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June 5, 2023

Scotts Valley Council votes down 4th of July fireworks

City cites overloaded staff and financial hardship as reasons

Last year, Scotts Valley was commended for its ability to overcome pandemic obstacles to bring back its Fourth of July Weekend fireworks display, although it took $70,000 from the General Fund to make it happen.

But at its regular meeting Feb. 15, the Scotts Valley City Council voted 4-1 against holding the combustible programming, this time citing budgetary and staffing pressures. Vice Mayor Randy Johnson dissented from the majority.

Staff had recommended this course of action, which would preserve a daytime parade with an airplane flyover, as it would only cost between $29,000 and $44,000, depending on the donations received.

More than 5,000 people purchased tickets to last year’s festivities at Skypark, including hundreds from Sacramento, Oakland and San Francisco—and with people from Illinois, Pennsylvania and Texas also among the buyers.

The event, however, took 26 meetings and nearly 500 hours of City staff time to pull off, even with 25 to 40 volunteers, and ended up costing $55,000, according to a staff report.

Council members had originally hoped the City might actually make money.

Mayor Jack Dilles said he didn’t think it would be responsible to hold the fireworks this year. Staff noted it has been putting off road restriping and said the wastewater treatment plant was pushed to the brink during the January storms.

Public Works Director Chris Lamm said if his staff was directed to take on fireworks event planning, it would be difficult to get much done besides doing their daily rounds.

Earlier in the evening, the Council heard the City has been falling behind on many of its municipal priorities.

But Councilmember Johnson said he thought Scotts Valley was failing to meet a challenge it’s been faced with. He sparred with City Manager Mali LaGoe—even cutting her off at one point—criticizing the report for not going into more detail about the benefits of holding a fireworks display.

He blamed the $25,000 event planner the City hired last time, and suggested Scotts Valley could find efficiencies that would allow the fireworks tradition to continue.

Councilmember Allan Timms said it might not be such a bad idea to get rid of the fireworks, since they can disturb pets and cause environmental damage.

Councilmember Donna Lind, who led the revival of in-person Independence Day celebrations two years ago, said raising thousands of dollars from community members wouldn’t be a problem, but ultimately agreed staff’s arguments made sense.

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


  1. Lemme get this straight. In 2020 we voted to tax ourselves an additonal 2 million dollars per year to hire more staff and raise the salaries of existing staff. And now they can’t pull off a one day event that we all love because it takes too many meetings and staff time? Sounds more like civic incompetence or plain laziness.

    I’ll remember this next time they hold out their hands for more money,

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