When the 4th of July rolls around again, Traverse City residents may be able to look forward to just three nights in the war zone.
The city commission, with just a single dissenting voice, has directed city staff to draft an ordinance banning the use of consumer fireworks recently legalized by state lawmakers on all but national holidays or the day before or after the holiday. Local municipalities can prohibit the bigger fireworks the rest of the year.
The ban would not include low-impact fireworks that were legal before the Legislature, in a boys-will-be-boys mood, legalized the more heavy-duty boomers Michigan residents have for years smuggled in from other states.
Passage of the new law was a classic case of lawmakers who cared more about being called out by the pro-fireworks crowd than about public policy and the possible ramifications of the new law. Despite warnings from police, medical folks and those who understood that once the door was open there was no closing it, lawmakers gave it an overwhelming "yes."
Starting as much as a week before the 4th, however, local police across the state — including Traverse City — were overwhelmed by callers complaining that neighbors were setting off the new, more powerful fireworks at all hours of the day and night with no respect for noise ordinances or common sense.
Some downstate municipalities passed ordinances limiting the bigger fireworks within days of the holiday. Some said they planed to ban sales of the new stuff from temporary stands, others did what Traverse City is proposing to do by limiting what days the fireworks can be set off. In general, there were as many explosions inside city halls across the state as there were outside after dark.
Traverse City wants to do what it can within the limits of the new law, which essentially says a municipality cannot ban the use of fireworks on national holidays or the day before or after the holiday, but can prohibit fireworks the rest of the year.
The city wisely banned the use of fireworks in city parks and beaches before the summer began, but declined to take any other action. The commission and city staff expected fireworks use to center around the Fourth of July week and the Cherry Festival; but as anybody who has seen what a Roman candle can do to a normally sane and sober 35-year-old already knew, there were essentially no limits.
Commissioners considered regulating the time of day the city allows would allow fireworks but decided it would be difficult to enforce. For now, the city will limit bigger fireworks to holidays and the day before and after. That's a start.