NEAL RUBIN

Rubin: On topic of fireworks, Marlinga has a short fuse

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

Carl Marlinga lives in a comfortable Sterling Heights neighborhood of middle incomes, three- and four-bedroom Colonials, and idiots.

Michigan’s fireworks law became less restrictive in 2012 – delighting some, but annoying others.

A couple of idiots, anyway — the gents who were firing bottle rockets at one another from across the street. And maybe a couple more — the people who were setting off fireworks over the weekend at 2 and 3 a.m.

If that’s you, “You’re showing you’re an idiot,” Marlinga says. “You don’t care about the law, and you don’t care about anybody else.”

Marlinga, 69, served five terms as Macomb County prosecutor. These days he’s a probate judge, and he’s running unopposed for a seat on the Macomb County Circuit Court.

In all his years of casting ballots and being on them, he has never been a single-issue voter. But as he sat listening to a barrage of fireworks being illegally and illogically set off in the street, it struck him that he had finally become one.

If you’ll pledge to make airborne fireworks illegal again, he says, you’re his candidate.

Marlinga is not, by nature, a get-off-my-lawn sort of guy. Me, either.

But when the lawns are littered with debris from consumer-grade fireworks we did without quite nicely for generations, and when morons are launching mortars for weeks before and after everything from Independence Day to Groundhog Day, perhaps it’s time to rethink the law.

That’s what State Rep. Ed McBroom is doing, and he co-sponsored the bill in the first place.

McBroom, R-Vulcan, doesn’t want to go all the way back to the dark days before Michigan allowed Roman candles and skyrockets, meaning 2011.

He’d settle for a few more restrictions, building on the ones he co-sponsored in 2013 to let local governments squelch fireworks except for three-day periods with a federal holiday in the middle.

But yeah, he told Detroit News reporter Breana Noble last week, “People have been so unneighborly with their newfound freedom to use fireworks. It’s been disappointing.”

Loud things need limits

Marlinga, it should be noted, is aware that he is a judge and there are limits on the stands he can take in public.

He can’t imagine a circumstance in which a fireworks violation would come before him, though, which makes him free to ask, “What is so important about fireworks that we have to make so many people so miserable?”

We’re hearing more and more about veterans who hate them. Dogs can’t vote, but they generally despise them, too.

Even those of us who like them — fireworks, that is, not dogs, though I like dogs as well — don’t appreciate them at unseemly or unlawful days and times.

One of our charming neighbors was setting off strings of firecrackers in the early afternoon on Sunday. Happy Third of July, and have you considered moving?

I understand Indiana is lovely this time of year.

It’s Indiana’s fault

Judging by the billboards along I-94, Indiana’s entire economy is based on selling fireworks to Michiganians driving to and from Chicago.

Our legislators figured we might as well keep that revenue for ourselves, so we’ve been fireworks-friendly since 2012, collecting a 6 percent sales tax plus a 6 percent fire safety fee.

From October 2014 to September 2015, Michigan took in more than $4 million in taxes and the safety certificate fees paid by stores and temporary vendors.

That’s nice money if you find it in your other pants, but not overly consequential in a 2015 state budget of $53.59 billion.

“For the little bit of revenue they get,” Marlinga says, “the associated human aggravation just isn’t worth it.”

Granted, some people’s livelihoods would be affected if pyrotechnics were grounded, though that didn’t break any hearts when the legislature rescinded movie incentives.

Also, some people simply enjoy shooting them off. None of us trust Chinese-made toothpaste, but potentially lethal explosives? Sure, why not?

One bill stuck in committee would make July 4 the only day immune from local ordinances, meaning cities could otherwise outlaw fireworks. Another, introduced by Democratic State Rep. Harry Yanez, would repeal the current law.

Yanez, as it happens, is from Sterling Heights. Marlinga may have found his man.

nrubin@detroitnews.com

@nealrubin_dn