In an editorial published two days after the July 4 Independence Day holiday, we said changes in our city's fireworks ordinance were, based on what we saw and heard ourselves and heard from other city residents, warranted. We suggested the City Council significantly shorten the window of 10 days during which residents can shoot off fireworks for the July 4 observance.
So we support action taken by the council on Monday.
The council voted 5-0 on first reading in support of an amendment to the fireworks ordinance under which residents would be allowed to discharge fireworks only on July 3 and 4, as well as on New Year's Eve. Under the proposed ordinance change, residents could discharge fireworks on private property from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. on both July 3 and 4 and from 1 p.m. on Dec. 31 to 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 1. The ordinance must pass two additional readings.
Along with the change to the ordinance, we support and urge the following with respect to local discharge of fireworks moving forward:
* Beefed-up enforcement of the fireworks ordinance by police. By beefed-up enforcement, we mean a no-tolerance policy toward fireworks offenders. In other words, no warnings. You violate the fireworks ordinance, you get a citation and fine. The police department should publicize its get-tougher approach prior to affected holidays. Sometimes, the simple act by law enforcement of telling the public it intends to crack down harder on something can have a positive impact.
* Embrace of greater personal responsibility by individual citizens. That includes communicating with and extending courtesy to neighbors, practicing safety, not discharging fireworks on public property, only discharging fireworks during the time frame allowed by the local ordinance and cleaning up. No one possesses a constitutional right to shoot off fireworks. It's a privilege city leaders can rescind. In fact, the cities of Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Iowa City ban fireworks discharge.
As we have said before in this space, our view of legalized fireworks is mixed. We understand both sides of this discussion.
We acknowledge majority support for legalized fireworks among Iowans and appreciate the economic benefits of capturing part of a business Iowa loses to border states (including Nebraska and South Dakota) each year, but we sympathize with residents who want their neighborhoods free of them.
As a community, we should strive to strike a proper balance between supporters and opponents of fireworks. In our view, this proposed ordinance amendment is a positive step in that direction.