Voter-backed push underway to put fireworks on the November ballot

Backers say they just want to give voters a voice after the County Council reversed course earlier this year

CLARK COUNTY — A signature-gathering effort is underway that could put the issue of Safe and Sane fireworks in front of Clark County voters this November.

A group of voters has started the process of gathering signatures to put the issue of Safe and Sane Fireworks on the ballot this November. File photo
A group of voters has started the process of gathering signatures to put the issue of Safe and Sane Fireworks on the ballot this November. File photo

Last December, the Clark County Council voted 3-2 in favor of banning fireworks that travel more than a foot in the air or six feet along the ground, starting with this coming New Years.

In February, a newly seated council, with Republican Karen Bowerman replacing John Blom, voted by the same margin to repeal that ordinance.

But the Clark County Home Rule Charter allows for citizens to launch a petition to put some council decisions on the ballot if they can gather enough signatures.

An effort to do just that had already been started following the decision in December, but ended after the council repealed the ban. Now another group of citizens is pushing to put the issue in front of voters once and for all.

“This is about so much more than just fireworks,” says organizer Wendy Cleveland. “This is the right of the Clark County citizens, the registered voters, to be able to have a say in what goes on here in this county.”

Cleveland and other supporters had ten days from the Feb. 2 vote to gather 100 valid signatures in order to get the repeal referendum process approved. They managed to turn in 118 signatures despite the pandemic and a snow storm.

Now the group has until June 23 to gather 27,702 valid signatures, or 10 percent of the turnout in the most recent gubernatorial election. 

Thus far, support has been strong, says Cleveland.

“We’re well on our way,” she told Clark County Today. “Across the spectrum, we have people helping us. Large groups, all over Clark County, are out gathering signatures.”

That includes a lady’s quilting group in Venersborg going door-to-door, and even Libertarian groups who support keeping things the way they are.

“They want freedom to shoot off fireworks,” says Cleveland, “but what they are telling me is most important to them is their freedom to vote on it. Even if it may change the outcome, you know, for what they don’t want, they still want that voice.”

Cleveland admits she was in favor of the ban, but says she won’t campaign for or against the repeal referendum if they get it on the ballot.

“If we can get this on the ballot, that’s where I’m done. That’s my victory,” she says. “Let the chips fall where they may at that point. The voters will speak and that will become binding law, and that’s all I care about at this point.”

Anyone interested in helping with the signature gathering process can find the referendum petition online at a site Cleveland set up, along with instructions on how to make sure it is properly filled out. Completed petitions can be either dropped off or mailed to Latte Da Coffee House on East 39th Street in Vancouver.

Cleveland stresses that anyone signing the petition is simply expressing their support for allowing voters to decide, once and for all, what kind of fireworks should be allowed in the unincorporated areas of Clark County.

“That’s our right, to vote on this,” she says. “I think that it should have been voted on from the very beginning.”