Rep. Carlyle backs new cell phone while driving law

Earlier this week the Washington State House Transportation Committee passed through SB 6345, a new bill that would further prohibit cellphone use while driving, making having a phone in your hand a primary offense subject to traffic stops and a $124 fine, with the sole exception of emergency use only.

In July 2008 legislators made the use of handheld devices while driving a secondary offense, meaning police could only dock you for it if they see another violation before initiating a traffic stop. If passed, this law would make Washington the fifth state to elevate holding a cellphone while driving to a primary offense, alongside the District of Columbia.

36th District Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D), who is behind companion bill HB 2635 that would make texting while driving specifically a primary offense, has thrown his support behind SB 6345.

“I am excited that the House Transportation Committee has passed this bill. Parents and other volunteer citizen activists worked incredibly hard along with Sen. Eide and me for many, many months, and I look forward to doing all that I can to get this bill through the House,” Carlyle said in a written statement.

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City releases 2009 crime stats

It may not come as much of a surprise that the Seattle Police Department’s year-end crime stats, released this week, show a slight rise in crime in 2009 when compared to 2008; back in December the FBI released national crime stats that uncovered the same upswing trend here in Seattle.

Based on SPD data, violent crimes went up 12 percent in 2009 from 2008, while property crimes rose 7 percent. Although this may seem like a significant increase, the FBI report comparing violent crimes in the first halves of both 2008 and 2009 in Seattle, indicated a much larger increase of 22 percent.

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Community members ask the candidates

The Mayoral candidates and City Council candidates came together last night for a community forum, held in the Ballard High School auditorium. Put on by the Ballard and Magnolia/Queen Anne District Councils, community members were invited to ask the candidates questions about their policies and future plans. Moderated by Seattle Channel’s C.R. Douglas, the forum was comprised of questions submitted beforehand by the community, audience queries and a series of “lightening rounds,” where candidates held up one of three cards: “Yes,” “No,” and “Waffle” (Literally. The card showed a picture of waffles).

First up were the eight City Council candidates. Beginning promptly at 6:30 p.m., each candidate was given one minute to summarize why they wanted the position. Some topics of particular interest included the Viaduct construction, the proposed tunnel, and whether or not these projects should come before or after critical and much-needed maintenance of other citywide infrastructure, such as the Magnolia Bridge.

The candidates also discussed a recent statistic stating that violent crime in Seattle went up 22 percent in the first six months of the year, debating over how the city should expand it’s law enforcement programs – if and how the numbers should be increased, if the city should revamp the way it utilizing its officers, and whether money should be taken from other programs to fund an increase in law enforcement.

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