- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) No more cellular phones ringing at the movies. No more people holding up their phones so friends can hear a concert. And no more rude interruptions for Broadway theatergoers.
Overriding Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's veto, the City Council voted 38-5 yesterday to ban the use of cellular phones at public performances.
Talking on a cellular phone, dialing, listening or even having one ring during a performance will constitute a violation punishable by a $50 fine.
The law covers concerts, movies, plays, lectures, dance performances, museums, libraries and galleries. Cellular phone use would still be permitted at sporting events and in emergencies, and people would still be allowed to speak on phones in lobbies and during intermissions.
The use of audible pagers was also banned.
The prime sponsor, City Council member Phil Reed, said the idea came from theater owners tired of incessant phone ringing and loud conversations during performances.
"I think it's a real quality-of-life issue," Mr. Reed said. "People overwhelmingly want this to happen. And because it would only apply during the performance, it's not a lot to ask of people to do."
The mayor, however, has said the legislation would be unnecessary and almost impossible to enforce.
"We do not hesitate to 'shush,'" Mr. Bloomberg wrote in his veto letter last month. "Some standards of conduct, not directly affecting public health or safety, can best be enforced not through legislation but through less formal means."
City Council Speaker Gifford Miller said the law will be largely self-enforcing.
"I don't expect the police to spend any time enforcing it," he said.
The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, an industry organization, lobbied against the bill.
"Wireless phones are part of a long list of potentially inconsiderate behavior, a list that includes talking during performances, singing aloud except when sanctioned unwrapping candy and cough drops, and even attending a public performance when suffering from a cough or allergy," said Thomas Wheeler, the group's president.
"No matter how laudable the goal, the city cannot legislate courtesy and common sense," he said.
The ban takes effect in 60 days.

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