On Thursday, the Hays City Commission again exercised its power of community control to deny the citizens of Hays to celebrate Independence Day in the traditional sense. Again, dry conditions were cited as a compelling reason.
This approach has become shop-worn to the point of being transparent. There are politics at play here that few, including me, are aware. Ellis County is not under dry conditions now, or in any way for the next month that encompasses Independence Day. The company I work for, Taz' fireworks, has been a mainstay in fireworks sales in Hays for decades. We are a local company based in Hill City, and every year -- except for the last two -- we have written a large check for sales taxes collected in Ellis County and the city of Hays. The fireworks industry records more sales in a month than many businesses do in a year. This fact does not have any effect on the decisions of the Ellis County commissioners or Hays City Commission, although sales tax revenue should be their concern.
It makes me wonder if some sort of vendetta has been lodged against us by these local stewards of the public trust. For years, we have conducted pyrotechnic shows at RPM Speedway during racing events. Due to the fireworks ban, we have been denied permits to bring these crowd-pleasing shows to the speedway. On the other side of the issue comes an approved permit for another company to conduct a fireworks show at the Wild West Festival. If a fireworks ban is in place that includes professional fireworks entertainment, should that not include the Wild West Fest show? Are there interests receiving special treatment from the commissioners? What sort of compensation are the commissioners receiving for approving this permit? Is this sort of discrimination acceptable to the citizens of the Hays community?
I hear from many in the public about being unhappy about being denied the ability to celebrate Independence Day in the way that has been our tradition for 200 years. Maybe the holiday would be better served to be re-named "Burger and Brat Day" so we'll all forget about what this country endured to win it's freedom from oppression. Maybe then, we'll be complacent about other laws passed "in the public interest" by officials who pander to a small minority of special interests.
I would invite the citizens of Ellis County to get loud and let your elected representatives know how you feel about this affront to our public celebration. If you are unable to sway your lawmakers, I would like to invite all of the freedom-loving residents of Ellis County to visit us in Hill City. Graham County will welcome you with open arms. While you are here, maybe you can spend a little time and money with our local merchants.
We celebrate our heritage robustly, with lots of firecrackers and night-works, and of course, a great fireworks show on Independence Day.
The views expressed in this letter are my own and are not influenced by any outside sources.