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OUR OPINION: It's time for a local fireworks review

OUR OPINION: It's time for a local fireworks review

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Led by members of the City Council, who make decisions about them, it's time for a community fireworks discussion. A post-July 4 review, if you will.

If we as a city can have a prolonged discussion stretching over many years about pit bulls, we should be able to devote some time before next year's Independence Day celebration to a conversation about fireworks.

This dialogue should produce answers to these questions: Should the city continue allowing discharge of fireworks or should it impose a ban as many of Iowa's larger cities have done? If the decision is to continue allowing them, what can be done to curb abuse of the rules?

In response to citizen complaints, some City Council members expressed concern at their June 22 meeting about discharge of fireworks outside the legal discharge times and days of 1 and 11 p.m. on July 3 and 4. Between June 1 and 29, The Journal reported in a June 30 story, several hundred fireworks complaints - an 80 percent increase in the number of complaints received in June 2019 - were made to the police department.

Clearly, frustration exists. Include us among those citizens frustrated by violations of the local fireworks ordinance, both in terms of when and where fireworks can be discharged.

No one possesses a constitutional right to discharge fireworks. It's a privilege, approved by the City Council. The law includes specific dates and times when use of fireworks is legal (no, the middle of June and the middle of the night aren't allowed) and limits on where discharge is permitted (no, the middle of a street isn't allowed).

In some fashion (a survey, a forum), the city should take input from citizens about fireworks, then proceed accordingly in preparation for next summer. If, in the end, members of the City Council do not want to pursue a ban, then we urge them to brainstorm with the police department on how to curb illegal fireworks activity. This strategy should include a no-tolerance position for those who don't play by the rules. If police officers witness or find evidence of fireworks discharge outside the allowed days, times or locations, the offender or offenders should be fined. Stiff fines in the hundreds of dollars exist - use them.

As we have said before, our view of legalized fireworks in Iowa is mixed. We understand both sides of this issue. We acknowledge support among Iowans for legalized fireworks and appreciate the economic benefits of capturing part of a business Iowa used to lose to border states (including Nebraska and South Dakota) each year, but we understand safety concerns and we sympathize with residents who don't want related noise, or worse, in their neighborhood. As a result, we weren't strong advocates for legalizing fireworks in our state, but we weren't opponents, either. Frankly, we would have been OK with either outcome.

The same holds true for us on discharge of fireworks within the city of Sioux City. We can take 'em or leave 'em. If this city is going to take 'em, though, it needs to find more effective ways of enforcing the ordinance.

Our Opinion editorials represent the consensus view of The Sioux City Journal editorial board. Members of the board include: Bruce Miller, editor; Michael Gors, editorial page editor; Dave Dreeszen; managing editor; Tim Hynds, chief photographer.

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