Chicago motorists who get caught talking on cell phones while driving without a hands-free device would no longer lose their driver's licenses, under a mayoral plan that would have spared a North Side alderman political embarrassment.
Last year, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) got pulled over and ticketed for yakking on his cell phone while driving. He was forced to hand over his license like thousands of other motorists.
Tunney then called Town Hall District Cmdr. Gary Yamashiroya and demanded to know why officers in an "understaffed police district" with serious unsolved crimes were "assigned to pull people over solely for cell phone violations."
In response, Yamashiroya ordered a police officer -- not the one who wrote the $50 ticket -- to hand-deliver Tunney's driver's license to the alderman's ward office.
Motorists generally get licenses back only after they go to court or pay their fines.
The favored treatment for Tunney was the subject of an investigation by the Chicago Police Department's Internal Affairs Division. But Yamashiroya was ultimately exonerated and reassigned to the job of commander of the Area 3 detective division.
At Wednesday's City Council meeting, Mayor Daley introduced an ordinance that would allow motorists pulled over for violating the cell phone ban -- or the newly approved ban on text-messaging and surfing the Internet while driving -- to hang on to their licenses and contest their tickets by mail or at an administrative hearing.
"It's intended to provide a convenience for motorists ticketed for cell phone violations. . . . If there are other violations, this ordinance would not apply," said Police Department spokeswoman Monique Bond.
Tunney's response?
"I'm not going to get any more cell phone tickets," he said.