Our Opinion: Time to meet in the middle
March 29, 2014
If the South Shore community is going to see its long-running, world-class fireworks shows continue this summer, now's the time for some compromise involving the critics and proponents of the events. This is not about taking sides. What we're saying is that finger-pointing won't help to resolve differences. Recognition of all valid concerns will.
What won't help is overly harsh criticism of Joan and John Truxler, the Pinewild couple who sued to force the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority to get a federal pollutant discharge elimination permit for its fireworks shows. Obstinancy on the part of the Truxlers won't help either.
Consider what state Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, said: "I can't believe that people found some paper scraps on the beach and thought the solution was to attack an American tradition like 4th of July fireworks." Since he brought up American tradition, how about celebrating the Founding Fathers' inspired clause guaranteeing the right to petition for a redresss of grievances? That's no doubt how the Truxlers see their lawsuit.
And this is more than "some paper scraps." There were hundreds, possibly thousands, of fragments of cardboard and plastic fireworks casings that washed up in Marla Bay or that floated in the water like some new kind of algae. Also, there were seven unexploded flash powder balls that Douglas County firefighters and bomb-squad members carted off, warning Marla Bay residents of the dangers they posed: safe when wet but, once they dry out, more powerful than M-80 fireworks that can maim people.
The LTVA's Carol Chaplin would do well to stop saying most of the fireworks debris likely did not come from the LTVA-sponsored fireworks show. The LTVA can argue that the flash powder balls are unexploded "consumer fireworks" that were brought to the lake illegally by individuals. But much of the cardboard and plastic fragments found on the beach obviously were from professional-grade products of the sort used by Pyro Spectaculars North, the company hired by the LTVA to put on the shows. They didn't come from some roadside fireworks stand on an Indian reservation.
The LTVA would be better off pushing the idea of a cooperative volunteer effort to clean up any debris from fireworks shows this summer. Many speakers at an emergency meeting Thursday of the LTVA board said they were more than willing to help out in that manner. Those speakers included Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, a Tahoe resident whose family has deep roots on both sides of the South Shore state line, who offered to personally help pick up such trash.
Krolicki, whose duties as lieutenant governor include oversight of tourist-dependent Nevada's tourism promotion, would no doubt help organize a broad volunteer clean-up effort if asked to do so. That's the sort of forward-thinking project that the Truxlers and other critics of the mess created by last year's fireworks shows should welcome.
The Truxlers have been singled out by many for acting on their own in filing their lawsuit to require a permit for the fireworks shows. But that doesn't mean they lack support from other residents concerned about Lake Tahoe.
There's no question that they have some backers in Marla Bay, where many people joined in an effort to clean fireworks debris off the beach last summer.
But support from individuals isn't the same as official support. Perhaps the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency could provide some assurances that formal action will be taken in the event of a repeat of last year's problems. What say, TRPA?
All this brings us back to this year's fireworks shows. There has to be some middle ground, where the Truxlers' concerns can be met and the South Shore community can enjoy a world-class fireworks show that pumps millions of needed dollars into the local economy.
Advocates of the fireworks shows, make the Truxlers an offer they can accept, that meets their stated goal of protecting the health of Lake Tahoe. Give them some iron-clad assurances that will make it possible for them to consider dropping their lawsuit. To the Truxlers, we know you love the lake and want it protected from environmental damage. Be assured you're not the only ones. And if you can be open-minded and reach a middle ground in your negotiations, know that your lawsuit succeeded in getting the discussions to that point and park it on the sidelines for now. If there's a post-fireworks show clean-up that goes far beyond any such efforts in past years, that's great. If there's another mess, then you can consider reviving the litigation — if you must.