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Fireworks Lottery Raises Concerns of Fairness

The Dixon Fire Department recently held its fireworks drawing, choosing eight nonprofit agencies to sell fireworks in Dixon. Concerns have been raised about the fairness of the process.

Eight nonprofit agencies have been given the opportunity to make some much-needed funding and sell fireworks in Dixon come the Fourth of July.

But some say that the process is not fair. The fireworks vendor lottery was held March 15 at the fire station and included a total of 20 local nonprofits - every type of agency from youth sports groups to veterans groups and church and business groups.

All 20 names were drawn in order, but only eight were given the opportunity to sell fireworks this year. They include Downtown Dixon Business Association, Dixon Community Church, Sons of the Legion, Dixon Montessori Charter School, American Legion Ladies Auxiliary Unit, American Legion Post 208, Word of Life Ministries and Fairfield-based Mission Solano Rescue.

The nonprofits drawn will have the opportunity to apply for a vendor's permit that will give them the OK to sell fireworks in Dixon. Nonprofits who have a change of heart and do not apply for the permit will benefit those who were drawn after the initial eight, as the opportunity to apply for the permit will go to them. 

The types of nonprofits allowed to sell fireworks this year -- three veterans groups, two church groups, one business group, one charter school group and a Fairfield-based homeless shelter -- are causing some members of the lottery to question the fairness of the ordinance. 

"I have a lot of concerns about the process and the lottery criteria that the City established," Dixon Rugby Club President Robert Salaber said. "The loss of this fundraiser to the Dixon Rugby Club will be devastating, as it was our largest fundraiser last year. The fact that the City allowed out-of-town, non-profits into the lottery is ludicrous. The fact that they allowed multiple submissions from essentially the same organization is ridiculous, as it invites 'gaming' the system. The fact that they then awarded multiple firework stands to essentially the same organization is preposterous. And the fact that only one local 'youth' non-profit was awarded a fireworks stand makes the whole thing a sham."

Dixon Fire Chief Aaron McAlister said he heard the Rugby Club's concerns and provided some feedback to them.

"It’s just that they were not selected through the random lottery process," McAlister said. "They were not selected, neither were any other youth sports groups, but that's the nature of a random lottery."

McAlister said the lottery was done fairly, in the presences of fireworks vendor representatives and without any of the nonprofit groups present, as none of them decided to show up for the drawing.

"It was publicized it was right on the applications," McAlister said. "I think most people have established a business relationship with the wholesalers and they just trust in the wholesalers."

McAlister noted that the fire department and community will have one more opportunity to go in front of the Dixon City Council to talk about the pilot program and decide how the ordinance should be revised for the future.

McAlister said that the pilot program, as it's currently written, allows for nonprofits, even if they are not based in Dixon, to be part of the lottery.

The ordinance states that nonprofits can sell fireworks in Dixon if:

  • the nonprofit can provide proof that they are a nonprofit as defined by federal guidelines
  • have at least 10 adult, bonified members either residing or working in Dixon, or who own/operate a business in Dixon and can provide proof of it to the fire chief. 
  • must not be in violation of any civil or criminal law in relation to fireworks within 36 months of applying for a permit in Dixon
  • must not have had a permit to sell fireworks revoked by an jurisdiction within 36 months of applying for a permit.

McAlister said that seeing Mission Solano - which is based in Fairfield - as one of the lottery participants raised some concerns at first, but after careful scrutiny and after they met all of the guidelines, his concerns dissipated. 

McAlister said that some jurisdications do a categorical lottery (select two business groups, two veterans groups, two sports groups, etc.) and this is something the city can consider as the program evolves.

Last year, the Dixon Rugby Club was among the eight chosen to sell fireworks in Dixon along with Dixon Montessori Charter School, Knights of Columbus, Dixon Girls Softball, Young Ladies Institute, St. Peter's Youth Program, Word of Life Ministries and American Legion Ladies Auxiliary.

Some of the nonprofits teamed up with those who were not drawn. For example, the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary teamed up with the American Legion Post 208, American Legion Riders, Rough Riders and Toys for Tots to sell the fireworks, generating thousands of dollars in revenue for the the groups.

Last year, the groups who went with TNT Fireworks, one of two vendors in Dixon who provided the fireworks to the nonprofits, made an average of $27,000 per stand.

Nonprofits who went with Phantom Fireworks grossed $53,000 (only two of the eight nonprofits went with Phantom)

Now we put the question to the readers of Dixon Patch. Should the fireworks lottery be revamped and made to be a categorical lottery? Or should it stay the same? What, if any, changes would you like to see in the ordinance? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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Greg Coppes April 26, 2012 at 05:36 PM
I guess this is another case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Rugby is one of the groups that is sharing in the operations and profits of ALL the veterans stands. This year the 3 stands will be divided between 10 groups and sub groups. The groups had their second organizational meeting last Tuesday. Rugby was there to make their selection and location. We know from experience how much work these booths are. By sharing man power and resources, nonprofits that would not be able to properly man the booths are now able to participate.
gloria resendiz April 26, 2012 at 06:45 PM
I think only Dixon organizations should participate in town.
Greg Coppes April 26, 2012 at 09:23 PM
As far as going to a categorical lottery it wouldn't change much for us. We would still share ours
Ron Marlette April 27, 2012 at 03:13 PM
As the founding CEO of Mission Solano, we would like our readers to know that we are called Mission Solano because our service stretch from one end of the County to the other. We provide services for the homeless and poverty stricken of Dixon as well as all 7 cities of our County. The Bridge to Life Center has the capacity to car for 208 Solano County residents. This Center and resources provided are Solano Counties...not just Fairfield. However, if there are concerns from some nonprofits who will be negative affected by the (fair) chose of nonprofits who were chosen. We would be willing to work to make sure all viable organizations affected by this will benefit. Mission Solano has always, and will always work in unity with our County nonprofits to keep us all stung through the rough times we all face. My cell phone to those who would like to discuss this is 707-249-1611. I don't usually give this out but I am very serious about helping all we can benefit in this and any other fundraising opportunities. Blessings, Ron Marlette Founding CEO Mission Solano
Ron Marlette April 27, 2012 at 03:16 PM
I apologize for some of the miss-speeled words----its only my first cup of coffee! :-) Ron
Berry van der Linden April 27, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Please provide the number of families and homeless helped in Dixon.
Berry van der Linden April 27, 2012 at 08:31 PM
I only have my doubts with two of the non-profits chosen. Downtown Dixon Business Association should be founded by it's members who are all businesses in down town Dixon. Fairfield-based Mission Solano Rescue does not sound to me like a Dixon non-profit. There are many Dixon non-profits who need the money because county cut or diminished their funding. If I where to buy fireworks I would like that money top go to Dixon based non-profits only. Nothing against any non-profits from any where else in the county.

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