Firework lovers and haters in Covington have a chance to express their opinion on the matter in November thanks to an advisory vote on the ballot.
Covington City Council members voted 7-1 to place an advisory vote on the general election ballot regarding a possible firework ban. Councilmember Margaret Harto was the only “no” vote.
According to city spokesperson Karla Slate, the advisory vote will address an issue debated in the city for over a decade.
“I’ve been here 10 years and fireworks become a conversation after the Fourth of July every year,” Slate said. “To me, it’s always been a 50 / 50 split in the community.”
In the past, the city council would usually have a brief discussion about fireworks, but each time about half of the council would support a ban and the other half dissented. This year, however, Councilmember Marlla Mhoon decided to take the issues to the voters.
“Since other bans in other cities have happened our fireworks issues have escalated because people are coming to our town for fireworks,” Mhoon said. “The amount of illegal fireworks has really increased, and people are not complying with the timeframes that are legal to have fireworks in our city. So, I represent all the residents of Covington and I want their opinion.”Mhoon said she is curious about where the voters will land, but if there is no clear consensus, she supports the idea of “protecting every resident.”
“It’s a very difficult thing to do as a council, honoring the wishes of our residents but also having the responsibility of protecting all of our residents,” Mhoon said. “And, depending on the advisory vote, those two things may be in conflict. But I really feel the vote is necessary.”
Mhoon proposed the idea of an advisory ballot measure during the July 9 regular council meeting. She said each year she’s heard from residents who are worried about the increasing risks, noise and smell from fireworks. Residents are not following the laws around fireworks, Mhoon said, so a ban may be what the city needs.
“Other cities (with bans) have seen a great reduction in firework use, so a lot of that will happen on it’s own,” Mhoon said. “The problem with the situation right now, it’s difficult to determine if people are using legal or illegal fireworks. And it’s difficult to enforce because you have to see it happen. So a ban would be easier to enforce.”
The city’s ballot statement is due to the county by Aug. 9 for placement.
Residents are now being recruited to help the city craft pro-ban and con-ban statements for the November King County Elections’ pamphlet. The committees are required to submit statements of no more than 200 words to King County Elections by August 13. King County Elections will then provide each committee with the opposing statement to prepare a rebuttal of no more than 75 words by August 15. These statements will be printed in the voters’ pamphlet to accompany the advisory ballot measure title and explanatory statement.
Only three individuals may be appointed to each committee. Interested individuals or anyone with questions or comments regarding this process should contact Covington City Clerk Sharon Scott at (253) 480-2405 or email@example.com.
Slate said the city has not seen an increase in fires caused by fireworks, but the noise and the smell generate a lot of complaints.
“The biggest complaint we get is about fireworks going off outside of the approved times,” Slate said.