June 23, 2018
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Fireworks Fizzle

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Spectators take in the Fourth of July fireworks on Bangor's waterfront last summer.

State lawmakers earlier this year passed a law allowing the sale and use of consumer fireworks in Maine. Already, several communities have said “no thanks” and are in the process of considering local ordinances banning fireworks use and sales.

Maine has a long tradition of local control so towns exercising their authority to void state rules is nothing new. But this law change was touted as a means to boost Maine’s economy. That rationale is seriously weakened when communities — especially the state’s largest — decide to keep fireworks illegal.

The city of Portland was among the first communities to consider restrictions and passed a citywide ban last month. In the last few weeks, the communities of Houlton, Augusta, Bangor, Bath, South Portland and Westbrook, among others, have initiated discussions about restrictions. Other communities, such as Rockland, are planning talks in the coming weeks.

The Bangor City Council is slated to vote on maintaining the city’s ban on fireworks Monday. The council voted 7-2 to continue to prohibit fireworks in the city in an initial vote earlier this month.

Councilor Nelson Durgin said he was not convinced allowing sales or use would lead to significant job creation.

“The number of jobs is difficult to determine. I think there would be few and they would be part time at best,” Durgin said. “What is clear is the cost of policing their use and the cost of injuries outweighs that potential benefit.”

According to a June report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks were involved in an estimated 8,600 injuries that were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments in 2010. This was about the same as the 8,800 fireworks-related injuries during 2009. Forty percent of the injuries were to children under 15, with burns being the most common injury. In cases the commission investigated, malfunctions — not misuse — were responsible for 62 percent of the injuries.

The fact that so many communities are rejecting the state law change should give lawmakers pause next time they propose controversial measures in the name of economic development. This is especially true when there are significant risks.

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