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    Proposed Lakewood Fireworks Ban Begets Big Ballot Battle

    (Oct. 29, 2006) -- Some Lakewood homeowners still bristle over what happened on the morning of March 5, 2006 when an explosion, attributed to illegal pyrotechnic materials, tore through a rented house on Dunrobin Ave., damaging nearby homes and vehicles and felt as far away as LBCC and western El Dorado Park.

    The result was the launch of a taxpayer-oriented watchdog group -- the "Lakewood Accountability & Action Group" (LAAG) -- along with a cutting-edge informational website for LAAG -- -- headlined "Demanding Action And Accountability From Local Government."

    LAAG's website quickly became a source of detailed information on the prosecution of the Dunrobin Ave. house renter for his actions with illegal pyrotechnics. The reports provided coverage of pre-trial and trial developments.

    Meanwhile, LAAG also delivered a polite but firm message to the Lakewood City Council: take action to stop the sale of "safe and sane" fireworks in Lakewood or face consequences at the ballot box.
    Screen capture from City of Lakewood Council webcast [endorsement not implied]

    The proposed ban hit like cold water on a hot pan.

    Representatives of multiple childrens' sports teams and civic groups -- which raise money from the sale of "safe and sane" [State Fire Marshal allowed] fireworks -- turned out in force....and spoke in favor of permitting the continued sale of state-allowed fireworks. The Lakewood Council ultimately voted 5-0 to put the political hot potato on the ballot.

    Lakewood is among a minority of L.A. County incorporated cities that allow the seasonal sale and use of "safe and sane" fireworks. Measure D, which would add Lakewood to the list of cities banning their sale and use, stems largely from Mr. Hansen's grassroots advocacy and LAAG's rise as a neighborhood force.

    The issue has now turned the quiet, LB-adjacent bedroom community into ground zero for an opposition campaign funded primarily by a major fireworks distributor.

    Campaign finance reports show "American Promotional Events, Inc., dba TNT Fireworks," officed in Fullerton, has as of Oct. 21 poured $40,000 in cash into a campaign to defeat Lakewood Measure D. (The only other reported cash contribution as of Oct 21. is from the Lakewood Lions Club...for $250).

    The funding supported "Citizens for a Safe Fourth of July -- No on Measure D -- a coalition of Lakewood non profit organizations and residents, with major funding by TNT Fireworks," and campaign reports indicate money was spent on opposition campaign materials and slate mailers (listing ballot recommendations).

    A recent opposition mailing said in part, "Don't Turn the 4th of July Into A Crime" and charged Prop D "robs over $300,000 in annual funding from 28 local, non-profit community groups. Funding that has been the backbone of youth, civic and senior programs will disappear overnight."

    A LAAG organizer dismisses the argument: "Civic groups don't justify selling cigarettes to raise money," he says, noting that cigarettes are also lawful in Lakewood for those 18 and older. "The point is: non-profit groups in other cities raise money without selling fireworks. Lakewood groups could and should do the same."

    "Safe and sane" fireworks weren't implicated in the Dunrobin explosion, and advocates of "safe and sane" fireworks oppose the use of illegal fireworks, but LAAG and others have argued that by allowing legal fireworks sales in Lakewood, the city has effectively made itself a magnet for illegal fireworks activities.

    Although adjacent LB voters can't vote on Measure D, their Lakewood neighbors can...and the outcome could arguably affect LB neighborhoods...where all fireworks are illegal but are heard and seen each year. The result creates law enforcement costs for LB taxpayers...and several years ago those costs reached the point where LB's City Council passed a resolution urging a statewide ban on all "safe and sane" fireworks.

    Regardless of how the votes go on Measure D, LAAG's activities will continue. "We're here to stay and we're not going away," an organizer says.

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