City went overboard shutting down fireworks stand, youth pastor says
BY JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Saturday, June 30, 2012
6/30/12 at 6:56 AM
The children's pastor of a church that shut down its fundraising fireworks stand under pressure from the city of Tulsa this week says the city's action was unnecessary and could have been accomplished by a single fire marshal instead of a group of police officers and fire marshals.
"I think they went way overboard," said Eric Macomber of the Broken Arrow First Church of the Nazarene. "I think we were harassed. I don't even think they knew who we were."
The church has halted its fundraising effort after city officials showed up at the stand Wednesday, Macomber said.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett said he authorized a group of city officials to confiscate fireworks that were bought at the stand, which is on an Indian allotment in the city of Tulsa, because the possession of fireworks in the city is prohibited by an ordinance that would be violated as soon as the purchaser stepped off the Indian land.
The 5-acre parcel of Indian land is unique from pockets of unincorporated land within Tulsa's city limits because leaving the property in any direction puts a person on undisputed city property, Mayoral Chief of Staff Jarred Brejcha said.
In addition, the fireworks stand on Indian land was the only one city officials had received a complaint about, he said.
However, several groups, including the Broken Arrow church, have criticized Bartlett's decision, saying the stand was unnecessarily targeted.
"That fireworks stand is no different than any other stand in Tulsa County," Macomber said. "It's one little stand being harassed. ... I think the whole thing was kind of a joke. It was an invalid use of Tulsa's finest."
One fire marshal's telling the group about the city ordinance would have been enough to shut down the fundraiser, Macomber said.
Instead, 10 to 12 police officers, fire marshals and other city employees arrived.
Brejcha said that's because "when we sent our sign crew out there to place the signs (about the fireworks ordinance), we didn't want them to be alone."
As officials were arriving at the allotment near 111th Street and Yale Avenue on Wednesday, Bartlett said the point of the effort was to "take a stand" in order to avoid a future controversy such as the one regarding a proposed casino on Indian land in Broken Arrow.
"If we don't (take a stand), then what's next?" he asked earlier this week. "If the people that are using that land, if they feel they can get away with something like this, then they may put a casino there or a strip club."
Brejcha said the response to the city's action has been positive from people in City Councilor Phil Lakin's District 8.
Lakin initially received the complaint about the fireworks stand from a resident and passed it along to be addressed by the mayor, Brejcha said.
The Mayor's Office has also received several emails from people who are upset about the ban, he said.
"This is one of the circumstances that makes it tough, because we are sympathetic to the church, but at the end of the day, we don't see how the mayor could conscientiously refuse to enforce the ordinance," Brejcha said. "What's not possible is not enforcing our ordinances."
Other than $400 that was taken in on Tuesday, when the church opened the fireworks stand, nothing has been sold there, Macomber said.
The funding was to go to the church's youth ministry and to fund a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, where church members were going to help the poor, as they have done twice before, he said.
Macomber is unaware of any plans to move the fireworks stand to a different location where it could reopen before the Fourth of July, he said.
Original Print Headline: Political fireworks
Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367
Broken Arrow First Church of the Nazarene chidlren's church pastor Eric Macomber stands next to their fireworks stand at 111th and Yalre that the city shutdown. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Broken Arrow First Church of the Nazarene children's church pastor Eric Macomber stands next to their fireworks stand at 111th Street and Yale Avenue on Friday. The church shut down the stand this week under pressure from the city. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Police officers and officials from the state Fire Marshal's Office look over a sign detailing Tulsa's fireworks ordinance near the fireworks stand Wednesday. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Unable to sell fireworks at the stand at 111th Street and Yale Avenue, volunteers from the Broken Arrow First Church of the Nazarene Nina Underwood (left) and her mother, LaNita Underwood, instead work on crafts and sorting recipes Friday. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World