a fireworks proponent, A. Ronald Perkins, indicates that Culver City is against fireworks.

'Raises the Stakes'

"Putting it on the ballot raises the stakes and the significance of the subject far beyond what it should be. It will polarize the city," Jacobs said. "I believe it is the responsibility of the council to make the decision and we should not raise the stakes and the rhetoric beyond reason."

Fireworks, which have been sold in Culver City since the late 1930s, became an issue last year after a fire swept through the Baldwin Hills district July 2. Although there was no evidence that fireworks caused the blaze, Jacobs, a longtime opponent of fireworks, asked other members to call for an immediate ban. None agreed.

The fireworks industry considers Culver City its top market in the state, with reported annual sales of about $500,000. It is the only city on the Westside to sell the safe and sane fireworks, the only variety the state allows.

Source of Funds

Veterans and other nonprofit groups, which derive $50,000 a year from fireworks sales, have said a ban on fireworks would deprive them of a major source of funds for charitable activities in the community.

Netzel, now mayor, supported fireworks sales until last fall, when he joined Jacobs in favoring a ban. Last year, a council majority composed of Richard Alexander, Brundo and Perkins, favored fireworks. Smith, who has said she opposes fireworks and defeated Perkins last month, was regarded as the third vote against fireworks this year.

However, Smith opposed Jacobs' April 28 proposal to ban them this year, because, she said, it would be unfair to nonprofit groups that have based their annual budgets on fireworks sales.

A similar battle over fireworks sales took place recently in Lomita, where voters April 8 narrowly defeated an advisory measure to continue fireworks sales.

The vote, opposed by various nonprofit groups, was later sustained unanimously by the Lomita City Council, but pro-fireworks forces said they intend to put the issue before voters again in November.

The language of the Culver City ballot measure will be prepared and submitted to the council within the next two weeks, City Clerk Pauline C. Dolce said.

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