In a stunning setback for Thurston County Commissioner Romero, Wolfe (and Thurston County Commissioner candidate Jim Cooper), a total fireworks ban was not passed at Monday night’s hearing to ban fireworks throughout the county.  Approximately 50 residents attended the fireworks ban hearing and the majority of people who testified were strongly against the proposed Fireworks ban.

Thurston County fireworks ban hearing
Some testifying against the ban included local residents and a variety of charities who used legal fireworks stands as part of their fundraising efforts.

Unusually, for this type of hearing, Kiro7 News was there and local media at the hearing imposed additional pressure and in a rare change of direction, Thurston County Commissioner Romero bailed out on the fireworks ban and let Commissioner Wolfe take the lone “total fireworks ban” vote.  A vote for “option 2” passed unanimously instead, which basically allows the Thurston County Commission to ban fireworks only under emergency situations and only if there is a burn ban in effect, but serious process questions remain about even this final decision.

Commissioner Bud Blake is the only Thurston County Commissioner not on the ballot in 2016
Commissioner Bud Blake was the only official asking the staff questions at the fireworks ban hearing

Even by Thurston County standards, staff was unusually disorganized and almost completely unprepared for this topic, which was obviously rushed without much preparation or thought.  Commissioner Bud Blake asked the staff many questions at the public hearing, and the answers did not reflect well on the Thurston County planning process.  

Here are examples of some of these questions asked by Commissioner Blake and answered by interim County Manager Ramiro Chavez (now that former county manager Cliff Moore has fled for the browner pastures of the City of Yakima) and Brent Butler of Central Planning (euphemistically called “Resource Stewardship”) :

Q:  Did staff take a public survey to get public sentiment on this issue?  – Answer:  No

Q:  Was any consideration for an initiative to the people considered so they could vote on a fireworks ban themselves (like the City of Olympia did a few years ago)?  – Answer:  No

Q:  Was there any discussion with police on how to enforce a ban?  – Answer:  No

Q:  Was there any discussion with the fire chiefs or fire departments on this issue?  – Answer:  No

Q:  Was there any conversation with the Tribes and how to influence the fireworks they already sell, which are illegal in Thurston County (even though we all use them anyway because they are way more awesome)? – Answer:  No

After numerous other questions asked by Commissioner Bud Blake which clearly indicated staff wasn’t prepared, the real bombshell came when staff revealed that they were still making changes to the proposed ordinance, and that the commissioners hadn’t even seen the final version (which meant neither had anyone else, including the public who commented by email or came to testify).  To cap off the lack of preparation, staff had failed to ensure a county attorney attend the meeting, so legal ignorance shrouded the proceedings as the hearing fumbled on in a fog of confusion…

 (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Neither the Thurston County Commissioners nor Thurston County staff were prepared for this hearing or the Fireworks ban (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

This is keystone cops style local government, and while it is business as usual for Commissioner Wolfe and Romero who didn’t seem to notice, Commissioner Bud Blake was embarrassed. They all should have been embarrassed.  Jon Pettit, independant candidate for Thurston County Commissioner  attended the hearing and testified in opposition along with numerous other attendees.  Of the five candidates for Commissioner (position 1), he was the only one in attendance at this hearing.

Jim Cooper has been planning his "coronation" for a long time now, and the plans are coming together nicely
Jim Cooper will have to scheme a different path to achieving a fireworks ban now that this one didn’t work.

Jim Cooper wants a total ban on fireworks, but it looks like he is going to have to do it himself rather than use the Wolfe/Romero Duopoly to do his work for him.  This assumes he can convince the voters to elect him county wide, and the voters have four other choices in the primary. 

This hearing was another reminder that the future belongs to those who show up.  Citizens who emailed and spoke at this hearing did have an impact.  Despite the fumbling and incompetence which has been a signature feature of the Thurston County Commission for many years now, even disastrous politicians like Sandra Romero can change their mind in the face of reality.  Nothing is certain, and we can make a difference.  Thank you to all who cared enough to engage.   

More Background on Washington State Fireworks laws:

List of fireworks bans and ordinances by county and city

Washington State Law (RCW)

Washington State Administrative Code on Fireworks (State Patrol)

Governor Jay Inslee can’t ban fireworks, as much as he would like to do soNo More Fireworks on the 4th


Our Constitution begins with the phrase “we the people.”  It was the founder’s intent that government be created by the people, to serve the people.  It wasn’t their intention for the people to serve the government.  It was always intended that government which failed to serve the people should be “altered or abolished.”  Until we return to the founder’s intent, we remain We the Governed

For more background on Thurston County – read these articles:

Thurston County celebrates Independence Day with Fireworks Ban

The Truth about Jim Cooper

Five candidates battle for Thurston Commissioner Seat, but who are they?

Thurston County Auditor bends rules to help Allen Miller (and Jim Cooper)

Thurston County discovers new cash cow in the “Crap Tax”

What Happened to the County Charter Movement?

Thurston County Invents $42,000 pocket gopher tax for new homeowners

Thurston County Manager Cliff Moore quits, will now plague the City of Yakima

Thurston County spends $8 million and 18 years to make a $4 million empty building worth $2 million

Thurston County spends $5k for a $3k computer, then loses 12 of them

Thurston County finds missing $60k computer inventory, uses 3 card monte excuse

Thurston County punishes rural serfs again

Sandra Romero – the $200 million Commissioner

Thurston County Commissioners Deny the Reality of Math

Hunters fighting to stop Thurston County’s gun ordinance

A Plague of Consequences in Thurston County

Thurston County Bag Ban – Paper or Plastic?

Stifling Human Ingenuity

Thurston County to Citizens:  Living here is a real gamble

Childish Political Leadership in Thurston County is costing Taxpayers Millions

Thurston County Demonstrates How Not to Build a Jail

Tales of Tyranny – Bert Wasch Story – Thurston County denies his right to build a home for 5 years

Tales of Tyranny – Misti Chastain – Thurston County attempts to destroy her farm business

Tales of Tyranny – Jay Howell – Thurston County costs family thousands of dollars and takes most of the use of their property for a gopher

Tales of Tyranny – Chris Weaver – Thurston County makes him a criminal for hurting a gopher

Union Protests Incompetent Thurston County Commissioner