The revived plan to ban all consumer fireworks in Honolulu — including seemingly harmless sparklers and Jumping Jacks — piqued my curiosity — not about the rules, but about money.

I wondered if the city could earn some decent income selling permits while also achieving the stated goals of cracking down on illegal aerial fireworks and making Oahu safer on New Year’s and the Fourth of July. So I took a look at the number of permits sold in the last five years and how the city spends that income.

The bill passed this week by the Honolulu City Council would prohibit all consumer and novelty explosives starting Jan. 2. But Oahu residents still would be able to buy a $25 permit to set off up to 5,000 individual firecrackers — those loud, stringed red ones — during certain times on New Year’s Eve and Day, Chinese New Year’s and the Fourth of July. The measure still needs approval from acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell to become law.

That permit requirement has been around for a decade now, but Honolulu sales have dropped by more than 40 percent since a peak in 2005 — from 13,981 permits in 2005 to 8,055 permits last year. At $25 a pop, the permits obviously aren’t a cash cow. Revenues in the past five years ranged from a low of $174,875 to a high of $349,525, and go toward the city’s general fund.

But, considering Hawaii’s affinity for fireworks and because there’s no limit to the number of permits an individual can buy, maybe these permit sales can become a greater resource for the city. Any revenue boost could help pay for increased enforcement.

Growing up in Hawaii, I definitely know the huge role that fireworks play in celebrating the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. I’ve come close to losing my sense of hearing many a times from standing too close to a roaring snake of firecrackers and have spent the wee-morning hours of almost every New Year’s Day sweeping up piles of smokey red paper off the street. But I also sympathize with the frustrations of fire officials, those who have been injured or had their property damaged, those who suffer health issues because of the smoke that blankets the city. And as a pet owner, I’ve had to buy prescription tranquilizers to calm my frantic dogs on those holidays.

So while this partial ban may be a bummer for some and a relief for others, it has the potential to generate revenue for the city’s coffers. If Honolulu residents are feeling festive, but can no longer buy Roman Candles or bottle rockets, I hope the logical alternative is to turn to the only legal option — buy a permit for firecrackers. If not, maybe the $2,000 fines for violators will spur some extra revenue for the city.

About the Author