Rather than wait for lawmakers in Springfield to pass a state-wide ban on the use of hand-held cell phones in the car, the Lake Forest City Council passed its own ordinance at Monday night's meeting by a 5-2 margin.
Catherine Waldeck and Stanford Tack both voted against the ordinance, while voting in favor were Mike Adelman, Kent Elliot Novit, David Moore, Donald Schoenheider, Robert Palmer. Alderman George Pandaleon was absent.
Lake Forest joins Highland Park and Evanston along the North Shore to pass ordinances against hand-held cell phone use in a vehicle.
The ordinance will take effect Sept. 1.
At its Feb. 21 City Council meeting, a lack of consensus among the eight aldermen resulted in a 4-4 tie vote on first reading. Mayor James Cowhey voted to break the tie with a “no,” since the Illinois General Assembly was also then considering an expansion of the state cell phone law, which requires hands-free-only use in school and construction zones.
Monday night, City Manager Bob Kiely indicated the Illinois House did approve a hand-held cell phone, but that the bill was sitting in a Senate Transportation committee and didn't appear to be gaining any traction.
He added that if the City Council passed the ordinance and the Senate approves a bill, Lake Forest "could go back and tweak it as necessary."
Lake Forest's ordinance states "using" shall include, without limitation: (1) talking or listening to another person on the telephone; (2) text messaging; (3) sending, reading or listening to an electronic message; and (4) browsing the Internet. (see the full ordinance in the attached PDF).
If a driver is ticketed, the ordinance states the offender shall attend an administrative hearing at Lake Forest City Hall and be fined "no less than $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense, and $300 for each offense thereafter."
Waldeck said her stance on the issue had not changed since February when she voted against it. She said the issue is the state's problem, and the current "hodge-podge" of ordinances scattered in some neighboring communities only creates more confusion for drivers than clarity.
"Evanston is even discussing an ordinance banning a hands-free device," she noted. "Some studies say it’s not any safer. It’s confusing. I think it’s unfortunate the state has not acted."
Waldeck also didn’t like creating the impression that the ordinance is a means to fill city coffers and for the police to become a "tax collection agency than a crime prevention agency".
"I’m concerned about creating some bad feelings on residents toward the police department," she said. "They could be saying, 'Don’t you have something better to do?' I think they could focus on other things than writing tickets."
Tack, who was not present for the earlier debates since he just recently joined the City Council, agreed with Waldeck, echoing her concerns of using police departments as revenue generators.
However, Adelman and Schoenheider both said this was an issue of safety, not revenue generating.
"The last thing I think of is revenue generator," Adelman said. "I think of potential human lives being saved. I’m not willing to wait for the state. It’s not good to have a patchwork of laws. It’s so easy to buy a $50 Bluetooth device, keeping your eyes on the road and potentially saving a human life."
Added Schoenheider, "If we can safe one life, one injury, one incident from happening, then we’ve done something really important."
Moore agreed he felt "irresponsible in my mind to wait."
"There are few times you actually get to do something that bugs you," he said. "This is a personal thing. We get to do something about something that I think is unsafe."