Cell Tower not approved
I think we are fortunate that our local government and school district is rather responsive to the community.
The school officials weren?t overly thoughtful at first, as they did not consult with the parents regarding the proposed cell tower, and in fact, if it weren?t for one parent who happened to notice a sign partially obscured by trees posted on a part of the campus that is not really used, it would have slipped by. Luckily we have a mom?s group with a great e-mail tree. She put an FYI email out to me and I sent emails out to the group with requests to pass it on to anyone who might want to be informed about it.
By the time she saw the sign and immediately emailed, we only had 2 days until the town council meeting (meanwhile many of us were very involved in our volunteer work for the school preparing for the big annual carnival which would be two days after the meeting). It was a very busy time, but approximately 7 of us (parents) showed up at the meeting thinking it would be basically informative (here is what is being proposed, etc.). We were surprised to see that it was not that kind of meeting at all. The matter, having supposedly met all legal requirements, was scheduled for rubber stamp approval, no discussion planned.
Luckily one of the council members recognized that we were there to discuss the issue and took it off the fast track part of the meeting where permits are approved and moved the issue to place the item further down the agenda with time for members of the community to be heard. No one in our group felt prepared and none of us were really at ease with speaking before the council (to add to the stage fright all our meetings are televised), however, I convinced them that, as only we 7 could come on such short notice, everyone needed to speak if we were going to get them to hold off until we could check on safety issues. So we did.
We spoke from the heart, and, for the most, part no one tried to claim knowledge that they didn?t have. We spoke out most about the lack of notice and consultation of the parents, the lack of certainty that placing the tower there would be safe for our kids. I pointed out on a map how close it would be to the preschool classes and preschool and kindergarten playground and how there were ongoing studies concerning possible health effects and that even the reports with the most positive spin admitted that there were cell changes and other effects, but that they had no "definite proof" that those would be adverse to one?s health. I reminded them that especially when it comes to children "no proof of harm" is not equal to "safe" and that they were our last line of defense.
We did not try to get them to deny the permit, but rather to put it off for 30 days so that we could research the safety issues because we hadn?t had adequate time. It turned out that the Chair of the permit committee had a child going to the school and this was the first he had heard of it too. They rescheduled for 30 days, and when we left the employee of Clearwire who was responsible for choosing the site of the tower spoke to us in the lobby and scheduled a meeting on site in 20 days (he promised to have an RF engineer there to answer questions as he knew nothing of the technical data and in fact gave us some incorrect information about the part he thought he knew). Unbeknownst to us, an official from the school district was at the council meeting and went back to inform her superior about our concerns. There was also a reporter from the Arizona Republic there and he requested information and in fact published a story on the matter within a day or two. The fact is, he spun it a bit against us (focused on the one or two individuals who got a bit emotional and took their quotes out of context) but it still helped get the word out.
We knew that we had better make fast work of our research and let other parents know what was being proposed. A few of the parents prepared and passed out flyers with a strictly unbiased message (e.g. Here is what is being proposed. Here are the meeting dates. Get informed/ Come be heard). Others of us added to our pile of daily duties the job of trying to get a crash course on cell towers and research findings on bio-effects. We requested the help of an engineer parent whose spouse was very pro-tower as it meant money for the school which in our economy is really needed (although it turned out that money received from the proposed tower would have been used mostly for an electronic marquis as money for teachers comes from a different kind of funding). That is one thing to keep in mind. Many of these school sites are being touted as money for the school when it really needs it as if to imply it might help avert teacher layoffs, when it seems for the most part that is not true. Most schools have very structured funding guidelines.
We kept researching and passing on information to everyone concerned. We maintained the attitude of "it?s too unclear whether it is safe" as opposed to the hard line of "it is unsafe" because we knew we could not prove it unsafe (too much controversy) and would therefore be dismissed, but that they could not argue that there was a clear answer that it was safe, unless they could find something that we had not been able to, and so the onus was on them. We reminded them that medical research often lags several years behind many of these new products ? smoking was given as an example with pictures of old ads with doctors touting the great benefits of smoking. We told them that we didn?t want to be 10 years down the line apologizing to hundreds of children for our oversight. We kept a respectful, searching, attitude of, ?we know we all want what is best for the children? and very quickly the school district decided that they would table the matter indefinitely, cancel the meeting and send out a notice that the matter was not going to be pursued.
The engineer parent was also trying to be very through and asked many technical questions of the Town Planning and Development Community, Clearwire and the FCC. The matter was actually tabled before he had completed his research. However, he took meter readings at various locations around our town and neighboring cities and made calculations and prepared a really great presentation which showed that the tower should emit far, far less than the FCC limits even taking in worst case scenario like multiple instances of reflection and that people would be 7 ft. tall and be standing on the roof of the school. We thanked him sincerely for his hard work and for providing the information. I told him I felt that he his research did seem to show that the levels would be far lower than allowed, but that I was still concerned whether FCC standards were sufficient and about possible cumulative effects.
I really appreciate the information you sent, I shared it with the others looking into the matter. I will tell you much of it was semi dismissed by the a representative of the FCC (as one might have predicted) as either opinion or non-reliable based on bias, specifically regarding Bio-Initiative: "the stated purpose of the Bioinitiative Report (BIR) is "to document the reasons why current public exposure standards for non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation are no longer good enough to protect public health." Thus, it is argued by four expert groups (in addition to COMAR) that the BIR is an advocacy document, which presents no new information, and which does not provide a dispassionate, scientific overview."
The report from Dr. Belyaev did garner more interest though as it was acknowledged that he was a very reputable and knowledgeable in the field.
Overall, I think the information collected including that which you sent really helped us illustrate that it was too speculative to allow the tower to go up at the school (partially because we were standing on the ground that there was too little certainty rather then that we were certain there was harm). Many of us even stated we would love to have reliable evidence that it was safe, not only so the school could have the funds, but because clearly we and our children are increasingly exposed almost everywhere we go. Unfortunately, our research did not support that desire.
Thank you again and I hope this information will be helpful.
Informant: Martin Weatherall