As reported elsewhere, the decision on whether to ban the sale and use of fireworks in the City of Rohnert Park will be voted on by the residents this fall in a special election. It’s about time. I have been covering the city council meetings since I started working for the Community Voice in 2019. This issue has been contentious for many years. Until the election of three new council members in 2020, the balance of power was always against implementing a ban. This year that shifted. Also, this year is the first time I remember anyone suggesting letting the residents decide the issue.
My job as a reporter is to present the issues and decisions without taking sides. I work very hard to do that. On this issue, I again will not take sides on whether a ban should or should not be put in place. Both sides of this issue are passionate. Each have legitimate arguments and reasons to support their viewpoints. It’s clear that this issue has divided our council and the community. So, this opinion piece will not focus on the pros or cons of banning fireworks. Rather it addresses the process that got us to this point.
2020 was a change election. The new council members, our Mayor Gerard Giudice, our Vice Mayor Jackie Elward, and Council member Willy Linares are part of that change. As I recall, they campaigned on the need for new voices, new ideas and change. But I don’t recall fireworks being a campaign issue for any of them. Working with incumbent councilmembers Susan Hollingsworth Adams and Pam Stafford, they set aggressive goals and ten strategic priorities for 2021. These include navigating through COVID-19, Climate Change, Police/Community Relations and Accountability and Services for unhoused people. Banning Fireworks is only tangentially related to any of those goals.
That they chose to pursue this issue surprised even their supporters. In my opinion they spent political capital better used elsewhere. At a time when we are trying to unite our community, address critical issues not only this year but for the future; I’m not sure that was wise. I’m proud of our city council. All of them. They agree more than they disagree. I know most of them personally. Each are dedicated to making our city better, safe, and welcoming. I firmly believe they have the best interest of Rohnert Park in their hearts. I know they must make tough decisions sometimes, as did previous city councils. On this issue, however, they could have chosen a better process. Knowing it was a contentious issue, likely to divide city residents, they should have found a different way to address this long simmering issue.
There are important issues we need to address in Rohnert Park. I’m not sure the cost, consequences, and time spent on this issue was among the highest of priorities for them. So, whether you support a ban or oppose a ban on fireworks, we all should support having our voices heard through an election. Let’s put this contentious issue to rest once and for all. Let’s get back to working on more important issues. Let’s start focusing on things that unite us rather than those that divide us. And let’s learn the lesson, once again, that process is just as important as the outcome.
The views expressed in this opinion article are mine. They do not represent the Community Voice, the City Council, or any other organization.