published Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

East Ridge fireworks bill clears panel

by Chris Carroll
  • photo
    Tennessee state representative Vince Dean. Staff Photo by Patrick Smith

A little lawmaker banter was all it took for East Ridge to take a big step toward selling sparklers, bottle rockets and other fireworks.

Addressing the state House Finance, Ways and Means Committee in Nashville, Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, began explaining the merits of opening the door to fireworks sales in Hamilton County, but only in East Ridge for now.

“This is a simple bill that allows for ...,” Dean said, before being cut off by Committee Chairman Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, who said he had heard a motion and a second.

Dean closed a paper folder, pushed away his notes and appeared surprised.

Within seconds, the Republican-majority committee approved Dean’s bill on a voice vote, with Sargent declaring no opposition. It now moves to the House Calendar and Rules Committee, where, if approved, the bill will advance to the House floor.

“You know, Representative Dean, we’ve finally come to a conclusion on this, haven’t we?” asked Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington.

“Yes, sir,” Dean replied.

On several occasions since his election in 2004, Dean has tried to get fireworks legislation approved, only to see the bills fizzle in the face of resistance from rural lawmakers whose districts dominate the fireworks business.

Under state law, most vendors in counties that host Tennessee’s four largest metropolitan areas — Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga — cannot sell fireworks.

Dean has said East Ridge could benefit from residents of Hamilton County coming in to buy fireworks, as well as Georgia residents who live just across the state line. Georgia does not allow fireworks sales.

On Monday, Dean credited his success to an amendment that would hold the bill’s effective date until July 1, 2012, which would give fireworks vendors in nearby counties — including Marion and Bradley counties — enough time to “set up shop in East Ridge.”

Another representative asked Dean how many times he had tried to push fireworks sales, and Dean said “ever since I’ve been here.”

East Ridge concluded the most recent fiscal year with a $681,999 budget deficit. A fiscal note attached to Dean’s bill said East Ridge stands to gain $14,810 annually if the state issues 10 permits to sell fireworks within the city’s limits.

“I don’t agree with that fiscal note,” Dean said. “Nobody would have fought me if it was a small amount of money.”

Would you buy fireworks if they were available in East Ridge?
  • Yes. 39%
  • No. 61%

220 total votes.

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bpqd said...

We do not need or want this type of business in East Ridge. We need productive commercial employment that promotes a gainful wage. That does not include strait retail sales of recreational pyrotechnics for the profit of gas station owners.

Small business incubators, low interest loans to start-up businesses and a general welcoming of the community towards jobs that require more than a high school diploma: all would be a vast improvement over a fireworks stand.

What will become of this? A few cronies will make a few bucks. The rest of us will have to put up with drunk and stupid neighbors who will down another six pack and aim roman candles at nearby pets. It's only a matter of time before some teenager uses fireworks to start a fire that gets accidentally out of control after he pulls some arsonist prank on a pile of leaves or trash.

The idea that this is a supportive or constructive commercial venture is below laughable: it may actually create debt and damage and harm, if it supports any significant accidents.

Selling alcohol, tobacco, gasoline and --now-- pyrotechnics, all in the same place will not boost or save our local economy. The profit advantage in selling gunpowder in a paper tube is small; the public safety costs will far outweigh any pennies which might be temporarily accrued.

This is not only a poor idea financially, it does not present the correct image for the community. East Ridge is already covered up with tattoo parlors, check cashing scam stores, fired food sellers and used vehicle sales lots. In proportion, any one of those businesses could be a good retail operation; we have them all in too great a supply to promote a progressive appearance.

Adding fireworks signs does not elevate the social standing of the community. It will not attract the type of business and society we, or any other part of the county area, desperately need.

Hundreds of people in our county have been put out of work at a time. Many have not returned to the workforce. Thousands more languish in an early retirement that is only a prelude to poverty in old age.

Intelligent, progressive jobs, not redneck fireworks stands, are what we need. No one is going to pay for a home with the profits from M80 dynamite sales. We need real work.

We do not need or want any --any-- Chattanooga City style crony politics infecting our already problematic city administration. If this is a payoff for those few who think this will bring money to their businesses; that is a sad return on our entire community's investment in voting for any of these people involved.

Reject this fireworks nonsense and get down to business. Do not take quick cash deals. We need significant and substantial economic progress throughout the entire area just to make up for losses in the past seven years.

No fireworks.

March 23, 2011 at 5:44 p.m.
bpqd said...

The people who stand to gain from this are politicians outside of our county. Rural area fireworks sales will increase dramatically if they can shake the perception that fireworks are illegal. The legality of fireworks use varies; but the perception among retail customers that fireworks are illegal is widespread.

Selling fireworks within city limits of a large area or, in East Ridge's case, so close to Chattanooga as to be indistinguishable to outsiders, will help to break the perception that fireworks are illegal within the city limits.

As customers see fireworks for sale within the city (or what looks to them like the City of Chattanooga), they will be more likely to think that using, and therefore buying, fireworks is okay.

The people most likely to profit from that change in perception will be established fireworks retailers. The big will get bigger; the rich will get richer; we will get stuck with footing the bill for damages as fireworks sellers get over.

It is alarming to see that Representative Dean is entering into a deal to sully his community's image as part of some political trade. Notice how this legislation does not tell us what, if anything, we get in return. Favors for tomorrow?

It's unlikely that whatever we get politically in the horse trading over this fireworks sales will make up for the losses we will continue to sustain for not looking progressive. The people within East Ridge have long been hardworking social conservatives: they are not best represented by lowering their standards for appearance as part of some back door deal in a distant House.

Reject the fireworks. This deal will blowback on our community as the politicians get over with paying off their friends. We need to do what's best for everybody instead of this.

No fireworks. Try something else, please.

March 23, 2011 at 6:13 p.m.
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