Communities in the Cedar Valley are still struggling with the issue of legalized fireworks.
That’s not a bad thing. Taking the time to determine the most palatable course for the greatest number of residents for future years is a better approach than knee-jerk reactions.
That’s what happened in Cedar Falls, where council members voted earlier this month to implement a fireworks ban in the city after allowing them for a nearly five-week span this year.
On Aug. 21, after hearing from residents, council members reversed that decision and voted 4-3 against drafting an ordinance to ban fireworks. The council then voted 6-1 to send the matter back to committee for more discussion.
Council members took the votes after listening to arguments from residents on both sides of the issue.
“I’m a little conflicted myself,” said Councilman Frank Darrah. “I’d love to ban fireworks. For me, that’s the bottom line. But I also heard a lot of really good ideas tonight. ... I also want to be respectful of individuals in our community who are responsible users.”
Many residents had complained about weeks of noise and debris from fireworks in June and July, disturbing pets and veterans with post-traumatic stress. Others said an outright ban is excessive and favored limiting the time fireworks could be discharged.
We stick with our previous opinion — stated prior to the initial Cedar Falls ban vote — that the long time frame of legalized fireworks was, by far, the biggest problem.
The Legislature legalized the sale and use of consumer fireworks this year for the first time in 80 years, allowing them to be shot off on private property from June 1 through July 8 and again from Dec. 10 through Jan. 3. But cities can adopt more restrictive usage times.
In Cedar Falls, five weeks of legalized fireworks over June and July turned out to be overkill.
In Waterloo, councilmen voted 6-1 in May to only allow fireworks use from June 30 through July 4 – a much shorter and more practical time frame than the initial Cedar Falls regulations.
Even so, future fireworks use in Waterloo also is up in the air. A proposal narrowly endorsed by a Waterloo City Council subcommittee Monday would limit legalized fireworks to the Fourth of July.
Some residents there have pushed since for a total ban, calling fireworks a nuisance, while supporters have pushed back with calls to continue them.
Many fireworks proponents have used Fourth of July celebrations to back their arguments. Vietnam veteran and local businessman Greg Saul said the right to discharge fireworks is one of the freedoms he fought for.
“I support fireworks, and I think 80 percent of the veterans do. Let freedom ring, and let Cedar Falls celebrate, like most of the rest of the country, the Fourth of July.”
Yes, we support the ability to celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks. It’s a longtime American tradition. But there’s no reason to celebrate the Fourth of July on June 1, or even June 30. People setting off fireworks in city neighborhoods in early June aren’t celebrating Independence Day.
The Fourth of July is still a deeply meaningful holiday for a lot of people. Frankly, we believe that long of a window for legal fireworks cheapens the actual holiday, a special day with the special privileges of setting off fireworks in celebration.
The practical compromise here is legalizing fireworks only on (and possibly closely around) the actual Fourth of July holiday.