Fireworks issue raises broader questions for city
Just because you can restrict something, should you?
And, what's the best way for law enforcement officers to spend their time?
Those are some of the broader questions that should be answered by the City Council as it discusses the issue of tighter control of fireworks.
The council approved an ordinance on first reading Monday night that will place tighter time constraints on fireworks, as to how long and at what time of day they can be set off.
We can understand the reasoning behind the ordinance. Volunteer and paid firefighters spend way too much time responding to fires ignited by careless use of fireworks. Dispatchers and police officers spend far too many hours responding to noise complaints.
We've often used this space to advocate fewer private fireworks displays in favor of large community events.
But will tighter restrictions actually help? We can envision ne'er-do-wells setting off fireworks in one part of town as a diversion from more serious mischief.
And, is preventing the illegal ignition of lady fingers the best use of a well-equipped, highly trained law enforcement officer's time and the costly prosecution that results?
For that matter, we'd like to see an accounting of how much time is spent responding to and dealing with animal complaints. Listening to the scanner and reading the police log, it seems that far too much time and effort is spent investigating barking dog complaints and hauling stray animals to the shelter.
But what's the answer? Is it raising dogtag license fees to fund an animal control department?
Should fireworks fees help pay for the time firefighters and police officers spend dealing with the problems they cause?
Perhaps nothing needs to change.
But any discussion of new restrictions on citizen behavior should include some accounting of the cost of enforcement -- both in taxpayer dollars and in the loss of civil liberties.