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Q&A With Marco Gonzalez: No Regrets Over Music Fest Lost

Attorney behind lawsuit threatening San Diego fireworks displays replies to La Mesa Patch queries.

Marco Gonzalez, the Encinitas attorney leading efforts to challenge San Diego fireworks displays on environmental grounds, replied to a series of questions Friday from La Mesa Patch.

Gonzalez says it’s “totally speculative” over what caused the Lake Murray Music Fest Committee led by John Pilch to keep the fireworks show—but cancel the bands at the Fourth of July event.

Notified about these responses, Pilch declined to comment specifically, but reiterated that an environmental impact report—as sought by Gonzalez—“will kill” the holiday event. 

“There’s no question,” Pilch said. “We’re not going to raise $20,000 for a document [the EIR] good only one year.”

Ken Stone conducted this interview via email:

La Mesa Patch: Do you regret the collateral damage your suit allegedly caused?

Marco Gonzalez: No, though I’m not sure what collateral damage you refer to.  The organizers say they didn’t raise enough money. It’s totally speculative that such difficulty has anything to do with our lawsuits. In fact, the organizers are pretty clear they’ve had fundraisers numerous past years when we didn’t have challenges pending.

La Mesa Patch: [John] Pilch told me that you once sent him email challenging the Lake Murray fireworks show.  Are you including that show in your suit?

Gonzalez: I sent him an email indicating his show is subject to Clean Water Act and California Environmental Quality Act regulations. His show has not been included in any suit to date, though the city special event permits required for the festival are implicated.

In the future, however, we will be focusing on that particular fireworks show as we believe the discharge of fireworks over a drinking water reservoir is a bad idea.

La Mesa Patch: Pilch says he wants to work with you and your group to make fireworks possible, but he says an EIR (which he says costs $20,000) would effectively end the Lake Murray event.  Can compromise allow for an EIR that is less costly?

Gonzalez: There are a lot of options for the city to deal with this. Your question is better posed to city officials.

La Mesa Patch: Pilch says water quality tests in recent years show no harmful effects from his fireworks. Do you have any facts to dispute this?

Gonzalez: Why didn’t he provide us that data? What was the sampling protocol? Why were samples taken days later instead of minutes or hours? Evidence suggests huge spikes in pollutants following shows with dissipation over days; but there isn't evidence of what harm these spikes cause: See this study.

La Mesa Patch: Do you have any records of communications between you and Pilch?  If so, could you share those exchanges?

Gonzalez: Not readily available. I communicated with him through the music festival web page. It's been extremely minimal. He's never bothered to call or initiate a discussion of his particular circumstance.

jgogek July 02, 2011 at 05:04 PM
I like the work that Marco Gonzales and Surfrider Foundation have done in the past. But I think that his crusade against fireworks shows is ill-conceived. First of all, the science on marine life damage caused by fireworks is really thin. But more importantly, Gonzales is squandering his much-needed public support on a crusade that seems to be more personal than anything else. In the future, there will be serious environmental problems that need a forceful response, but Gonzales will not be able to muster public support because he will be remembered as the guy who tried to ruin the Fourth of July. Sometimes, you watch public figures go off on a tirade and everybody -- except themselves -- knows that they are being foolish and are their own worst enemies. This is one of the cases. It's too bad, because Marco Gonzales has done a lot of good work in San Diego. But what he'll be remembered for is this quixotic attack on beloved fireworks shows.
Beth K. July 03, 2011 at 12:59 AM
Well said, jgogek.
Craig S. Maxwell July 03, 2011 at 01:23 AM
I agree!--and then some. There are so many important, local conservation (mostly land use) issues we must face. To complain about things like fireworks over Lake Murray is to indulge in the kind of pseudo-scientific, enviro-posturing that discredits legitimate concerns.
Diana Churchill-Bailey July 04, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Marco works for a lawyer's office that calls itself a champion of communities. Communities of what? Not of people. He wants to stop all Independence day celebrations. The little traumatized fishies in Lake Murray probably have the 4th of July marked on their calendars and snuggle down into the depths to wait the one hour of fireworks to be over and then go on about their own lives. PC folks have watered down all major Holidays so far so I guess he sees himself as the one to destroy this country's most important one....at a time when we need to remind young people of the real idea of celebration and what if feels like; sounds like and looks like. Communities work to raise funds, volunteers do tireless work behind the scenes---because they believe in freedom. Communities are made of real people. So he was able to stop the Lake Murray Fireworks display. I am sure he feels very proud of himself. Not proud of his country. Not freedoms. Not traditions and celebrations. Proud of Himself. Money is used as blackmail by Marco. He knows small communities can't win against his fees, suits, threats. He demanded nearly $800,000 from the city of San Diego and demand of $200,000 from La Jolla fireworks committee. Marco could not win against the big rich folks in LaJolla..........so he moved down to the little guys. Lake Murray Fireworks. He thinks he is a big deal now because he picked on and won against the smaller community.
Batman July 04, 2012 at 02:51 AM
In the old days problems like Mr. Gonzales were solved with tar and feathers. You know, I know and Mr. Gonzales knows the fireworks have no detrimental effects on the environment. This is quite clearly an attack on traditional American culture and values. Mr. Gonzales is obviously an anti-American and quite probably an anti-humanist also. Mr. Gonzales, pick up your hammer and sickle flag and GET OUT OF MY COUNTRY!

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