City of Sebastopol to reconsider fireworks ban

One of the “silver linings” of the pandemic is an expanded interest in gardening during the last year spent at home. As Spring approaches, Master Gardeners and novices alike hope to green up our earth with veggie plots, flowers, fruit trees, and more. Challenged to keep up with new demand, local nurseries hustle to re-stock more frequently.

Optimistic that the vaccine will open up our world, we look forward to enjoying former activities, like dining out and traveling. We anticipate popping our small bubbles, moving freely again, and delighting in old favorite events, like Peacetown.

“I am looking to starting up a few Peacetown concerts from July 7th through August 25th. Obviously, we will be making changes to accommodate CDC safety measures...I need to make preparations [in case] we can do concerts [because] I know everyone is ‘hot to trot’ and dance, so long as we can do so safely,” Jim Corbett enthuses as he investigates the possibilities for live music.

Carmen Snyder at Farm Trails propose a “bite-sized” Gravenstein Apple Fair at Ragle Ranch Park on August 14, with two options for public engagement. First, park-and-walk-up (or perhaps pull into loading zones) to shop for bulk apples, apple products and fair food to go. Second, by advanced ticket purchase only, a socially distanced, time-limited, 90-minute, reserved-seating experience within an enclosed area of the park. Attendees could purchase food, drinks, apple products, and curated crafts, while enjoying live music. Seating would be in a reserved spot at various prices: in a picnic blanket area, on straw bales, or at tables. All activity would adhere to the pandemic protocols at the time.

As our spirits lift, they also fall, in the face of evidence of our systemic racism and hate. On March 18, the nine Mayors of Sonoma County, including Sebastopol’s Una Glass, issued this statement in response to racial epithets directed toward Rohnert Park’s Vice Mayor Jackie Elward:

“Sonoma County Mayors value the diversity of our residents and our elected officials who represent them and acknowledge that our diversity is critical to our collective cities’ cultural, social, and economic well-being. The Mayors of Sonoma County remain resolute in a collective commitment to condemn racism, discrimination, and all forms of hatred, none of which will be tolerated in our cities. We condemn all threats and racist behavior used as weapons to intimidate any member of our community including our locally elected officials.

Sonoma County Mayors stand with our community of Sonoma County, in particular our Black, Hispanic/Latinx, Indigenous and Asian community members and residents as well as members of our LGBTQI community. We stand in opposition to any and all racism in our cities. As leaders we are committed to supporting an inclusive community in Sonoma County grounded in equity, empathy, and justice.”

The vitriolic remarks spewed on Vice Mayor Elward were allegedly based upon her vote to ban the sale and use of fireworks.

The fireworks issue will return to the Sebastopol City Council in April. The Council’s last vote denied the use permits for three booths selling fireworks to raise funds for the Sea Serpents Swim Team, the Veterans’ group, and Lions Club. The vote was not a permanent ban. Will these groups re-apply or have they pivoted — a necessary response during COVID — and found other ways to make money?

Here are some arguments against that I’ve heard so far:

  • We now live with a “fire season” that extends from July 1 to January 1, according to some experts.
  • Lives and property are lost due to fireworks.
  • Firefighters are injured combatting the fires caused by fireworks.
  • There’s no guarantee that fireworks will be used responsibly.
  • If available for purchase in Sebastopol, those fireworks will be used elsewhere in the County where they’ve been made illegal.
  • Fireworks produce toxic air.
  • Fireworks pollute our waterways with hazardous materials.
  • Fireworks trigger PTSD in veterans and fire victims.
  • Fireworks terrify pets.
  • Fireworks create clean-up and disposal issues because they’re used on streets and in big parking lots, on both public and private property.

Let the Council know your thoughts via mgourley@cityofsebastopol.org. Put “fireworks” in the subject line.

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