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7 Council, School Officials Join Culver City Campaign : Fireworks Foes Launch Drive to Ban Sales

September 14, 1986|JEFF BURBANK | Times Staff Writer

Three Culver City councilmen and four school board members have formed a campaign committee opposed to Proposition K, a Nov. 4 ballot measure to continue fireworks sales in the city.

The No on Fireworks Committee, headed by Mayor Paul. A. Netzel and council members Paul A. Jacobs and Jozelle Smith, is apparently ahead of the pro-fireworks campaign, which organizers say is not off the ground yet.

"We don't have a committee yet. The Yes on K people are in total disarray," said Councilman Richard Alexander, a fireworks supporter. "It's early. The people for banning fireworks have always looked at the issue with more heat and emotion than (pro-fireworks) people. We represent the status quo."

Actually, representatives of two separate groups say they will work on behalf of Proposition K. Alexander and Councilman Richard Brundo will head one effort and the Pyrotronics Corp. and about a dozen veteran's groups in Culver City will run the other.

Paid Consultant

Fred Brookins of Pyrotronics, the Anaheim-based company that supplies fireworks for Culver City's annual sales, said their drive may include a paid political consultant and company salesmen serving as campaign workers.

Pyrotronics, which has been Culver City's sole supplier of fireworks since the 1960s, was founded and once headed by convicted political corruption figure W. Patrick Moriarty. He was convicted this year on mail fraud charges.

Jan Lawrence Handzlik, Moriarty's attorney, said his client still owns stock in the company, which markets Red Devil fireworks and is the state's top seller of legal fireworks.

The City Council in April decided to place the measure on the ballot after a proposal by Jacobs to ban the sale of state-approved "safe and sane" fireworks this year met with bitter opposition from veterans groups that use the proceeds to fund their activities.

Jacobs said the No on K campaign will emphasize the fire and personal-injury hazards of fireworks and point out that some "safe and sane" pyrotechnics can be made into illegal explosives. He said the city should be responsive to surrounding communities that do not allow fireworks but have mutual-aid agreements with their police and fire services.

Facts and Figures

"We'd like to be able to distribute information providing facts and figures as to why fireworks are dangerous, why they are counterproductive to the work we are doing with Los Angeles and other neighboring communities . . . that face the difficulty of maintaining safety with the fireworks we sell," he said.

Jacobs said that in a few weeks the committee will send out a mailer to about 13,000 households that have at least one registered voter. The letter will ask voters to contribute funds, to volunteer or to lend their names to a list of supporters, he said.

Culver City Board of Education members Dianne L. Pannone, Kay Lyou, Robert Knopf and Julie Lugo Cerra have joined the No on K campaign committee.

Pannone said she allowed the campaign to use her name after she and other community leaders received a letter asking for their support. She said, however, the support by board members does not mean that the board has endorsed the measure.

"It just happens that I and three other members have an interest in the issue," said Pannone. "I think that we've reached a point where we are concerned about safety, about fire safety. We are surrounded by communities where fireworks are illegal and we want to be good neighbors." Pannone said she may participate in the planning of a fund-raising event.

The No on K campaign has scheduled two fund-raisers: an Oct. 10 film screening offered by Lorimar-Telepictures at the MGM studio and an outdoor rally Oct. 26 at Veterans Memorial Park.

Jacobs said organizers decided to start early because they expect the Yes on K people to raise "a great deal of money" from fireworks suppliers.

"Unlike the proponents we don't anticipate any professional help," he said. "We don't anticipate any special-interest funding. We will be at a great disadvantage and hope that the . . . community will come forth and provide the help we need."

Alexander said the Yes on K campaign will rebut claims that "safe and sane" fireworks are being made into explosives. He also will dispute Jacobs' view that fireworks sales place a strain on mutual-aid agreements.

"I don't know a single case (in which) we have required mutual aid from them or vise versa, so I don't know how much strain that has caused," he said. "We just haven't had any serious fires or serious injuries due to legal fireworks."

Councilman Brundo, a fireworks supporter, said his organization would not seek funds from fireworks suppliers and will be "strictly a campaign for the residents of Culver City." He said his committee would operate separately from the one formed by Pyrotronics and the Culver City Veterans Coordinating Council, an umbrella group of a dozen city veterans groups and their ladies auxiliaries.

Harold Macbeth, who coordinates the distribution of proceeds from fireworks sales for the council and other nonprofit groups, said that his campaign organization has not been formed.

Brookins said Pyrotronics is interested in the campaign because it sells more fireworks in Culver City than anywhere else in the state. He said the company hired a professional consultant and used its salesmen to walk precincts during a fireworks initiative campaign in Lomita in April and may conduct a similar campaign in Culver City. He said he does not plan to discuss the overall campaign with Macbeth and the veterans groups for at least another week.

Lomita residents voted against the continued sales of fireworks and, based on that vote, the City Council voted to prohibit them.

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