Letter: Did one councilman have a fireworks flip flop?

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To the editor,
Although the April 2 meeting of the City Council was dominated by 90 minutes of public comment on the same-sex marriage resolution, the Council members also addressed other issues that night. One was an ordinance to overturn the existing ban on fireworks sales from tents.
You may recall that last June an ordinance was pushed through that prohibited the sale of fireworks in the city anywhere other than from permanent buildings, preferably vacant storefronts, effective July 6, 2012.
The stated reasons behind last year’s ordinance were threefold: first, that selling fireworks from tents was a significant safety hazard; second, that we should “keep the money local;” and third, that we should support local commercial property owners by encouraging vendors to lease empty storefronts during fireworks season.
There was no testimony last year to support any of these assertions; in fact, all the testimony was to the contrary. Despite veiled warnings that “there had been problems in the past,” fire safety officials presented no evidence to that effect. “Keeping the money local” was already happening, both through seasonal part-time employment for local residents and through lucrative leasing arrangements with local business property owners. Renting vacant storefronts had in fact been tried, unfortunately with miserable results. Yet, despite all this, the ordinance was passed.
Curiously, the same Councilperson who proposed the ban last year also proposed its repeal this year. He proposed the repeal, he said, because of the harm the ban would cause to the local economy.  Was he not paying attention last year when the overwhelming evidence showed that that’s exactly what would happen?
In any event, the ban has been overturned. Whatever motivated this Councilperson’s change of heart, I’m glad that this ill-conceived ordinance has been repealed. But he could have saved a whole lot of people a whole lot of needless frustration and anxiety if he had left well enough alone in the first place.
Candy Seel
East Providence

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