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'Non-Binding' Cell Tower Vote to Go Before Residents July 31

The July 31 vote will have little effect on tower proposals at the nine schools already agreed to T-Mobile leases, including Briarlake Elementary, Lakeside High and Margaret Harris Comprehensive schools.

Residents will be able to vote this month whether they like the DeKalb County School System placing cell phone towers on school properties.

The vote won't necessarily have any affect on the school system's policies, but it could at least give school board members an idea of voter sentiment, according to CrossRoadsNews, in a story published three days ago.

From the story:

The referendum was created by House Bill 1299, sponsored by state Reps. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), Michele Henson (D-Stone Mountain), Rahn Mayo (D-Decatur) and other DeKalb legislators.

Drenner, a six-term representative and a radiation physicist, embraced the referendum after House Bill 1197 which she sponsored to ban towers from other school grounds failed.

State legislators have been seeking ways to prevent the location of more cell towers on DeKalb Schools property after a July 12, 2011, vote by the DeKalb School Board to allow T-Mobile to locate 150-foot high towers on nine school properties for up to 30 years. Most of those schools are in south DeKalb County.

Obviously, locally, , and Margaret Harris Comprehensive schools are included in those. Read the rest of the well-reported CrossRoadsNews story for more details. Walter Woods, the school system's spokesman, told the newspaper construction on the first tower is expected to begin next month.

How will you vote in the cell phone tower referendum? Does it matter? Tell us in the comments section below.

Knott Telling August 22, 2012 at 03:45 AM
I may not have articulated my point very well, Jonathan, since I'm not sure what you are suggesting was 'wrong' in my comment. Let me know what you thought I was concluding, or advocating. I still stand by my statement, which was an attempt to point out the dangers inherent in drawing conclusions from the outcome of votes like this that are (a) non-binding, and (b) a very emotionally-charged issue for one side, but not really for the other. This scenario will lead to low turnout by folks who think the uproar is unjustified, since the decision has already been made in their favor by the "controlling legal authority" and there is no perception by cell-tower supporters that this vote will have any real impact on whether or not towers are built. That group will have no incentive to go to the polls, although they will cast a vote if they have already decided to go to the polls for other matters of interest. The TSPLOST certainly drew a lot of voters, but I expect you would find that thousands of people who voted in DeKalb County didn't even cast a vote on the non-binding tower referendum. Even though they made the effort to show up, they saw no compelling reason to vote against the towers, since that train already left the station. (More...)
Knott Telling August 22, 2012 at 03:48 AM
I think it would be interesting to see how this vote would have turned out if the situation had been reversed. If the Board was refusing to allow towers to be built and there was a non-binding vote pushed by people who want better cell coverage, and who see the benefits to everything from convenience to public safety to property values (on which their view is: 'sorry that there is a tower in your back yard, but the rest of us want to buy houses in areas with strong signals, and we think the 'science' being quoted to scare people about health issues is badly flawed'). Clearly, the tower opposers would have no motivation to go vote, since the train that has left the station is now THEIR train! And the tower supporters would win that vote. (More...)
Knott Telling August 22, 2012 at 04:00 AM
So, Jonathan, maybe that helps explain my main point: it was going to be no surprise for the vote on this referendum to lean towards "no." It just doesn't really carry any weight. I think most people realize that the impact of low-turnout is often skewed numbers and skewed conclusions. After all, the "no" votes were not so overwhelming as the media portrayed: they represented only 18% of the votes that were eligible to be cast. Run the same referendum during the November general election when turnout is 90% and then you'll have some decent data. And in the meantime, if a simple majority in a certain area during a primary vote is a wise way to make decisions of this type, then construction on new towers at Lakeside HS and Oak Grove ES should be able to commence shortly: you did notice that both of those precincts voted in favor of cell towers, didn't you? :)
Cheryl Miller September 10, 2012 at 01:43 PM
They did not vote in favor by an amount that would be considered statisically significant given the margin of error. But, as you pointed out, it is an advisory referendum only. There are other factors to take into consideration, such as the fact that cell towers are not legally permitted in areas zoned for residential development under DeKalb County's zoning laws. And, neither T-mobile nor the school board is exempt from zoning when they are building something that is primarily a for-profit, commercial structure. We've linked to all the relevent legal documents on our website, www.GETtheCELLoutATL.org so please educate yourself before attempting to persuade others. You might be more effective that way.
Cheryl Miller September 10, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Also important to note that School Board Representative Paul Womack, who was the one pushing for these towers to go through before a Superintendent was hired and when school was out for Summer, has real estate investments as well as family and friends in the Oak Grove community. It wouldn't be difficult to see how a few of them might be persuaded to vote "yes" to cell towers at schools while feeling reassured that there would be no chance they might actually get one. Likewise, at Lakeside High School, the school sits on donated land that cannot be used for commercial purposes. Therefore, many of those voting "Yes" were likely aware that there would be no way they would actually receive a tower themselves. In fact, we have yet to see an actual contract for a tower at Lakeside. So, any indication that a "Yes" vote prevailed simply points out where voters were uniformed, unaware or being influenced by other factors. We have yet to meet anyone who would truly welcome a cell tower into their neighborhood.

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