Council kickoff

One year for Christmas my children got me a bumper sticker that read, “Hang up and drive,” so tired were they of hearing me mutter that phrase to other drivers making airhead moves while talking on the phone. In April, Penny Rich proposed a ban on cell phone use while driving on town roads. (The town has no jurisdiction over state roads, which includes many of the main drags through town.) Council decided to wait to see what state legislators would do with similar bills on their agenda. But the state didn’t take any action.

Now former mayor pro tem Joe Capowski is pushing for the issue to be taken up by the town. Capowski witnessed a pedestrian hit by a car whose driver may or may not have been on the phone. (Capowski said she was; the driver and her lawyer say he’s wrong.)

Much as we would love to see “Hang up and drive” become a reality, we sadly must agree with the Chapel Hill police chief who said such a law would be unenforceable. Still, we’re looking forward to a public comment period to see whether anyone driving an SUV supports a ban.

Also on tap for tonight’s season opener:

 The town received a $13,062 grant that would cover 80 percent of the cost of putting recyclable receptacles downtown. The town must kick in an additional $2,613. We’re pleased that the town might take this small step to live its purported values, especially at such a bargain price. No indication of how many recycling containers the $15,675 program will afford.

 In April, council approved total-body-wrap ads on buses, turning buses into mobile billboards using all colors and fonts, unlike the sign ordinance council passed that won’t allow store logos or colors. The town is asking for a budget increase of $110,054 to wrap the buses and expects to receive $150,000 in revenue from advertisers.

 Town staff are recommending that an ordinance be changed to allow the Ronald McDonald House to expand beyond 40 families. No upper limit has been set in the draft ordinance up for review.

 Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt will submit a petition objecting to “Defense of Marriage” bills in the state House and Senate that would amend the state constitution to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. Marriage between different-sex couples doesn’t seem to have worked out particularly well, and the government trying to protect same-sex couples from committing similar follies seems intrusive and patronizing. Lobbyists representing the interests of divorce lawyers should be able to halt those bills forthwith.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Road Warrior

     /  September 12, 2011

    I don’t think Council Members should be basing policy decisions on what they think they saw. Eyewitness accounts mean absolutely nothing and are often completely wrong and based on personal bias.

    My Great Aunt was involved in a horrific accident caused by a woman who was paying so much attention to her GPS, she missed a stop sign. So should we ban GPS devices as well. Bad drivers will have accidents and good drivers will too if they aren’t paying attention.

    Driver distraction was an issue when radios were introduced. It still is. Council really should think about how it’s going to sell Million Dollar condos downtown, when people can’t sell $500,000 houses in Chapel Hill. Yet another waste of time.

    As a Liberal Democrat, I don’t understand this one at all.

  2. Ph. Johnson-Sledge

     /  September 12, 2011

    If this potential law is only applicable to non-state roads and our police force can’t reasonably enforce such a law, then this constitutes an utter waste of council’s time
    and city administrative costs. In theory, not being able to legally chat and navigate our
    busy and congested town at the same time would likely reduce accidents, but only if
    the law covers the entire area, region,state, etc and not just particular streets. This
    proposal smacks of self-promotion for Rich and little else. I hope the rest of Council
    recognizes this and puts their efforts elsewhere.

  3. Anita Badrock

     /  September 12, 2011

    I don’t think it’s useful to pass a law whoe impact is negligible and whose costs of enforcement are high. I’m in the middle of citizens police academy and becoming more and more aware of what it takes to implement new procedures and train police officers whenever local, state, and federal laws change. When the net inpact is very low, and the resource cost is high, then we should ask ourselves if this is really how we want to use our resources.

    This law if approved, would not apply to any of the roads where the vast majority of acccidents occur: –Franklin, Cameron, MLK, Weaver Dairy, 54, 15-501, Manning, Rosemary, and so on and so on………

    Nice idea, but in my opinion, the best use of time and resources is to
    –more aggressively enforce existing laws re: speeding, tailgating, running red lights, jaywalking, AND
    —petition the General Assembly to pass a state wide law.

  4. runner

     /  September 12, 2011

    Well said Anita. I vote for Anita.

  5. Ph. Johnson-Sledge

     /  September 12, 2011

    Me too, Anita.

  6. Road Warrior

     /  September 13, 2011

    It’s great that we are spending taxpayer money on a law that is unenforceable based on rich people’s inability to discipline their own children. Awesome. By the way, the accidents I’ve noticed are not teens. It’s all been people older than me, even .

    Of course, Chapel Hill has no other problems to solve. But the cool thing about this cell phone crusade is that with handsfree devices in radios now, it is utterly unenforceable.

    Maybe this is to keep people from calling to talk about the taxpayer moneypit that is Lot 5 as they drive past the hole in the ground that will one day be empty Million Dollar (ha!) condos?

  7. Scott Maitland

     /  September 13, 2011

    While we are talking about cellphones, can we aspire as a town to have complete cellphone coverage throughout our town limits?

  8. Nancy Oates

     /  September 13, 2011

    It would save wear and tear on our police force if we just eliminated cell phone service on all town roads.

  9. Anita Badrock

     /  September 13, 2011

    I’ll remember those pledges of support if I ever run for Town Council! 🙂

    Loved the N and O front page article on the dangers of texting while walking this morning. I understand the intent of exploring this law, and I don’t fault anyone for wanting to reduce accidents, but once again I think we have to consider how to best allocate our resources for maximum impact.

    I wonder how work priorities shift when new things—like researching a new possible initiative–are requested of Town staff. How much staff time, resources, etc do we use when we ask for background research , analysis, and report writing? What other work in progress is delayed and does it –and if so, how does it—affect town operations? How much does it cost? How much time does the staff really have to take on new work? What new work is the biggest bang for our buck?

    With tight budget times and inevitible staff reductions, we can’t just keep asking people to work more. We have to make some decisions about cost/benefits and focus resources.

    Being more cognizant of how we are asking public employees to spend their time and how much work we expect of them is essential. They are our resources!!