A signature-gathering effort that could put the issue of legal fireworks in front of Rohnert Park voters appears to have been met with an overwhelming level of support within the community. This morning a coalition of community activists, leaders from the 14 Rohnert Park nonprofit organizations that sell State Fire Marshal-Approved, Safe & Sane fireworks each 4th of July and concerned residents who want to preserve Rohnert Park’s 4th of July traditions submitted a referendum petition to the Rohnert Park City Clerk with the signatures of 1,305 more Rohnert Park voters than are necessary to place the issue in the voters’ hands. “And we did it in record time!” proclaimed referendum petition proponent April Garcia.
“This issue is about so much more than just fireworks,” continued Garcia. “This is about the right of Rohnert Park voters being able to have a say in what happens in their community.”
On Tuesday evening, April 27, 2021, by a vote of 3 AYE and 2 NO, the Rohnert Park City Council adopted an ordinance to ban the sale and use of legal fireworks in Rohnert Park. The three councilmembers (Mayor Giudice, Vice Mayor Elward and Council member Linares) as newly elected councilmembers ushered in the ban in the face of unprecedented pleas from the nonprofit organizations and the community at large. In advance of their vote, the council received over 300 emails from voters, a hard copy petition signed by 750 Rohnert Park residents, and an online Change.org petition signed by over 2,400 people, all in support of this 4th of July tradition.
Normally, a city ordinance takes effect 30 days after it is adopted by the city council and attested by the city clerk. California has a referendum process that gives voters in a city the chance to review an ordinance that has already been passed by its city council. While the ordinance was adopted by the council on April 27, it was not attested by the city clerk until the afternoon of April 29 which started the 30-day countdown.
If, within the 30 days before the ordinance takes effect, 10 percent or more of the registered voters of Rohnert Park have signed a valid petition protesting adoption of the ordinance to ban the sale and use of State Fire Marshal-Approved Fireworks, the effective date of the ordinance is suspended, and the Rohnert Park City Council must repeal the ordinance in its entirety or submit it for voter approval. The latest report of registration from the Office of the California Secretary of State shows 25,518 registered voters in Rohnert Park, meaning the petition supporters must meet a threshold 2,552 valid signatures from Rohnert Park voters. They turned in a petition with signatures from 3,857 registered Rohnert Park voters.
“In less than 10 days, while still operating under the remaining strict Covid protocols, we were able to secure the signatures of 3,857 Rohnert Park voters protesting the adoption of this ordinance by a slim majority on the city council!” asserted Garcia. In March, the three council members ignored the pleas of thousands of Rohnert Park residents who asserted that:
• State-Approved Fireworks are not the problem in Rohnert Park…Illegal fireworks are the problem! The Rohnert Park Public Safety Department has acknowledged this fact!
• Banning the sale and use of State-Approved Fireworks will not lead to less illegal fireworks, it will lead to significantly more illegal fireworks!
• According to an exhaustive Rohnert Park staff analysis in 2019, “Safe and Sane Fireworks have not caused any structure fires in the entire history of Rohnert Park and illegal fireworks were the cause of most fireworks-related problems, calls for service, injuries and damages.”
• In 2020, over $324,000 was raised that is being reinvested in youth sports, social services, veterans and community programs in our community as a result of the sale of State Approved Fireworks. Without the revenue these groups generate each 4th of July through the sale of State Approved Fireworks, these organizations would not be able to do what they do for our community.
Now that the petition has been filed with the Rohnert Park City Clerk, she will make an initial count of the signatures to determine whether a sufficient number of signatures have been filed. If there appears to be sufficient number of raw signatures to qualify the referendum, the city clerk will deliver the petition to the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters who will have 30 days from the city clerk’s receipt of the petition, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, to verify the signatures on the petition.
To learn more or show your support for the petition, visit the “Save Rohnert Park Fireworks” Facebook page.