Email to Santa Fe Mayor, City Manager, City Councilors

April 19, 2010

I OPPOSE the 9-month “Temporary Moratorium on Cell Towers and Antennas” proposed by Councilor Miguel Chavez and advocated by activists led by Arthur Firstenberg, the Cellular Phone Task Force, et al, (see APPENDIX following).

1.  REGARDING THE PETITION FOR THE MORATORIUM:

I object procedurally to the method used to acquire signatures via an online, unverifiable means such as ipetitions.com (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/santafecelltower/). I hope the city invalidates and disregards any and all names gathered by this online means.

I attended the public meeting arranged by Councilor Chavez on April 8, 2010. Prior to entering the building, I was approached and asked to sign the petition supporting the moratorium. After finding a seat, I was again approached and asked to “sign in” on a blank piece of paper, presumably to record attendance. I printed my name. Therefore, should my name appear on any petition or listing of proponents supporting this moratorium, it results from an invalid, if not fraudulent, misrepresentation of my intention.

2.  REGARDING THE RATIONALE FOR THE MORATORIUM:

a.  Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to administer the legislation. Two provisions of the law relate directly to the motivations of the supporters for a moratorium:

[(from SEC. 704, (a) NATIONAL WIRELESS TELECOMMUNICATIONS SITING POLICY – Section 332(c) (47 U.S.C. 332(c)), amended by (7) PRESERVATION OF LOCAL ZONING AUTHORITY, (B) LIMITATIONS]

(ii) A State or local government or instrumentality thereof shall act on any request for authorization to place, construct, or modify personal wireless service facilities within a reasonable period of time after the request is duly filed with such government or instrumentality, taking into account the nature and scope of such request.

(iv) 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 Commission’s regulations concerning such emissions.

b.  Since 2004 when the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the city (Qwest Corporation v. City of Santa Fe New Mexico), Santa Fe has operated without a compliant telecommunications ordinance. Qwest argued successfully that “several sections” of the non-compliant ordinance “were preempted” by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

c.  On November 18, 2009 (150 days ago), the FCC issued a declaratory ruling that defines what constitutes “a reasonable period of time” (see sub-para (ii) above):

In order to ensure a timely review of these applications and to prevent unnecessary delay, the FCC interprets a “reasonable period of time” under Section 332(c)(7) of the Communications Act as 90 days for collocations and 150 days for all other towers. If a jurisdiction “fails to act” on the application within this reasonable time period, applicants may file a claim for relief in court within 30 days of the failure to act.

d.  Councilor Chavez, reacting to local activists led by Mr. Firstenberg, has advocated that — in spite of federal law — the “environmental effects of radio frequency emissions” (including claimed health effects) be considered in the development of local government ordinances.

“I think we also have to accept some gap in the service in the interest of public health and safety.” (December 7, 2009, Santa Fe New Mexican)

“There’s two pieces to this. There’s the wireless, which generates the most concern because of the saturation in our airwaves of electromagnetic and this high-frequency type of wireless.” (April 1, 2010, interview on KSFR 101.1)

To my layman’s reading, Councilor Chavez’s advocacy overtly and willfully violates the provisions of the law (see sub-para (iv) above), and is a good example for why the Congress specified this limitation. While every citizen can express concerns about any number of factors, this law limits what state and local governments can consider in creating local regulations in order to not unnecessarily constrain the growth and utility of emerging telecommunications capabilities.

(Ironically, the most complete justification I can find regarding how the FCC determined its guidelines for human exposure to RF radiation for FCC-regulated transmitters and facilities is in its response to a lawsuit filed by the Cellular Phone Task Force, i.e., Mr. Arthur Firstenberg.)

Based on what I observed at the April 8 meeting, it was clear to me that Councilor Chavez had and continues to work closely with Mr. Firstenberg in not only pushing the moratorium but in drafting language for a new, highly-restrictive telecommunications ordinance motivated by claimed health effects which is, again — literally — against the law.

3.  REGARDING A NEW ORDINANCE

The objections to a new ordinance, and the support for a moratorium, are based primarily on fearful concerns about claimed health effects. One of the unfortunate side-effects of this zealously-misguided and hysterical focus on the alleged health effects of wireless technology is that other very legitimate and problematic issues regarding a new ordinance have been neglected or reduced to footnotes. For example:

Should broadband (defined by the FCC as data rates greater than 200KB) Internet access be considered a utility? (Especially in light of the FCC’s recently-announced National Broadband Plan: Connecting America)

  1. Can one ordinance adequately address the different issues and factors inherent in regulating the infrastructures of two different technologies — wireless for cell phone service and broadband Internet access; wired for traditional landline phone service, broadband Internet access, and cable television (including traditional phone lines, copper wire cable and fiber optic cable)?
  2. To what degree should residents have a say in determining how public rights-of-way and utility easements are managed, including what can or cannot be mounted on existing structures in the rights-of-way and easements, and the conditions under which these public spaces can be used commercially?
  3. Are there compelling reasons for the city itself to invest in the latest wireless and fiber optic infrastructures under the paradigm of “public utilities”?
  4. To what degree should visual aesthetic effects be considered, especially in historical and tourist-dependent commercial areas?
  5. How would any new ordinance affect current and future land use regulations?
  6. What are the tradeoffs regarding:

  • more lower-powered and smaller distributed antennas vs. fewer larger, higher-powered tower-mounted antennas;
  • better, more seamless cell phone coverage throughout the city for all carriers;
  • better, faster, more seamless, and more reliable Wi-Fi access across the city rather than spotty establishment-specific coverage;
  • is it more commercially-advantageous for businesses, and the city, to advertise “Wi-Fi Friendly” or “Wi-Fi Free”;
  • how would residents, businesses, schools, and government entities benefit from upgrading traditional copper-wired telecommunications services to fiber optics?

I encourage the Santa Fe city leaders, elected officials, and staff to press ahead with all due urgency, diligence, professionalism, and reason to intelligently and foresightedly address all legitimate issues pertaining to a telecommunications ordinance.

The city of Santa Fe is already five years past the court decision that precipitated the need for a new ordinance. The city has had 150 days since the announcement of the FCC “shot clock” rule that defined “reasonable period of time” to act on proposals governed by the Telecommunications Act. At this point, the last thing the city needs to do is to drag its feet further, slower, and deeper in response to this critical area of public/private infrastructure.

Regards,

Steve Stockdale

Santa Fe, NM (District 1)

DiscernThis! blog

p.s. I also encourage the City Council to rescind the resolution passed February 10, 2010, “asking the federal government to give municipalities the ability to consider heath and environment effects of cell towers and similar devices.” Do you really want to assume the responsibility and liability for making decisions about all manner of health and environmental issues?

Copies:

1) George Johnson, Santa Fe Review
2) Zane Fischer, Santa Fe Reporter
3) Julie Grimm, Santa Fe New Mexican
4) Newsroom, KSFR



APPENDIX:  MR. ARTHUR FIRSTENBERG

For too long, Mr. Arthur Firstenberg has effectively capitalized on fears, suspicions, and anger about the government, profit-motivated corporations, and unbounded health-safety-environmental conspiracies (comparable to asbestos and tobacco) to indoctrinate a small but vocal band of believers with bombastic and unsubstantiated propaganda such as:

  • “There is no safe distance from a cell tower.” (Firstenberg  2006)
  • “… just as for X-rays, there is no safe level of exposure to microwave radiation.” (Firstenberg 2004)
  • “There is simply no way to make wireless technology safe.” (Firstenberg  2006)
  • “… the blanket of radiation in which wireless technology envelops us is responsible for the spectacular increase in many diseases in the last decade.” (Firstenberg 2007)
  • “… the symptoms of radio wave sickness have become epidemic in all major cities and near most wireless facilities.” (Firstenberg 2001)
  • “… the disease has spread like a plague into the general population. Estimates of its prevalence range up to one-third of the population.” (Firstenberg 2006)
  • “Much as the asbestos and tobacco industries have done, the telecommunications industry has suppressed damaging evidence about its technology since at least 1927.” (Firstenberg 1997)

In 1996, Mr. Firstenberg created the Cellular Phone Taskforce in order to “immediately halt the expansion of wireless communications upon this earth. There is no greater threat to our common future.” (Firstenberg 1997)

Mr. Firstenberg has authored publications and articles with titles such as:

Mr. Firstenberg claims over 120 health effects which are caused by, result from, exacerbated by, or otherwise associated with electromagnetic, microwave, and virtually all other types and frequencies of wireless radiation, including:

  • acrocyanosis (blue fingers and toes)
  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • autism
  • cataracts
  • depression
  • diabetes
  • emotional instability
  • epilepsy
  • fibromyalgia
  • heart arrhythmias
  • hurt of feet sole
  • impaired visual reaction time
  • malignant melanoma
  • multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • sexual disorders
  • strokes in young people
  • altered sex ratio of children (fewer boys)
  • impaired motor function, reaction time, memory and attention of schoolchildren
  • fewer schoolchildren promoted
  • “The children of women who use cell phones during pregnancy show drastically increased behavioral problems by the time they reach school age.”

Mr. Firstenberg, on behalf of “electrically-sensitive” sufferers (which he has lobbied for recognizing as a “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act), has advocated:

  • “We respectfully request that in the case of electrically sensitive people, the functional equivalent must mean, for example, the continued design and manufacture of telephones and other communication devices that do not subject the user to electromagnetic radiation; electrically sensitive people, for example, specifically require equipment that does not contain any computer chips or have any digital display.” (Firstenberg 1998)
  • “… that no technology used to provide services, or by manufacturers to make equipment, for the purpose of accommodating one type of disability, should be permitted if it thereby discriminates against another type of disability. For example, the use of infrared or microwave technology in assistive listening systems or devices for the hearing impaired in public places thereby discriminates against electrically sensitive people who may happen to be using those same public places or public facilities.” (Firstenberg 1998)
  • “… establish radio-free zones for the health of the nations.” (Firstenberg 2000)
  • “Awakening to the potential of electricity to affect children’s health and development can be … empowering, because it gives parents and practitioners an additional tool and offers a new range of potential factors that may be influencing seemingly intractable health or behavior problems.” (Firstenberg 2002)
  • “… our society should provide computer-free classrooms for those vulnerable children for whom this is a necessary and effective accommodation.” (Firstenberg 2002)
  • “No one is donating money to help us, to buy us a protected refuge; no one is volunteering to forego their cell phones, their wireless computers and their cordless phones so that we can once more be their neighbors and live among them.” (Firstenberg 2006)

Mr. Firstenberg began his anti-cellular crusade in Brooklyn, NY, in 1996. After losing lawsuits against the FCC and the United States of America in 2000 (including a petition for appeal to the Supreme Court which was denied for lack of merit), he moved to Mendocino, CA. There he became a leading voice for an organization called Wireless Free Mendocino, stating, “we’re trying to save Mendocino as a refuge.” (Firstenberg 2002)


Perfecting the modus operandi he would later use in Santa Fe, in 2001 his group led a campaign to ban cellular phone service and wireless Internet service in Mendocino. Local radio station manager and schoolteacher Scott Southard:

said that wireless controversy has torn his small community apart. “There have been radio towers on the high school for 30 years and there were never complaints about them until Firstenberg started his campaign of misinformation and fear,” Southard said bitterly. “You can’t argue with zealots.” (Wired, January 2002)

In 2004, while living in Mendocino, Mr. Firstenberg wrote: (Firstenberg 2004)

“Today I am homeless. My money does not provide me shelter. My good health does not ensure my survival. My friends are unable to help me. I am being killed, but the law offers me no protection. … Because there are virtually no workplaces without computers any more, I have not held a job since 1990. I had resigned myself to living on Social Security Disability, and learned, together with other members of a support group I had found, how best to live with my disability. This mostly meant learning to avoid exposure to electromagnetic fields.”

Also in 2004, Mr. Firstenberg (presumably still “homeless” and in “good health”) moved to Santa Fe. By 2006 he began arousing Santa Feans about his proclaimed dangers of wireless. In 2007, he led a spirited but unsuccessful campaign to deny the installation of Wi-Fi service in the Santa Fe Public Libraries.

In 2008, Mr. Firstenberg — who in 2004 claimed that he was homeless, living on Social Security Disability, and hadn’t held a job since 1990 — purchased the residence he had previously rented for $430,000. Despite knowing that he needed to “avoid exposure to electromagnetic fields,” he chose to live less than a mile due west of the Plaza, within a triangle bounded by, and within 2,000 feet of, three major thoroughfares — West Alameda, Agua Fria, and St. Francis Dr. (US Hwy 285/84).

In January of this year, Mr. Firstenberg filed a half-million civil lawsuit against a neighbor because she refused to turn off her cell phone and other electrical devices in her home. His lawsuit claims that the neighbor’s actions “have rendered Plaintiff’s home uninhabitable and have caused him months of inconvenience and acute pain and suffering.”

For Mr. Firstenberg and his anti-radiation rebels, there is simply no middle ground. There is no compromise. There is no room for debate. No quarter is given for any scientific or medical results that conflict with, refute, or question their own self-referencing echo chamber of anecdotal and self-reported “proof.” They are deaf and mute to reason. They are zealots, and —in their own minds — they’re not just right, but righteously right.

This is the man — Arthur Firstenberg — who leads the opposition to wireless technology in Santa Fe, and whom Councilor Chavez apparently consults for advice and guidance in determining public policy for the city of Santa Fe.

Steve Stockdale
Santa Fe, NM