A hearing was held last Tuesday, Feb. 21, by state Rep. Karla Drenner, D - Avondales Estates, to gauge the public support or opposition to proposed legislation that would limit or ban cellphone towers from being constructed near schools and daycare centers.
A good play-by-play of this hearing was logged live by North Druid Hills-Briarcliff Patch. You can read it here. I agree wholeheartedly with Drenner's statement that the only course of action that should be considered right now is what she calls "prudent avoidance." If you can do something just as easily with a wired connection to the Internet as you can when you are wireless, choose the wired route every time. If you have young children and can avoid being near areas that are high in RF emissions ("electronic smog"), you should avoid them.
Just because the research into the negative health effects of cell towers is inconclusive does not mean that, in the meantime, they are safe. We expect our government to intervene when products are unsafe, but cell phone legislation did not anticipate the widespread use that we have with mobile devices today and the concerns have come about more recently as case studies and epidemological studies are suggesting we need to look closer at the results of long-term exposure to non-thermal, non-ionizing radiation that we once believed to be harmless. There are thousands of studies that suggest otherwise. And other countries are taking necessary precautions to protect their citizens and especially their children. The U.S. system is failing us in this regard as we are placing the profit rights of business before the human rights we claim to offer to all people, such as the right to live and go to school in a safe and healthy environment reasonably free from known industrial hazards.
Drenner stated that there are plenty of studies out there that show a correlation between the two, and that is enough to tell us that we should not be placing these towers next to schools or daycares where young children spend a large portion of their time every day. While the FCC Telecommunications Act of 1996 does provide the cellular phone companies with some protection relative to outright denials of permits solely on the grounds of environmental effects, it still allows local control when it comes to the actual size and placement of the towers.
Drenner’s legislation would focus specifically on the placement options so it will not be in violation of the federal regulations. Specifically, it would not allow towers to be placed near schools or daycare to protect our most vulnerable population, the children.
While it was a welcome opportunity for many of us to speak up and offer our support, it was an even greater opportunity to realize the strength of the coalition of community members that existed in the room. Literally every corner of the county was represented and everyone shared the same concerns for our property values, our health and, most importantly, for the safety of our children.
The only two people at the hearing opposed to Drenner's legislation were those earning a living in the telecommunications business, representing The Georgia Telecommunications Group and T-Mobile.
Notably absent from the hearings were any official representatives from the school PTAs (with the exception of Briarlake Elementary School), any representatives from the DeKalb County School System or county commissioners. We should note that there is specific language in the T-Mobile contract that prohibits any member of the school board from interfering in any way with the process necessary to secure tower permits.
"The local portion of her bill is the critical piece that we need to pass," said Viola Davis, a long-time resident of DeKalb County and advocate for transparency in government.
"Let DeKalb become the model county for this type of legislation," she said during a phone call I had with her Monday. "We can set the example for the rest of the state to show them that this legislation is needed and the people will support it."
Drenner said she planned to introduce both a local and state bill to the delegation on Monday, Feb. 27, at noon. She will need a minimum of 10 signatures of support in order to place it on the agenda for a full delegation vote.
If you are interested in helping us with the effort to prevent cell towers from being constructed on school properties, please contact your state legislators as soon as possible. If you can do so before noon on Monday, that would be the most helpful, but regardless of how that meeting goes, it is still important that we get the message across that there is widespread concern regarding the cell towers coming to our schools and we do not want this trend to continue.
You can place a phone call or send a quick email to pledge support for the Drenner legislation. We are referring to it as the "Prudent Avoidance of Cell Towers" legislation as this was the term Drenner used to describe it at last week’s public hearing.
To find your representative, click the link below and enter your ZIP code: http://sos.georgia.gov/MVP/
For more information, please visit http://www.GETtheCELLoutATL.org and "Like" us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Get.the.Cell.Out.ATL
To pledge support for our cause, email email@example.com.