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City Hall Softening Law That Most Drivers Ignore

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Oct 10, 2008 8:30PM

2008_10_10_tom.jpgCity Hall's response to cell-phone-yapping motorists is simple: get a hands-free device or put a sock in it. While that's still the case, a new plan working its way through city council would scale back the punishment for offenders of the cell phone ban, which now includes text messaging and internet surfing. Under the current ordinance, talkative drivers have their license taken away by the police department and can only get it back after they pay a fine or go to court. But during Wednesday's full council meeting, Mayor Daley introduced a proposal that allows offenders to keep their license. The proposal also allows violators the opportunity to contest their ticket by mail or through an administrative hearing.

It's hard not to think that this latest move by Mayor Daley is connected to last year's incident with 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney. The Lakeview alderman was busted almost a year ago for talking on his cell phone while driving. Tunney, who claimed to be conducting city business on his phone, called the district's police commander (hopefully not on his cell phone) and criticized the police department's priorities even though he voted for the cell phone ban. The incident sparked an investigation by the Chicago Police Department's Internal Affairs Division when an officer later hand-delivered the license back to Tunney.

This latest ordinance revision is just another example of how far some city council members will go to cover themselves. Last spring, 33rd Ward Alderman Richard "Dick" Mell, with backing from Mayor Daley, created a four-month amnesty period for gun registration when he forgot to re-register his arsenal of shotguns, pistols, and rifles. Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue criticized the move, saying that the measure created a "double standard." Mell defended the plan by saying he knew many gun owners who also forgot to re-register their firearms.

By Hunter Clauss

Photo of Tom Tunney not talking on his cell phone while driving taken from his website