The grumblings have already started.
uDoesn’t the city have better things to do?
uI’ll do what I want on my property.
Those three comments — one in an email and the others during a spirited conversation overheard at InShape — are in response to the spreading of the word that Manteca is stepping up its efforts to curb the use of illegal fireworks not just in the week leading up to the Fourth of July but year round.
The new “social host” ordinance essentially requires just identifying what property illegal fireworks are discharged from and then tracking down who controls it whether it is owner occupied or rented. That in itself is a major change as opposed to the need to positively identify and witness who lights the illegal fireworks.
But what really has some folks’ dander up is the handy free app “Nail ‘Em” that — if followed and is forwarded to the Manteca Fire Marshal at firstname.lastname@example.org along with contact information from the person filing the data showing they are willing to confirm its collection — has an extremely high odds of nailing those who wantonly break not just local law but state law as well.
A late 20-ish guy contended it’s an abuse of technology to turn people into snitches. News flash. It’s an abuse of technology to knowingly order fireworks illegally California and have them shipped to your home. It’s fighting fire with fire.
Also please refrain from saying it’s un-American.
How is it American to launch devices capable of raining red hot embers down on your neighbor’s yard and roof?
How is it American to trigger PSTD in war veterans?
How is it American to terrorize dogs and jar people from their slumbers?
You can access Safe and Sane fireworks. If they don’t thrill you enough, get airborne, or fail to make enough noise live with it.
But don’t try to make not being able to have something that is illegal and using it is somehow undermining the Bill of Rights.
To those who argue, “it is my property”, consider this: The noise and fire hazards you are creating by using illegal devices is not staying contained within your yard.
Judicial precedent and common sense dictate that rights are not absolute. They can’t be. There are 325 million of us. And unless we buy own island and live completely self-contained not even infringing negatively on natural resources such as the air and water, all rights are conditioned.
It’s the old “you-can’t-yell-fire-in-a-crowded-theater” judicial argument when there is no fire danger that clearly illustrates a reckless use of a right that had to be reined in for the common good as it clearly compromises health and safety. That in turn essentially has the yahoo yelling “fire” for no justifiable reason except the contention he has the right to free speech severely undermining the rights of others.
The same is true with property rights. The use of illegal fireworks clearly has consequences that extend far beyond the edges of your property.
The people against illegal fireworks that put pressure on the City Council to act are not the killjoys nor or the elected leaders that put the new ordinance in place. The real killjoys are those who for years have put their own self-gratification above the rest of the community.
I know of a couple just east of Manteca that for years have been forced to stay at home the Fourth of July weekend and spend their evenings and the wee hours of the morning with hoses ready. It is because off and on for the past decade or so someone in the vicinity of Joshua Cowell School has put on an aerial show using illegal fireworks that rivals the city’s aerial extravaganza.
The couple considers themselves lucky as they have yet to have anything burn on their “hobby farm.”
Rest assured if the responsible parties get snagged by someone using the free “Nail ‘Em” app they won’t be shedding any tears.
Given the results in other cities that have switched to the social host ordinance and did not have benefit of the “Nail ‘Em” app that debuted this year, there’s a good chance anywhere from 20 to 40 people in Manteca will be facing fines starting at $750 in the weeks following this weekend as authorities sort through what information they collect on violators as well as what is sent to them via use of the app.
And there’s a strong possibility those who launch illegal fireworks five nights in a row could end up with the $750 fine for the first offense and $1,000 per incident thereafter for a $4,750 tab.
Given there is no grace period, the whining will go like this: “I didn’t know.”
Aside from the city’s publicity blitz, anyone buying illegal fireworks knows they are illegal to begin with.
So go ahead and roll the dice. Have your illegal fun and torment your neighbors. But a month from now as you’re paying the piper you can enjoy covering the cost of your self-centered behavior.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.