Opinion: ‘I am conservative because I believe the best thing for our country is a smaller, less-intrusive government’


Editor Ken Vance shares his thoughts on the Clark County Council’s controversial restrictions on fireworks

When it comes to fireworks, we all have that “one’’ friend. You know the guy. He travels all over the region buying the best legal (and even some illegal) fireworks. He spends a ridiculous amount of money on a bunch of explosives that will all go up in smoke in the matter of minutes, even though his Fourth of July encompasses many more days than just one.

I have that friend. It’s probably been 20 years since I joined him for a Fourth of July gathering so I don’t know if he’s still the pyromaniac that he once was. When you and your friends get to be my age, we tend to move on from such indulgences and activities.

On Dec. 1, members of the Clark County Council approved new restrictions on what types of fireworks can be sold or used in the rural, unincorporated areas of Clark County. File photo
On Dec. 1, members of the Clark County Council approved new restrictions on what types of fireworks can be sold or used in the rural, unincorporated areas of Clark County. File photo

Myself, I’ve never completely understood the fascination with fireworks. Frankly, they scare me. My mom had an accident when she was young and she bore the scar on the inside of her upper arm as proof. Thankfully, I only had a near miss during one of the only times I actually purchased anything more than sparklers and tame items for my son. But, one year, we purchased far too many festival balls (I’m told they were called). These things were shot out of a PVC pipe stand and flew about 50 feet in the air and created a pretty impressive explosion.

Myself and another couple thought we were safely seated in my driveway as the teen children lit the festival balls. Naturally, at one point, after one of the explosives was lit, the stand tipped over in our direction. The festival ball shot out of the PVC pipe and sailed just a few feet over our shoulders and into my garage, where it exploded against the wall just inches away from an electrical panel. That was it for our fireworks display that night. It might have been the last time I participated in such an activity, I can’t recall for sure.

I try not to be a “get off my lawn’’ guy, but if truth be told, I’m getting more and more so with every passing day. I live in the city of Vancouver. Despite the restrictions on fireworks in this city, it feels like World War III in my neighborhood for several days around the Fourth of July each year. It’s annoying. I don’t enjoy it. I worry about fires being started. But, I’m only mildly inconvenienced. I truly feel for those with PTSD or pets, who are impacted much more significantly than I am.

So, when municipalities in the area or bodies such as the Clark County Council, pass restrictions on fireworks, they’re actually doing something that will improve the quality of my life. Members of the County Council recently passed a ban on fireworks in the rural areas of the county that will prohibit fireworks that explode, fly more than a foot into the air, or travel more than six feet along the ground. The new restrictions are not scheduled to go into effect until the end of 2021.

I opposed the councilors’ decision, which was made with a 3-2 vote, after county staff shared with the councilors that 63 percent of public comment was in opposition to the ban. Councilors Julie Olson, Temple Lentz and John Blom voted in favor and County Chair Eileen Quiring O’Brien and Gary Medvigy were opposed. Efforts are already underway to rescind the new restrictions and those efforts will likely get buoyed after the first of the year when conservative Karen Bowerman replaces Blom on the County Council.

The new law is scheduled to go into effect on Dec. 31, 2021. It will prohibit fireworks that explode, fly more than a foot into the air, or travel more than six feet along the ground. File photo
The new law is scheduled to go into effect on Dec. 31, 2021. It will prohibit fireworks that explode, fly more than a foot into the air, or travel more than six feet along the ground. File photo

You may be confused why I oppose restrictions on fireworks when I oppose fireworks. It’s simple. I’m a conservative. We all have our own reasons why we believe what we believe. More than any other reason, I am conservative because I believe the best thing for our country is a smaller, less-intrusive government. And, with everything going on in the world today, folks like myself have had more than enough with our elected officials taking away our liberties and freedom. I will gladly put up with the nuisance of fireworks noise a couple of days a year if it means we hold on to a small piece of that liberty and freedom.

I’m sick and tired of elected officials ignoring the will of the majority of the people who voted them into office. I’ve also had enough with the government dictating far too many of my actions that should be left for me to decide. I wear a mask. I social distance. I don’t need the governor to dictate that I do so. I don’t go into social environments, including restaurants or other businesses, unless their staff members and customers are following the appropriate protocol. The restaurants and businesses don’t need to be shut down. If they don’t act responsibly, the majority of us won’t patronize those establishments. We’re capable of doing the right thing for ourselves and for others.

Council Medvigy offered some of the same ideology in his comments prior to the council’s vote on the fireworks ban.

“This is all about balance,’’ Medvigy said. “There’s probably no better subject of impact on the community to talk about the balancing of rights when we discuss fireworks. And, you know, responsible use is sought by every citizen.

“These are unprecedented times,’’ Medvigy added. “Every aspect of our lives has been impacted and disrupted this past year. Additionally, that disruption basically equates to government intrusion into each and every one of our lives, and in absolutely unprecedented ways. So this is not the time to be making these kinds of changes.

“I just want to quote … ‘and the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air. Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.’ That means a lot to people who support our nation and our flag,’’ Medvigy said. “And I ask that we not have, yet again, another government intrusion and control to impact our daily lives.’’

To that, I say, Amen!

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About The Author

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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