Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Utah hot topics: Fireworks, Days of '47 parade and yearbook photos

Published: Sunday, June 8 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

Crowds looking down 200 East during the Days of 47 parade Tuesday, July 24, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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With the warmth of summer, big national and international issues like tea party election results, prisoner exchanges and greenhouse emissions are heating up. But in Utah, we’re dealing with much more prosaic matters — issues, nonetheless, that elicit strong emotions.

Concerned about air quality, Salt Lake City Ralph Becker wants to cancel the city’s traditional fireworks displays for the July 4 and July 24 holidays. Is this just silly, or does Becker have a point?

Pignanelli: “[Independence Day] ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other.” — John Adams

July 4 is the greatest holiday on our calendar-beyond patriotic reasons. No presents-so it's guilt free. Active participants wear shorts and T-shirts. There's always a concert and fireworks.

So when learning of Becker’s idea to eliminate fireworks for air quality reasons, I joined the army of opposition. How dare the bicycle-obsessed mayor sacrifice a grand tradition of this country? Soon, I realized the true genius of Becker’s action. During the horrible inversion months, Wasatch Front residents demand that officials remedy the problem, but with out inconveniencing them. This is an impossible situation. The mayor is making a statement: if the state truly wants greater quality air throughout the year, then we must alter our lifestyles. So the bigger issue is not sacrificing fireworks, but the willingness to dramatically reduce the amount of time residents spend in activities that emit pollution.

Webb: I decline to get fired up over this matter. I’m a boring old guy, so I’m not much interested in fireworks, unless I attend with my grandchildren in their own cities. Becker does have a point. Pollution levels explode during fireworks shows. I have written many times that air pollution is caused by a million little actions each of us take every day. Every time we turn on a light or drive down the road we’re contributing our bit to pollution. It will take a million little actions to significantly reduce pollution. So cancelling fireworks isn’t a big deal, and isn’t going to solve the big problem, but it’s an important symbolic gesture.

Utahns are witnessing a surprising event — the American Civil Liberties Union (sort of) defending the Days of ’47 Parade Committee. The Salt Lake City Council was considering sending a letter asking the Committee to reverse its decision disallowing Mormons Building Bridges (supporting gay rights) to participate in the parade. The ACLU told the City Council sending an official letter to influence a private event would be improper. Is this the end of days? Is the Committee or the Council out of line?

Pignanelli: There is merit in the axiom "Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day." All revel in the contributions made by immigrants from Ireland (I am half Irish which made for interesting family dynamics during childhood). A similar adage applies in Utah where "Everyone is Mormon on Pioneer Day". Regardless of their faith, all true Utahns are proud and grateful for the founding of this state. Also, almost every gay/lesbian LDS adherent I know is enormously honored by his or her Mormon heritage. Therefore, any group willing to build a tasteful and entertaining float that highlights this history should be welcome — especially since parade audiences must endure numerous boring politicians.

Webb: The ACLU supports liberal causes 99 percent of the time, but every once in a blue moon it defends the legal prerogatives of conservatives, just for the fun of it. The parade committee is correct and consistent in its policy not to allow advocacy organizations in the parade. It would be a mess if groups advocating for gun rights, gay rights, animal rights, off-road access, wilderness areas and other environmental causes, all expected a presence in Utah’s biggest parade. If you allow one in, you must allow all. Keep the parade free from ideological causes.

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