Thursday, April 25, 2019

Dogwood Cell Tower Foes Fighting Powerful Financial Interests

Thanks to recent news coverage of the City by mainstream sources, I have been able to continue to take a bit of a breather with this blog. In particular, Abigail Warren of the Daily Memphian must be commended for going the extra mile by attending many of our various commission meetings. Corrine Kennedy of the Commercial Appeal has authored informative articles about the Germantown Country Club property. I recommend that citizens consider supporting both the Commercial Appeal and the Daily Memphian by purchasing online subscriptions. Please also make it be known that you appreciate the local coverage. 
For now, I will not concentrate on breaking news but on commentary or in-depth reports of issues that interest me. 

 Mixed Feelings Among Residents Near Planned Dogwood Cell Tower in the Daily Memphian fits the bill as an issue that interests me.  

The cell tower has passed all levels of approval except the development contract, which will be voted on by the BMA in May.  

While I, too, have mixed feelings, I sympathize with the parents that do not want the cell tower to be located on the Dogwood school playground. Many want it relocated to another part of Dogwood Park, and still others say a cell tower should not be in a residential neighborhood at all. Due to the financial interests, the need for better cell coverage, and the lack of other locations for the tower, the parents should probably hope for the tower to be moved to a different part of Dogwood Park.

Before I discuss specific financial interests in Germantown, I will provide some background. 

First let's take a look at the location: See the red X. I am told that the footprint is large enough that the field day at Dogwood will be affected. It is less than 200 feet from the school. The area is already marked off, so you can stop by and take a look at the area.

I have read that GMSD will receive about $22,000 per year for the lease of the land. Many parents state that if this tower is placed in this location, they will either home school their children or send them to private school. If as few as three children are removed from GMSD because of the cell tower, the funding lost from the state will be greater than the financial gain from the tower. 

The petition against the cell tower at Dogwood has collected over 500 signatures.  

In September 2018, the measure to approve the cell tower at Dogwood was approved by the GMSD Board, with little fanfare and no objections. Jason Manuel notes that cell coverage in the area is poor, and concerning. He also states that the location was vetted by neighbors and stakeholders. Most likely the surrounding neighbors would prefer that the tower be close to the school and away from their backyards. I note here that I have no personal knowledge of the negotiations or players involved. My question would be, were the families of school children at the discussion table? For instance, was the PTO of Dogwood School asked for any input?

The vote was unanimous to allow Tower Ventures to put a cell phone tower on the Dogwood playground.  Let this be a lesson to all Germantown citizens-- please do your best to follow the online posted agendas of meetings, so that you can voice your opinions at the earliest opportunity.  

Since that September passage, a much publicized event has heightened the concerns of parents. There were a number of children and teachers diagnosed with cancer at a school in Ripon, California, and due to the concerns of parents--hundreds stormed the school board meeting-- a cell tower was removed (Sprint Tower Removed, Soil Also Being Checked). The Ripon health issues could be due to an old Nestle plant that polluted the groundwater, but cell tower radiation is also being investigated as a possible cause. But a tower testing the newer, not-yet-rolled-out 5G technology at San Diego State several years ago almost certainly relates to cancer cases. You can see this news report for more details. Many of the victims centered around activities near a certain room on campus. The little-studied 5G technology that will soon line our sidewalks will allow us to use self driving vehicles, have "smart" homes, etc.  At the latest BMA meeting, a qualified citizen spoke about the dangers of 5G technology, and after him, other concerned citizens spoke against the cell tower as well:  

Much of the science on "non-ionizing" radiation, the type emitted by cell phones, cell phone towers, and wireless routers, is controlled by the industry. This is particularly true in the USA. It is telling that the scientists here who are most vehement about the possible dangers of the technology generally have "Emeritus" (retired) in their titles. They are thus immune to the wrath and power of the wireless industry. Consider the experience of Henry Lai of the University of Washington. He found DNA breaks in rats from non-ionizing radiation: UW Scientist Henry Lai Makes Waves in the Cell Phone IndustryAnd yes, the industry attempted to have him fired from his job: 

After Lai and Singh’s research finding an effect on DNA was published in 1995, Lai learned of a full-scale effort to discredit his work. In an internal company memo leaked to Microwave News, a publication that examines health and environmental effects of electromagnetic radiation, Motorola described its plan to “war-game” and undermine Lai’s research.

Lai was shocked by the war-game memo, and calls for more research. All his research funds looking into non-ionizing radiation dried up. He advocates a precautionary approach to the technology: 

"European countries generally believe you need some kind of precautionary approach,” says Lai, who does not own—or use—a cell phone. “What else can we do? Obviously, we don’t know the answer at all. But, then, there is a cause for concern. We need to take some kind of precautionary action.” 

Brussels. Belgium, in a "precautionary action", has banned the newer 5G technology until studies on health can be done.  

An example at the power of the cell phone industry is found in 1996 federal legislation. 

No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the regulations contained in this chapter concerning the environmental effects of such emissions.

According to Director of Economic Development Cameron Ross, speaking in the 
 February meeting  (link to video) of the Planning Commission, the only allowable reason to reject a request for a tower is aesthetics. The Planning Commission Chair used that as a reason to attempt to censor citizen-speakers who wanted to focus on possible health issues.  It is also important to note here that there are also safety concerns due to the lack of cell coverage in the area, which are noted in the meeting by two citizens that favor the tower. They point out that health monitoring devices are sometimes dependent on coverage, and children need to be able to use their cell phones for safety reasons. However, developing children and pregnant teachers are those potentially most at risk from the technology being present within 200 feet of a school. The citizens who are against the tower location realize that they are prohibited by law from using environmental radiation concerns as an issue to disallow the tower, and are now concentrating on talking about the legitimate concerns of possible declining home values in the Dogwood Elementary School zone. According to Cameron Ross, though, home values are also not allowed as a reason to disallow the tower, due to a sixth Circuit Court opinion. I have not looked at the court cases. A recent decision by the California Supreme Court upheld a San Francisco ordinance which requires towers to pass an aesthetics test.

About a year ago even more draconian federal laws about the placement of the newer 5G towers were passed. As a result, small 5G towers will be lining our sidewalks soon. Generally websites either point out the opportunities of 5G networks, or the risks, but rarely both. European explanations of 5G, such as this, are the only sources that I feel comfortable linking to explain the technology, because it points out the benefits as well as the real potential risks. Municipalities are now virtually forced to allow the new 5G towers on utility poles. The new 5G rules, along with the 1996 Act, were the drivers of a recent City ordinance change 
(Ordinance 2019-6) to the Wireless Transmission ordinances. This change removed the decisions on cell tower location from the elected BMA.  Here is the November 6 Planning Commission discussion of the ordinance:  

Dean Massey was the only alderman who voted against this ordinance change when it came before the BMA earlier this year. He has been posting articles about the possible health concerns of 5G networks (such as this) on his Massey for Germantown Facebook page. He feels that the science is not definitive and he does not want school children to become guinea pigs.

The upshot of the new federal and state laws is that municipalities are severely limited in their ability to disallow or even control the placement of the coming 5G technology. The industry will be able to seek approval for up to twenty towers at a time, and there is a strict limit on the amount of time a municipality has to disapprove a tower, and very little leeway to turn down an application!  We will soon be swimming in frequencies that have very little scientific study.    

It is powerful financial interests that drive federal law, state law, and funding for scientific studies. These interests also likely donate heavily to otherwise trusted 501(c)(3) organizations that purport to combat various diseases.  As a result, these organizations may spin the research results in ways that favor the industry. For that reason, I steer clear of using 501(c)(3) organizations as a source of good overall interpretation of scientific studies. 

The tentacles of the cell phone industry also reach deep into Germantown political circles. Here is the "team" at Tower Industries: Tower Ventures website  

Here are 2018 Tower Ventures team's donations to Germantown administration-supported politicians through September 30 of last year: 
Mayor Mike Palazzolo

Craig Weiss, Principal $1000.00
Steve Chandler, Executive VP $1500.00 

Sharon Chandler (wife) $1500 
William Orgel $1000

To Mary Ann Gibson: 

Steve Chandler Executive VP $500 
Sharon Chandler (wife) $500 
William Orgel President $1000
Craig Weiss Principal $1000 

To Brian White:

Steve Chandler, Executive VP $1500 
Steve Chandler, Executive VP $500 
Michael McLaughlin, Controller $100 

To the Germantown "Values" PAC (see Oct. 21 2018 post)

Steve Chandler $1500  


Additionally, Controller Michael McLaughlin sits on the Financial Advisory Commission and the Industrial Development Board.

Monday, April 8, 2019

City Administration Wants Sanitized BMA Meetings and Censorship of Minority Aldermen Voices

In a blatant post-election anti-transparency move, the City administration is proposing actual censorship at BMA meetings. Aldermen in the minority on issues will be effectively censored from voicing objections to certain measures if a proposed resolution is passed in the BMA meeting tonight. Currently, items that are considered routine are all put in a consent agenda, and voted on as a group, with no discussion. All five aldermen must agree before items put to a vote are placed in the consent agenda. Proposed Resolution 19R05 changes all that, and votes of only three of the five aldermen are able to place items in the consent agenda. Take a look: 

Items that have ANY objection by ANY aldermen are by definition not routine. The people can judge from 
the ensuing discussion if aldermen attempt to put routine items in the regular agenda.  Relabeling the consent agenda as the preliminary agenda is nothing but a ploy.

This is a blatant attack on transparency. The people do NOT want sanitized meetings, we want open discussion of each item if there are any objections by any of the aldermen.  

Aldermen, PLEASE do not pass this measure.

Wonder what else the citizens will have to endure next?