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Lathrop makes it legal to use Safe & Sane fireworks for Fourth of July

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POSTED May 4, 2010 3:03 a.m.
LATHROP – Lathrop councilman Christopher Mateo stubbornly dug in his heels. But no amount of “ranting and raving,” as he described his opposition to Safe and Sane Fireworks, stopped the will of the majority.

There will be Safe and Sane Fireworks on sale for the Fourth of July celebration this year. While Mateo responded, “emphatically No” during Tuesday night’s council roll call, he was outvoted by Mayor Kristy Sayles, Vice Mayor Martha Salcedo and Council member Sonny Dhaliwal who all said yes to a change in the municipal ordinance that will allow the sale of Safe and Sane Fireworks within the city limits.

A lottery process will be used to select the four nonprofit groups that will be allowed to have a fireworks booth “to keep the process fair,” the mayor said. Her comment was echoed by both Salcedo and Dhaliwal. There are six available permits to give away, but two additional permits have been reserved – one for the city, specifically, the Lathrop Days Committee, and the other for the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District. Those who are selected via the lottery process the first year will be allowed to be selected for two consecutive years but not for a third year in a row. Fees charged will be $350 per group, which is comparable to what is being charged by Manteca and Turlock.

The new ordinance also will specify that fireworks use will be allowed up to 10 p.m. only and not 11 p.m. as originally proposed. That change was in response to a request made by Dhaliwal on behalf of residents who may be asleep by that time because they have to go to work early.

“Some people, especially those who work in the Bay Area, have to get up at 3 o’clock or 4 o’clock in the morning,” said Dhaliwal who, along with his wife, also commute to their jobs in San Jose.

Nonprofit groups applying for permits to sell Safe and Sane Fireworks must be able to show proof of tax exemption generally known as 501 (c) (3). If it’s an organization affiliated with a school that serves the residents of Lathrop, that group must be located within the city’s incorporated boundaries.

The discussion, at one point, turned to semantics when Mateo quizzed Lathrop-Manteca Fire District Chief Fred Manding on the definition of the words “fire” and “fireworks” to establish his premise on the dangers of fireworks. He then referred to the Webster dictionary’s definition of fireworks to establish his point that “all fireworks do explode, so, therefore, there’s no ‘safe and sane’ fireworks.”

Based on that argument, he added that it’s ironic for adults to, “on one hand tell (their children) not to play with fire, and on the other hand you tell them to play with fireworks. It’s unsafe and insane to play with fire.”

“I respectfully disagree with some of the things that Mr. Mateo said,” the vice mayor said, but that she believes the new ordinance legalizing the sale of safe and sane fireworks will “tell kids that we’re doing something legal.”

Dhaliwal said he also respected Mateo’s position but that he saw things in a different way.

“Mateo is a dear friend of mine. I always respected him, but I disagree with him on one thing – all fireworks don’t explode,” he said, referring to part of the staff’s report that explained that.

“I appreciate your fervor and I appreciate your concerns,” the mayor also told Mateo. “I think this is a good start for the ordinance. We don’t always agree, and that’s OK. As Mr. Dhaliwal said, we’re family – sometimes we agree, and sometimes we don’t.”

The mayor also reminded Mateo that the idea for Safe and Sane Fireworks came as a directive from the council during earlier discussions on how to improve the quality of life in Lathrop.

One resident, Yvette Sharifnejad, supported the sale of fireworks.

“I appreciate not to go to Manteca (to buy fireworks) and stay in Lathrop,” she said.

“What this boils down to is parent responsibility. I have a gas stove; I could get burned easily. We need to be responsible. If I choose to buy Safe and Sane fireworks, I’m responsible for my child and for their actions. You, as parents, should be responsible for your child’s actions. Have water and a fire extinguisher. We’ve always done (Safe and Sane fireworks) for years,” Sharifnejad said.

Resident Tony Martin also reiterated during the discussion his opposition to the proposal based on his concern about the adverse effects of fireworks on pets.

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