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Fireworks Debate Is an Argument Over Image

September 21, 1986|JEFF BURBANK | Times Staff Writer

Do residents of Culver City want to hold on to their "small-town image and old-fashioned values" by selling fireworks or do they want their city criticized as the "fireworks capital of Southern California?"

This is one of the questions posed by the writers of ballot arguments on both sides of Proposition K, the Nov. 4 initiative that would continue the sale of fireworks in the city.

Backers are trying to convince voters that the city must remain independent from its neighbor, the city of Los Angeles, which banned fireworks in 1942.

"Let us not be intimidated by the city of Los Angeles," Councilmen Richard Alexander and Richard Brundo and former Councilman Edward Little wrote in their ballot arguments. "We are an independent charter city. Let us keep our small-town image and old-fashioned values that make Culver City such a great place to live.

"Fireworks have long been a tradition in Culver City. Generations of our families have celebrated our nation's birthday together."

Opponents, including Mayor Paul A. Netzel and council members Paul A. Jacobs and Jozelle Smith, stated that fireworks sales are a relic of the past and cause strained relations with neighboring cites that do not allow their use.

"The city and county of Los Angeles and other neighboring cities have outlawed the sale and use of fireworks. Yet, Culver City continues to be a major fireworks supplier to residents of those areas. Indeed, our town has been referred to as the 'fireworks capital of Southern California,' " opponents stated.

They asserted: "We are amazed by the suggestion that Culver City is being intimidated by Los Angeles. . . . Dreaming of Independence Days past in a small town is wonderfully nostalgic. It is also dangerously out of date."

Brundo, who supports the measure, said the city has been intimidated by the Los Angeles Fire Department that directed a publicity campaign against fireworks sales in Culver City and other nearby towns. In June, the department placed banners announcing that "All Fireworks Are Illegal" at intersections near city borders. Alexander said that he wants city voters to realize they can have their own law governing fireworks whether their neighbors agree with it or not.

"People have the choice to come to a (fireworks) display or go in their front lawn and shoot off ("safe and sane") fireworks. Many do both," he said. "There are a lot of reasons we are different from LA. The point is we are not L.A."

Smith said the opponents of the measure are trying to convince voters that the city has grown significantly and is more congested since fireworks became legal in Culver City in 1931. The city's population has risen from 8,000 then to 40,000 today, the argument states.

"We have to face the fact that as much as we'd like to be the same town of old, we are surrounded by a huge metropolis and there are dangers to selling fireworks to out-of-towners that didn't exist before," Smith said.

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