Once in a while, you have to wonder what they are putting in the water during Assembly meetings.
Take, for instance, the Assembly’s approval this week of a ban on hand-held cellphone use in marked school zones and on school grounds. It is another in a long line of cases exhibiting good initiative, but poor judgment.
The ban, which will go into effect about a month from now, will be in effect from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. – every day of the week, every month of the year. The fine for violating the ordinance? $500.
That means some poor soul toodling along at the legal 45 mph speed limit in a school zone on a Sunday evening in the middle of summer when there is no school in session can be ticketed and fined. That is beyond ridiculous. That is political boobism at its highest level.
Worse, it smacks of our old bugaboo, photo-radar. Remember photo-radar? That was a predatory program foisted on Anchorage years ago. It was sold as a nifty way to promote school zone safety by setting up photo-radar machines in school zones during school hours to catch and deter speeders.
It quickly expanded, with photo-radar machines being set up just about anyplace, anytime. It was killed after the public went bonkers and it became painfully obvious it was nothing but an unconstitutional revenue-enhancement scheme whereby the city and a private company sheared the sheep and shared the wool.
This cellphone ban appears not all that different. It is an overreach.
Count us among the legions who embrace the idea of safety in school zones. Banning hands-on cellphone use in marked zones during the hours they are active or school is in session only makes good sense – and probably should have been done years ago. But 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, of every week, of every month is silly and unnecessary.
The Assembly should take another shot at the ordinance and make it reflect reality – and, for goodness’ sake, stop drinking the water.