[StBernard] St. Bernard Council enacts cellphone ban
westley at da-parish.com
Wed Feb 20 21:03:15 EST 2008
St. Bernard Council enacts cellphone ban
by Bob Warren, The Times-Picayune
Wednesday February 20, 2008, 10:00 AM
Dial up a friend or colleague during a St. Bernard Parish Council meeting
and you'll be ordered to cough up $20 -- or forfeit your cellphone.
A measure unanimously approved by the council this week will outlaw the use
of cellphones during council or committee meetings, even among council
members and other government officials.
"It is unbelievable the amount of cellphones that go off,'' Councilman Mike
Ginart said the volume of cellular traffic during council and committee
meetings has exploded in recent years. And it's not just people in audience
dialing or taking calls; he said he's watched council members chat on the
telephone during meetings as well.
"I just think it's rude,'' Ginart said.
After Hurricane Katrina, when the council was in seemingly meet-all-the-time
mode, council members often could be seen chatting on their phones during
Council Chairman Tony "Ricky'' Melerine, one of two council members who
served during and after the hurricane, said such rules on decorum were
relaxed after the storm because no one wanted to miss a call. But he agreed
that it's time to tighten up.
The council's ordinance does not ban cellphones, but says they must be
turned off or put in vibrate mode. Violators will be asked to immediately
cough up a $20 fine. Those who can't or won't pay will have to forfeit their
phones until they cover the fine. Fine money will be turned over to the
parish's Recreation Department.
People accused of violating the rule will have 10 days to appeal. The
council's Executive Finance Committee will hear appeals.
Parish President Craig Taffaro, noting that enforcement of the ordinance
will fall to his administration, asked the council to clarify whether text
messages or email are also forbidden. Taffaro's Blackberry is typically busy
with silent, incoming text messages.
The ordinance covers any cellphone-traffic that makes noise or disrupts the
meetings, Ginart replied.
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