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Gadget ban clears Council

The bill would outlaw holding iPads and cellphones while crossing city streets

By B.J. Reyes

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 08:29 p.m. HST, May 12, 2011


Sending a text message on a cellphone or reading an iPad — even just holding the devices — while crossing the street would be outlawed under a proposal the City Council is advancing.

Bill 43 amends the city's ban on holding mobile electronic devices while driving, a law passed in 2009, and extends it to pedestrians crossing streets.

The Council cleared the measure on first reading yesterday but it still must go through additional committee and Council readings before passage.

Yesterday's Council meeting drew testimony from just three people, including Makiki resident Bob Keating, who opposed the bill.

"I totally agree with not using the telephone while driving — texting and all that — but walking across a crosswalk using a phone?" Keating said. "Why are you trying to control our lives?

"Everything we do, we're not doing it right and you guys just want to change everything."

The 2009 mobile device ban was aimed at stopping activities such as text messaging and video-game playing while driving, but law enforcement officials said a blanket ban was needed to make the measure enforceable. With a blanket ban, a police officer would only have to see a driver using a hand-held device, not determine what was being done, to issue a citation.

Police Maj. Kurt Kendro said the department opposes Bill 43 because the restrictions were too broad and that any changes to the existing law could water down the driving ordinance.

Under the proposal, simply holding an electronic device while crossing the street would be a violation of the law.

"Even if you're holding it and you're not actively using it and you cross the street, you're in violation of the law," Kendro said. "We think it's a good law to get pedestrians to be aware of their surroundings, but we think this is a bit over-broad because of how it's worded."

The bill was introduced by Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi at the request of a constituent.

Council members also advanced a proposal allowing for the storage on Oahu of consumer fireworks that still may be legally sold on the neighbor islands.

Supporters say Bill 38 will clarify the city's fireworks ban and address an issue raised in a recent lawsuit against the city.

Honolulu's consumer fireworks ban took effect this year and by law, fireworks that may be sold legally on neighbor islands may not be warehoused or stored on Oahu. The city has been sued by one retailer, which said it completed significant upgrades at its Honolulu storage facility to comply with storage regulations before the ban went into effect.

Officials with the Honolulu Fire Department, which opposes the reintroduction of fireworks on Oahu, said other retailers have complied with the law and moved storage of fireworks off Oahu.

Bill 38 goes back to committee for further vetting.

Meanwhile, the Council gave final approval to end a decades-old subsidy that supports recycling by private companies and nonprofits.

The 80 percent discount on "tipping fees" the city charges when companies deliver recycling residue to the Waimanalo Gulch landfill deprived the city of about $2 million last year.

The subsidy has been criticized as too generous to a single company, Schnitzer Steel Hawaii. Schnitzer does the most recycling in Honolulu with more than 100,000 tons of metal a year from automobiles, appliances and other bulky metal items. Since 1998, Schnitzer has received about $19 million in discounts, including $1.9 million last year.

While Council members have said they want to do away with the subsidy in the interest of fairness, they also have said they want to continue to encourage recycling.

They continue to work on proposals that would restore the subsidy at a lower rate and cap the amount a single company can claim.






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