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    Lakewood Mayor Esquivel Calls Special Council Meeting Tonight (Mar. 21) To Consider June Special Election On Fireworks Moratorium

    (March 21, 2006) -- With the Lakewood City Council careening toward a polarizing March 28 agenda item proposing a one year moratorium on state-allowed "safe and sane" fireworks, Lakewood Mayor Joseph Esquivel has called a special City Council meeting tonight (March 21) to consider putting the issue to Lakewood voters in a special June election.

    "Based on the overwhelming number of telephone calls and personal contacts I have received concerning the sale and use of "safe and sane" fireworks -- and in light of the potential impact on Lakewood community organizations that depend on fireworks sale income, I believe that the proposal by the City Council Public Safety Committee for a one-year moratorium on fireworks sales and use requires all interested residents to be heard, all points of view to be considered carefully, and this issue to be resolved by the most effective means possible," Mayor Esquivel says in a statement posted on Lakewood City Hall's website.

    "Consequently, I am signing today [Monday, March 20] the required notice calling a special Lakewood City Council meeting for 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21 in the City Council Chambers (5000 Clark Avenue) to consider the scheduling of a special municipal election that would be held on either on Tuesday, June 20 or Tuesday, June 27."

    Mayor Esquivel's statement continues:

    An election would permit Lakewood voters to decide if the sale, possession, and discharge of currently legal "safe and sane" fireworks should be banned or continued.

    The deadline for placing municipal measures on the June 6 statewide primary election ballot passed on March 10. Therefore, a special city council meeting is required if we are to schedule a municipal election before the Independence Day weekend of 2006.

    Under state law, a special municipal election requires a minimum of 88 days advance public notice that a special municipal election has been called. This deadline would pass (preventing the voters from acting this year) if we waited until the next regular meeting of the city council on Tuesday, March 28.

    I believe this issue should be resolved without delay. I also believe the entire city council recognizes that Lakewood voters must be heard on this issue and in the most representative way possible -- through a citywide election that allows the participation of every Lakewood voter.

    As a practical matter, I am convinced that if the city council does not schedule a special election, those who favor the continuation of fireworks sales would force a referendum election on the proposed one-year moratorium in Lakewood. Proponents of fireworks have made a similar referendum necessary in Artesia.

    The city attorney advises me that if the city council schedules a June special election, city staff should immediately proceed with processing fireworks sales applications from community organizations under the current city law permitting their sale, but only on a conditional basis pending the outcome of the special election.

    As everyone realizes, the scheduling of an election does not mean that fireworks have been banned. Only the voters of Lakewood will determine if fireworks will be sold or if they will be banned.

    Also, everyone realizes that banning the sale and use of "safe and sane" fireworks will not automatically eliminate their use. Nor will a Lakewood ban on "safe and sane" fireworks end the use of illegal fireworks that have been outlawed for many decades.

    Lakewood residents and visitors will have to actively abide by the law, if fireworks are banned, since no ban can be effective if it is widely ignored or if Lakewood residents do not support and assist active enforcement of the ban.

    On March 14, faced with a standing-room only Council crowd following an explosion at a home on Dunrobin Ave. allegedly involving illegal fireworks, the Lakewood City Council voted 5-0 on an item unveiled on an emergency basis by a Council committee to direct preparation of an ordinance creating a one year moratorium on sale, use, possession of "safe and sane" fireworks. The proposed ordinance was scheduled for a politically incendiary Council discussion and action on March 28...and Mayor Esquivel's convening of a special meeting tonight (March 21) to put the issue to voters may redirect some of the fallout away from Lakewood Councilmembers...who found confronting two polarized groups of Lakewood voters.

    Members of a newly formed Lakewood Action & Accountability Group (LAAG) supported the moratorium...while multiple civic groups and sports teams (tipped to the ordinance's preparation) showed up in force to argue against it.

    Little League teams and civic groups argued that imposing a fireworks moratorium now would blindside them and cripple their annual fundraising. Some publicly sought a taxpayer subsidy to defray their losses resulting from a moratorium. Others contended a moratorium on legal fireworks had no connection with use of illegal fireworks in Lakewood.

    On the other side was LAAG, which noted that sports and civic teams flourish in other cities without selling fireworks...and asked rhetorically if selling cigarettes would be acceptable to groups that insisted on continuing to sell legal fireworks. It argued that legal fireworks had effectively invited the use of illegal fireworks in Lakewood, costing Lakewood taxpayers major sums for enforcement inadequate at present levels.

    Artesia, Bellflower, Lakewood, and Paramount (cities all served by the Lakewood Sheriff’s Station) permit the sale and use of "safe and sane" fireworks. Artesia City Hall has scheduled a June 6 election to determine if fireworks in that community will be banned.

    "Safe and sane" fireworks (and all fireworks) are illegal in Long Beach...and LBPD/LBFD and LB city management have blamed the sale of state-allowed fireworks in surrounding cities for LB's costly, annual tsunami of fireworks-related calls for service in and around July 4th. In 2004, LB Councilmembers were so angry about the annual costs,that they passed a resolution urging state lawmakers to ban current state-allowed "safe and sane" fireworks statewide.

    LAAG urged Lakewood taxpayers not to let Councilmembers "pass the buck" by only blaming Sheriffs (criticized failing to respond more aggressively to residents' complaints about alleged activity at the Dunrobin residence prior to the explosion), noting that Councilmembers themselves (who vote to pay the Sheriffs) and Lakewood city management did little or no follow-through on residents' complaints beyond passing them to the Sheriff.

    Tonight's Lakewood City Council meeting begins at 5:00 p.m. at Lakewood City Hall (east side of Clark Ave., north of library between Del Amo and Candlewood)

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