COMMENTARY: On Tuesday at 9 a.m., at 845 N. Motel Blvd. in Las Cruces, the Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners will be voting on whether to approve an ordinance amending the current safe and sane fireworks ordinance. The proposal would allow “specialty retailers” to sell ground audible and aerial fireworks year round (currently prohibited by the county’s safe and sane fireworks ordinance). Supposedly, these fireworks would only be sold to non-Doña Ana County residents.
I am writing to ask that you email our five county commissioners to request that the current countywide safe and sane fireworks ordinance remain in effect as is, and that the commissioners who received big campaign contributions from the fireworks venders recuse themselves.
In emailing the commissioners (see the Las Cruces Sun-News article from March 14), please also request that Commissioner Solis and Commissioner Vasquez recuse themselves from this vote, since each received a campaign contribution of $2,500 from Bowlin Travel Centers, Inc., which is the specialty fireworks vendor who will benefit from an ordinance change and sell banned fireworks year round. This smacks of “pay for play” as Commissioner Garrett mentioned at the March 14 meeting.
Further, actual or the appearance of impropriety undermines public trust in our commission. It’s odd that the first method the commission considered to promote economic growth was increased fireworks sales.
Further, please attend Tuesday’s county commission meeting to speak and oppose the proposed amended ordinance and ask that two commissioners recuse themselves. At the March 14 commission meeting the vendors had eight people speaking in favor of amending the fireworks ordinance; there were only two people opposing. We need a robust turnout for Tuesday’s commission meeting.
The reasons to oppose the amendment to the ordinance are:
- Permitting more retailers to sell ground audible and aerial fireworks to non-county residents will not keep these fireworks from being used in Doña Ana County. The decrease in use of these fireworks from 2007 to now is a result of fewer vendors being permitted to sell these fireworks due to our current county safe and sane ordinance. While there are still violations of the ordinance, the reduced availability of these fireworks has resulted in their decreased use.
- Enforcing compliance and record checking by these specialty fireworks vendors will consume fire and law enforcement resources that are better spent elsewhere.
- The public is not requesting a change in the ordinance; the change is being requested by the fireworks vendors. The increased GRT revenue would be exceeded by the disturbance of the public peace, trash cleanup and fire, EMS and law enforcement costs.
- The public already has access to consumer fireworks. The current county ordinance permits many types of less dangerous fireworks available for purchase by the public (sparklers, toys, cones, fountains, wheels, etc.). In addition, there are safe and enjoyable public fireworks displays on July 4.
- The ground audible and aerial fireworks compromise public safety, causing fires, injuries and violations, all consuming public safety resources.
- Many residents are truly disturbed and suffer damage due to the loud ground and aerial fireworks, including individuals suffering from PTSD, the elderly, the young, those living near the fireworks, people’s pets, livestock, etc.
- Loosening the safe and sane fireworks ordinance will embolden the fireworks vendors to further modify and eventually again try to eliminate the safe and sane fireworks ordinance.
In 2005, the City of Las Cruces, and in 2007, Doña Ana County, passed ordinances outlawing ground audible (firecrackers, cherry bombs, etc.) and aerial fireworks (mines, shells, aerial explosive fireworks, etc.) for personal use. These were the so-called “safe and sane” fireworks regulations.
Note: eight categories of fireworks, such as sparklers, cones, fountains, etc., are not affected by safe and sane regulations and are available to the public.
Your email could be sent jointly to all commissioners advocating “do not modify our current safe and sane countywide fireworks regulations and recuse commissioners who received large campaign contributions from the vendors.” The sender’s street address and telephone number should be included in the email. The emails of all five commissioners and other contact information are here:
- District 1 Commissioner Billy G. Garrett: (575) 525-5808 (office), (575) 915-5755 (cell), [email protected]
- District 2 Commissioner Ramon S. Gonzalez: (575) 525-5804 (office), (575) 635-5212 (cell), [email protected]
- District 3 Commissioner Benjamin L. Rawson: (575) 525-5807 (office), (575) 644-4055 (cell), [email protected]anacounty.org
- District 4 Commissioner Isabella Solis: 575 525-5810 (office), 575 635-2479 (cell), [email protected]
- District 5 Commissioner John L. Vasquez: (575) 525-5809 (office), (575) 635-5146 (cell), [email protected]
If you need any further information, feel free to contact me at (575) 646-4827 or (575) 522-1372. I served on the county’s fireworks committee in 2006 and 2007 and advocated for safe and sane fireworks regulations. Earlier this year, the commission withdrew a proposal to completely eliminate the safe and sane fireworks ordinance due to input from the public. We can do it again.
Thanks very much.
William Corbett is a Las Cruces resident who has taught at New Mexico State University since 2001, primarily in the areas of criminal justice and government. He previously assisted on the committee that developed the first “safe and sane” fireworks ordinance implemented by the City of Las Cruces and then by Doña Ana County.