Cell phones abuzz at Commission meeting

We've all been at a restaurant, in a movie, and even church or synagogue when all of a sudden, a familiar jingle plays out.

Cell phones. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're here to stay.

One hour into a Mercer Island Planning Commission meeting held last Wednesday, repeated ringing caused one Commissioner to call for a cease to the cell phone chimes.

"Everyone, this is your last chance to turn off your cell phones," said Eric Laschever. "You guys have been good," he said, motioning to the audience, but then shot out a few stern looks at the offending Commissioners whose phones had rung several times.

Some public places restrict or ban the use of palm-sized, electronic gizmos, but there is currently no city cell phone policy for public meetings, said City Attorney Katie Knight.

It's unlikely that any restrictions will be placed on meetings held in the City Council Chambers, she said, while adding that other venues are less lenient.

Knight recounted a day in federal court when the judge sanctioned the opposing attorney's client $100 for their cell phone ringing during proceedings.

The Mercer Island Municipal Court won't impose fines for rogue cell phone use, she said, but the judge will issue a polite reminder.

"It's not a big problem," said City Manager Rick Conrad, who could only think of one instance when a Council member's phone rang.

Knight agreed.

"It doesn't happen a lot. It was kind of a coincidence last night," she said of the multitude of ringing cell phones at last Wednesday's meeting.

Will city officials impose cell phone etiquette?

"Not unless we see it becoming a really big problem," Knight said.

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