Exceptions to the rule

The vote hadn’t even been taken last night before cell phone ban supporters on council began jockeying for exceptions for their constituents unhappy with a ban.

First, a couple of ham radio operators made a last-minute plea to exempt federally licensed amateur radio operators. So Jim Ward moved that the cell phone ban ordinance be amended to exempt them.

Soon, Ed Harrison spoke up to say the ordinance wouldn’t outlaw talking on the phone while driving; it only makes driving while yakking illegal if the driver were violating another traffic law, such as crossing a double yellow line or running a red light.

Laurin Easthom begged to differ, stating the ordinance would ban drivers from talking on a handheld phone or Bluetooth or any hands-free phone system built into a car.

Donna Bell jumped in to side with Harrison, saying that drivers talking on cell phones could sail right by a police officer, and they wouldn’t be pulled over unless they were committing some other moving violation. Then to further appease voters, she urged police to hold off giving tickets for cell phone violations and just give violators a warning. The spirit of the law was to educate drivers not punish them, she said in effect. (Town attorney Ralph Karpinos clarified that money collected from tickets goes to the school system, not the town.)

After five council members (Bell, Harrison, Rich, Storrow and Ward) voted for the ordinance that they are exempt from, council moved on to the vote about an education campaign for the new law. Eastholm asked for signs “on all five entrances” to town. Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt clarified that it would require “scores” of signs, not just five. Matt Czajkowski asked about the cost for the signs and education plan, and that once that figure were known it be included as a line item on the budget.

In the end, council has given us the worst of all worlds: Our taxes will go up to pay for a law that drivers don’t have to obey and won’t make our streets any safer.
– Nancy Oates

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
Leave a comment


  1. Road Warrior

     /  March 27, 2012

    If the Ham Radio exemption is part of the law, that makes this political grandstanding of the highest (and dumbest) order. It is the conversation (allegedly) that is the problem. Exempting one form of electronic communication is as bad.

    It exposes the hypocrisy and age bias of Council. The irony is that the biggest violators will be people over 50. Twentysomethings still have the reflexes to handle multiple things while driving.

    Chapel Hill, handing State and National elections to Republicans since Jesse Helms.

  2. Ph. Johnson-Sledge

     /  March 27, 2012

    Thank you town council, for embarrassing Chapel Hill once more by enacting something useless, ludicrous and inane. The stupidity that runs rampant on the dias is incredible.

  3. N. Fidel

     /  March 27, 2012

    Congratulations to the Clown Council. Once again they have demonstrated the sublime art of turning the egregious into the ridiculous.

  4. Fred Black

     /  March 27, 2012

    I guess that I am not alone in seeing this whole thing as partly being about some specialness in being first in the US to pass such an ordinance, as well as advancing personal political aspirations. A bad ordinance trying to do a good thing usually results in a bad outcome.

  5. Just a note to remind people that four members of the Council did vote against it, myself included. The fact that we fell one vote short of preventing it is something people may want to reflect on in the face of a possible Council vacancy.

  6. Jon DeHart

     /  March 27, 2012

    I have not looked at the details yet, when does the ordinance start ?

  7. Fred Black

     /  March 27, 2012

    1 June is the effective date.

  8. Anonymous

     /  March 27, 2012

    the law can be repealed. In fact I’d suggest a new person run on being a 5th vote for repeal

  9. Jason

     /  March 27, 2012

    From the piece in the N & O today it appears that it is ok to use your cell phone to speak to your spouse, child or parent. Since the police cannot check to see who you are speaking to, an easy out seems to be to choose from the above.

  10. Nancy Oates

     /  March 27, 2012

    Or, if you don’t have a child, parent or state-recognized spouse, get licensed as a ham radio operator.

  11. Steve J

     /  March 27, 2012

    The amateur radio exemption is required because of the possibility of Federal preemption of the new Town ordinance. Well-established case law prohibits local or state regulations that conflict with Federal laws, and in this case, amateur radio is under the sole jurisdiction of the FCC.

  12. As the state director for North Carolina’s 18,870 federally licensed Amateur Radio operators, and more importantly Chapel Hill’s 283 operators, I am disappointed in several aspects of the new ordinance. Most importantly, a municipal ordinance cannot override federal law. A citation issued erroroneously under this ordinance against an Amateur Radio operator will be challenged in court. An exclusion for Amateur Radio would have saved the Town of Chapel Hill needless legal fees for an appeal it would ultimately lose based on 25 years of ample precedents. Perhaps worst of all, the Town is disregarding a resource of emergency communications in those disasters when landlines, cell phone and internet cease to work. Yes, the new ordinance exempts emergency communications, but Amateur Radio operators have to test their equipment during non-emergencies to ensure it will work when needed. Finally, there are no documented cases of motor vehicle accidents caused by Amateur Radio operators while using their equipment while driving. We regret that the Town of Chapel Hill has such disregard for its Amateur Radio citizens to ignore their volunteer service to the community. By the way, the term “Amateur” in Amateur Radio doesn’t mean “unprofessional”, but “without compensation”, like an amateur athlete. We are very much professional communicators – so much so the White House’s report on Hurricane Katrina calls Amateur Radio the “most fail safe form of communications”.
    BIll Morine, Wilmington
    ARRL North Carolina Section Manager
    ARRL – The National Association for Amateur Radio

  13. Road Warrior

     /  April 1, 2012

    I have had my share of disagreements with Fred Black in the past, but I agree with him here. Also, he is a man of principal, so if there is a vacancy, I hope he considers putting his hat in the ring.

    Everyone knows the ban is stupid, but Matt Cz. brings up a great point and I’d like to see a reasonable person (even if I disagree with him on a few things) on Council.

  14. John Kramer

     /  April 1, 2012

    Can’t wait til they bring such useful legislation into effect over here in Durham. LOL