Two weeks ago, it seemed very likely that the Waterloo City council would vote to "cut the fuse" and ban fireworks from the city. On Monday, the members voted 4-3 to hold off on a decision.

According to the WCF Courier, city councilman Dave Boesen suggested reaching out to Cedar Falls and Evansdale for a joint plan. Evansdale lets people shoot them off during designated days, and Cedar Falls does not allow them at all. In the article, Boesen was quoted as saying "it might make any restrictions 'more palatable' for residents." The reasoning seems to be, if the entire Cedar Valley bans them, the three major 3 towns, then it might be easier for those in favor of fireworks to accept the changes.

Council member Sharon Juon also pointed out in the article, that "a ban would make people realize they’re not supposed to do it". Councilman Pat Morrissey was quoted as saying, a ban would force people to “be considered law breakers.” The Waterloo city council hopes have a decision made by the end of May before fireworks shops open and enthusiasts start buying fireworks leading up to the Fourth of July holiday.

*Originally published March 4, 2021

2020 was rough on all of us, some more than others. Last summer, most Iowans were just trying to find ways to relieve some stress and have some fun. Shooting off fireworks seemed like a "covid-friendly", socially-distanced activity that people could do. But one person's fun can be another person's source of stress. It seemed like as soon as the state started allowing fireworks sales on June 1st last year, the amateur fireworks shows started on what seemed like a nightly basis. That being said, at least one Waterloo City Council member is concerned that fireworks can trigger people with post-traumatic stress disorder, along with the explosive sounds scaring pets, and the smoke bringing on asthma related issues for some people.

According to the WCF Courier, during a work session on Monday, the Waterloo City Council discussed the possibility of reverting to a complete ban of fireworks within the city limits. Even though fireworks are allowed in the state June 1 through July 8 (and Dec. 10 through Jan. 3.), individual cities are allowed to make their own rules. In 2019, Waterloo decided to allow fireworks from July 3 through July 5. At that time, they also increased the fine for using fireworks outside of those times from $250 to $375 or more.

That didn't seem to deter many of the fireworks enthusiasts. You can call it "covid stress",  boredom, over whatever you want, but people may gotten a little too crazy. According to data from the Waterloo Police Department, the city saw calls for service more than double for fireworks complaints from 2019 to 2020. However, out of 686 calls, only one citation was issued.

In the WCF Courier article, Waterloo Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said officers are “stretched very, very thin with heightened service calls near Fourth of July".  So it could be argued, what's the point of a complete ban if it's not going to be prioritized and enforced anyway?

A motion to completely ban fireworks in Waterloo could very likely pass. During the meeting, the majority of city council members expressed various reasons as to why they think there should be a complete ban. Once again, everything from bothering people with PTSD, scaring pets, the smoke triggering health issues, small children not being able to fall asleep, debris on roofs, along with some fireworks fanatics just not acting responsibly.

This topic could be brought back on the table, and formally voted on at a future meeting.

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