I grew up loving the Fourth of July! It is a special holiday because it fosters a sense of community. As a veteran, and a civil servant with over 27 years of government service, I wanted to celebrate this Fourth of July. I have learned through my government service and through reading the Bible, that freedom requires sacrifice. The Tehachapi City government was unwilling to sacrifice a firework show to keep its citizens safe.
City employees should not have been placed in the position of deciding whether the fireworks should go on. City employees work for the City Council. When the governor requested that all professional fireworks shows be canceled, the city council should have held an emergency meeting and voted, and informed city employees of their decision. The council abrogated their duties as elected officials.
Citizens must be able to take the government at its word, especially the local government According to my council person, the decision to cancel the fireworks was made within City Hall and without council input. The same individuals then reinstated the fireworks. The city must show transparency and full disclosure on the decision-making process.
One has to wonder, did the city even cancel the fireworks, as they publicly stated? Can they produce a copy of the canceled contract? Did they try to negotiate with the vendor for a credit or a reschedule? Did the city take into account the COVID outbreak at the prison? Did city employees intentionally deceive citizens? If the answer is yes, one has to ask what else are they deceiving us about?
On July 4, the COVID case numbers for the Tehachapi area were as follows: 44 total cases with 18 active cases. The prison had 27 employee cases with 18 active cases. On July 9, COVID case numbers look like this: 87 cases for Greater Tehachapi with 54 active cases, 83 prison employees with 74 active cases. Did asymptomatic citizens unknowingly infect others as they gathered to watch the fireworks display? Would these people have gathered together if the city had not reversed its fireworks decision? Did the city’s decision directly contribute to these spikes?
There was another unintended consequence. Channel 23 reported that the city had held fireworks, and some viewers on its Facebook page expressed a desire to boycott Tehachapi. The city unintentionally damaged Tehachapi tourism they have worked so hard to build. Ill will has been created toward our beautiful mountain community and its citizens. Will we end up losing more tourism or local sales tax dollars than the $30,000 budgeted for the fireworks?
It is up to the city to rebuild trust with its citizens. It is time for the City Council to step up and ensure they are providing guidance and leadership to city employees. Getting through this will require sacrifice on everyone’s part, so we can truly be Tehachapi Strong.
Michael Puffer is a 15-year Tehachapi resident. He has served his country and its citizens 27 years as an air traffic controller for both the Air Force and federal government.