hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

June 27, 2012

Editorial: Have a happy Fourth but respect your neighbors

As the Continental Congress prepared to ratify the Declaration of Independence in early July 1776, John Adams penned his thoughts on how Independence Day should be celebrated.

"It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade," the nation's future second president wrote to his wife, Abigail, "with Shows, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."

Don't try that in Haverhill next week, especially not the "Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations" part.

The city says it has launched a summertime crackdown on excessive noise, including the whistles, whooshes, bangs and booms of fireworks.

Mayor James Fiorentini said City Hall and police are deluged with noise complaints every summer, despite an ordinance that bans excessive noise. "Excessive" is defined as louder than 50 decibels between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. and 70 decibels at other times. Seventy decibels is about as loud as a vacuum cleaner or hair dryer.

Passed in 2006, the law calls for a fine of $50 - and up to $300 for repeat offenders.

"Our residents deserve peace and quiet," Fiorentini said in a statement. (See story on page 1.) "For that reason, the police chief and I are launching Operation Quiet.''

Two officers are now assigned to patrol city neighborhoods in an umarked car. They are armed with noise meters to nail those who violate the ban on excessive noise.

Police Officer Paul Malone said if the meter's dial goes past the decibel limit, a citation will be issued.

"It is a zero-tolerance program," Malone said.

We'll see. Figures are not yet available on the number of tickets issued since the campaign was launched last week.

The city has had noise meters since the ordinance was passed six years ago. Fiorentini acknowledges they were used sparingly in the past, but said the time has come for more aggressive enforcement.

"We received numerous complaints about people shooting off illegal fireworks at all hours of the night." the mayor said. "We also received numbers of complaints about people with loud noise, of boomboxes music playing until all hours of the evening."

Fiorentini said that in the past the city has confiscated fireworks, but this summer will be handing out fines for their use under the noise law.

We're all for celebrating the Fourth of July with the gusto recommended by Adams. We even favor relaxing state fireworks laws — the Bay State is one of only four that won't even let you light a sparkler.

But we also believe that part of being a good American citizen is to respect your neighbors and dial things back when your celebration becomes someone else's nuisance, especially at night and especially in summertime when windows are open and people are outside.

So have a happy Fourth, but keep it down.