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Fireworks Ban Faces Voter Test

Opponents succeed in forcing a March 2 referendum on Buena Park proposal.

November 27, 2003|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

Buena Park voters will have the final say over whether "safe and sane fireworks" can be sold within city limits following a petition drive by opponents of the proposed ban that forced the City Council to put the issue on the ballot.

The council voted 3 to 2 this year to ban fireworks in the interest of safety. But opponents succeeded in gathering enough signatures to block the ban, and this week, faced with the successful petition drive that called for a referendum, the council voted 5 to 0 to put it on the March 2 ballot.

The petition drive was led by the fireworks industry and nonprofit groups that rely on fireworks sales to raise funds, said City Clerk Shalice Reynoso.

There has been a heated debate over the sale of fireworks in the city since the death in 2002 of 9-year-old Xavier Morales, who was struck by a stray bullet during Independence Day celebrations at Boisseranc Park.

Despite a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, no one has been charged. Supporters of the ban said the boy's death was linked to fireworks, which they said encourage revelers to shoot guns in the air.

In a March appearance before the City Council, Police Chief Gary Hicken said Xavier was killed indirectly by fireworks and asked council members to support a fireworks ban.

Opponents of the ban rejected arguments that fireworks contributed to the boy's death. They argued that banning fireworks would only encourage residents to buy illegal fireworks.

Leaders of some nonprofit groups said it would take two years of bake sales to raise the amount of money from one week of fireworks sales.

Buena Park is one of five Orange County cities where state-sanctioned "safe and sane" fireworks can legally be sold. The others are Costa Mesa, Garden Grove, Santa Ana and Stanton.

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