By Roz Rogoff
FireworksUploaded: Feb 16, 2012
I was told in 2010 by someone on City Staff that the city was considering dropping the fireworks show to save money. So I didn't expect it to be held in 2011. I was surprised it was still held, and I watched it from a neighbor's front yard. It wasn't the best view, but it was easy to get to.
My neighborhood can see the fireworks from our street or even better from the Iron Horse Trail. There is usually a group of residents from the surrounding streets that sets up chairs, radios, and even tables, on the trail behind Cal High to watch the fireworks.
I have never attended the Star Spangled Spectacular in Central Park. The closest I got one year was when Donna Kerger and I sat on the back lawn of the Library on Montgomery Street and watched the fireworks set off from behind the gas station across the street. That seems like a questionable place to set off fireworks, but we had the best view.
San Ramon has held an old fashioned fireworks show on the 4th of July since 1985. There will still be a July 4th event in Central Park, but the traditional Star Spangled Spectacular 4th of July fireworks show will be dropped this year. The City Council voted on Tuesday night to eliminate the aerial display, which is what most of us like to watch from various places around town.
The city asked for input from residents on whether or not to spend over $300K on it this year and so far has received over 600 emails. About half are for keeping it and a third are for saving the money, with the rest somewhere in between. Because of the logistic problems last year, it's a certainty aerial fireworks won't be held this year, but a committee will almost certainly be formed to work on ideas for the future.
Dale Halterman, my Campaign Manager when I ran for DSRSD in 2004, proposed a "white board" approach to come up with ideas for future 4th of July's. I told Dale he's setting himself up to head the committee. By the way I lost that year and again in 2010 without Dale, so he wasn't the variable.
The Executive Summary on the item in the City Council's February 14, 2012 Staff Report describes last year's 4th of July celebration as, "more of a regional event and less of a community San Ramon event. Attendance from outside of San Ramon is equal or higher than attendance by San Ramon residents." This has increased the need for police, parking, staff, and volunteers to manage it, at almost double the cost to the City than last year.
Police Chief Holder explained that crowd control and traffic were major problems for the Police Department last year. Many people brought barbecues, which are not allowed in Central Park, but resulted in trashcan fires when those folk tried to dispose of their hot coals. Some of these fires spread to overhanging trees. Fortunately there was enough water in the water truck to put them out, but the Chief said a larger water truck would be necessary for future events.
There were also fights and altercations, and a person was stabbed outside of Central Park. The traffic leaving the event clogged the streets and made it difficult for police and emergency vehicles to get where service was needed.
My answer to this is, if this is to be held as a regional event then it should be supported regionally by neighboring cities instead of San Ramon shouldering the whole cost of maintenance and security. Pleasanton, Danville, Livermore, Walnut Creek, and Concord should contribute to the cost and/or provide staff, volunteers, and police for the event.
Citizens from other cities should be bussed in from "park and ride" lots so they do not clog up our parking facilities or put a burden on parking for local businesses like the Whole Foods and Nob Hill markets. If attendees come in on busses, we can keep them from bringing barbecues and dogs into the park with them. We can also sell tickets for bus and control how many people are allowed in.
Dave Hudson believes that without a fireworks display, illegal fireworks will proliferate especially since they are easily available in Dublin. Dave Hudson want's to legalize "Safe and Sane" fireworks here too. I don't recommend home-based fireworks for San Ramon. Even Dublin limits these "Safe and Sane" fireworks to selected parks where the police and fire departments can monitor their use.
I lived in Culver City for almost 20 year, which also allowed "Safe and Sane" fireworks, but I recall some insane fireworks always found their way into the mix. The Culver City police regularly patrolled the neighborhoods that night. So offering home fireworks for sale here will only stretch out police even more.
The plan for this year doesn't eliminate fireworks. It only eliminates aerial fireworks. The "Safe and Sane" kind are all ground fireworks anyway, and won't stop people from acquiring bottle rockets. They already do and have set them off in my neighborhood with the existing fireworks show. Maybe with only a ground display fewer people will come from outside of San Ramon and more San Ramon residents will go to the park to see the fireworks we still have.
The City could also come up with an alternative aerial display, using balloons or smoke or lights, without the expense of fireworks. One year I arrived early on the Iron Horse Trail and the sunset was more spectacular than the fireworks. Maybe I'll set up my chair on the IHT and watch the natural show in the sky even if the City doesn't add fireworks to it.