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Our view: Neighborhood pryotechnicians on short leash New Year's Eve

In one of those contorted efforts to make everybody happy, the Anchorage Assembly has tightened the rules on the New Year's Eve fireworks break, a suspension of the city's ban that allows residents to whoop it up legally for 3.5 hours.

Residents can fire only on their own property between 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 31, and 1 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 1. No blasting within 200 feet of another house, or 500 feet of a gas station, library (don't want to disturb midnight patrons), house of worship, hotel, motel, health care or assisted living facility or school.

The revised ordinance bans fireworks downtown and in mobile home parks. And all crisped remains must be cleaned up within 12 hours.

How will this change New Year's Eve this year? Probably not much.

Fireworks scofflaws will continue to bend, if not break, the law. Many will treat 9:30 p.m. and 1 a.m. as suggestions rather than legal limits; likewise the 200- and 500-foot rules. Anchorage police have made it clear fireworks enforcement will not be a priority Saturday night unless offenders go too far or complaints reach critical mass. Bottle rockets and trembling pets won't summon the law.

We can't see a practical way to split the difference on this one. The Assembly tried, probably reading public sentiment the way we read letters and comments on these pages and online: about 50-50, with delight and dismay both running strong. If there's common ground, it's in a gravel pit or the far side of Fire Island.

Assemblyman Dick Traini, the original sponsor of the fireworks holiday, wants to put the matter to a public vote in the April election. If nothing else, that would boost turnout in a city election that already features the mayoral race and a gay-rights initiative.

If the issue does come to a public vote, what happens Saturday night might decide the winner. Intentionally or not, the Assembly has put the fireworks faction on the honor system. Three-and-a-half hours is plenty of time for bright lights and boom. Be safe. Respect the neighbors, respect the law and restore tranquility at the stroke of one.

BOTTOM LINE: Lighting fireworks for New Year's? Better take a tape measure.