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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 5, 2010

We need more fireworks killjoys

By Lee Cataluna

Every year we go through the same cycle of holiday stories. In November, there's the "Numbers are up during tough times" story about the free Thanksgiving meals. No matter the economic circumstances, numbers are always up. Sadly it is never "Free Thanksgiving luncheon empty as community prospers."

Then comes the "Christmas tree with bad animal" story. Sometimes it's a mite or a bee. One year it was a snake. Every year somebody finds something. It wouldn't be Christmas in Hawai'i without a stowaway.

Next comes the "holiday shoppers crowding the malls but retailers still worried" story. The day after Christmas, it's the "shoppers crowding the malls the day after Christmas to hit the sales" story. Then comes the number of permits for fireworks story, followed by the accounting of sashimi prices for New Year's.

Which leads us to right where we find ourselves this week: The "Something has to be done about illegal fireworks" story.

Which will be a story every January until the end of time, not just in the media but around dinner tables and at neighborhood get-togethers. Because something really does have to be done about the illegal fireworks, but nothing ever will.

Witness poor state Rep. Mark Takai, who has tried six times to introduce a bill to ban fireworks except for public and cultural displays. None of his colleagues wants to be called a killjoy, especially in an election year.

This year, the legal but vexatious fireworks were completely overshadowed by brazen, incredibly dangerous professional-grade pyrotechnics going off in neighborhoods around O'ahu. You would think that in a recession, nobody would have money to burn, but lots of folks were burning it like mad. And not just on New Year's Eve, but every night from the end of October until now.

We don't need a new law to ban those already illegal aerials.

This year, police issued citations and made one arrest, which is a start in the right direction, but there were more than a couple of people setting off massive sky rockets. No suppliers were arrested, and citations aren't much of a deterrent.

Until there is a major fire that does heartbreaking damage, nothing will get done. You get the sense that public ire is up, but so is use of crazy illegal fireworks. Overall, there isn't the public will to change. Remember the 81-year-old woman killed in Pālolo when neighborhood fireworks ignited her house? That was New Year's 2000, and it has gotten exponentially more volatile since then. Yet people will vehemently (if anonymously) fight for their right to blow their hands off and set the community on fire to ring in a New Year.