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Councilman raises safety issue over fireworks
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LATHROP – Lathrop City Council member Christopher Mateo believes that just because Manteca has been conducting successful Safe and Sane Fireworks in conjunction with the annual Fourth of July celebration, Lathrop should also follow suit.

His main beef: the safety issue.

“My top priority as an elected official is to preserve life and limbs of each and every citizen of the community,” he said in an impassioned speech delivered during the discussion on introducing a Safe and Sane Fireworks around the Fourth of July as a fund-raising vehicle for nonprofit organizations in the city.

The presence of “even a minute risk” would end the discussion as far as he is concerned; “the argument is over,” he said.

And that’s not even mentioning fire losses caused by fireworks, he added.

“If I’m going to err, I’ll err on the side of safety,” said the retired postal worker-turned politician.

He did not stop there as he rattled off the reasons why he is opposed to the idea of a Safe and Sane Fireworks program in the city.

While it has been proven in other cities such as Manteca that this program will help solve the problem of raising money for nonprofit organizations in the community, he argued that if that were the case, “why don’t we go ahead and legalize the sale of medical marijuana…, or legalize prostitution?”

Government is “not all about spending money; we have a moral and ethical obligation” to the citizens of Lathrop, he continued.

Lathrop has often been referred to as “Manteca’s stepsister,” he said. They can choose to not follow Manteca’s example, “if you want to rise above that,” he explained.

“I don’t want to be just following the footsteps of Manteca, or Tracy and Stockton,” Mateo said.

He also said he finds it “repulsive” that the council should be taking action on repealing an ordinance that has been put in place.

One of the steps involved in allowing the sale of Safe and Sane Fireworks within the incorporated city is to repeal Chapter 8.12 of the municipal code and replace it with a new one that would legalize such sales from June 28 to July 4.

At least one of the residents who made a comment on the fireworks sale proposal voiced his “dissension” from the majority who clearly approved of this type of fund-raiser.

He is against selling fireworks “not because of the nonprofit organizations… but simply because the original ordinance said no to fireworks,” said resident Tony Martin.

“Keep in mind, fireworks are explosives,” and should there be accidents as a result, “you have to pay for the consequences,” he told the three council members present. Council member Sonny Dhaliwal was absent. Fifth council member Robert Oliver resigned in mid-March.

“The original ordinance probably was set because of public safety,” Martin pointed out.

His other reason for opposing legalized fireworks in the city involves pets.

“We own pets, and fireworks will stress them out,” he said. What happens to them when they are exposed to fireworks “is almost akin to animal cruelty.”

Not only that, Martin said. Mitigating that effect on pets translates to out-of-pocket expenses for pet owners when they go to the veterinarian to get tranquilizers for the animals, he said.

It was that comment that Mateo piggy-backed on when he said he would rather err on the side of safety.

The discussion and a vote on the proposed change to municipal code and approval of the Safe and Sane Fireworks will be continued at the May 1 council meeting.

The Lathrop-Manteca Fire District is the lead agency in getting the ordinance changed to allow Safe and Sane Fireworks in the city for the first time this year.