The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Fireworks will be legalized for some holidays

Mooning section spurs wisecracks during city council code revisions


The Valdez City Council approved a first reading of the city’s code revisions for health and safety regulations a week ago Monday, which is usually a mundane affair. This section, which changes city laws and covers everything from abandoned refrigerators stored on people’s lawns to public drunkenness spurred wisecracks, questions and other eyebrow raising issues, was addressed in a work section held before the regular meeting.

The code is required to undergo periodic revisions to address changes in state laws or to be brought into conformity with court rulings that sometimes find sections of laws unconstitutional.

Wide swaths of the code were moved to other sections of the city code, to better match similar issues.

“We’re here to answer question for you,” City Clerk Sheri Pierce told the council.

The city code are laws enforced by the city and penalties for breaking the city code are only punishable by tickets, which can cost up to $300.

Pierce said a number of the codes mirror state statutes, which can result in jail time for offenders, but the city keeps these sections under its own code because state prosecutors sometimes pass on pursuing criminal charges against people accused of minor crimes such as mooning – or as the city and state describe it, exposing one’s buttocks.

Valdez Police Chief Bill Comer said that exposing other parts of the human body that are deemed offensive, such as full nudity in public, flashing, streaking or indecent exposure, are considered higher offenses by the state and more likely to be criminally prosecuted.

“Mooning is a form of disorderly conduct,” Comer said.

Public drunkenness was also stricken from the code. The city’s acting attorney, Lindsay Hobson, said being intoxicated in public in and of itself is not prosecutable in state courts.

“Unless you commit some kind of crime” such as assault or disorderly conduct, it is not illegal to be drunk Pierce said. “You would have public drunkenness, in itself, is not an offence.”

This time around, the code revisions included numerous amendments, including a section that will legalize consumer fireworks for New Year’s Day and Fourth of July.

The proposed code change reads: Use of fireworks is permitted from 10:00 pm on July 3rd to 11:59 pm on July 4th, and from 10:00 pm on December 31st to 11:59 pm on January 1st of each year subject to provisions of Section 8.20.050 of the Valdez Municipal Code. The chief of police may revoke permission whether expressly given or implied under this provision where the health and safety of a person may be endangered.

The city has long-banned the use and possession of fireworks at all times, a hard to enforce rule during those specific holidays.

A number of minor changes in the draft revisions were made by council, which will come before the council for second reading before the laws go into effect.

Hobson explained that the $300 fines that the city can impose for breaking the code are written into another section of the code. The magic dollar amount is $300 because state statute states that fines that exceed that amount are applicable to misdemeanor crimes, a purview of the state.


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