Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | August 23, 2005

Puh-lease: Spin, cell tower hysteria, ‘smart’ planning

It’s time for one of my periodic roundups of things that make me roll my eyes, shake my head and utter a dramatic, two-syllable puh-lease.

Santa Clara Valley Water District CEO Stan Williams’ recent letter to the editor had me shaking my head from its opening line: “Despite what the Gilroy Dispatch would lead its readers to believe, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is constantly working to make sure Santa Clara County’s 1.7 million residents receive the best service possible.”

I’m a member of the editorial board, and, thus, pretty familiar with where the newspaper stands on the water district. We’ve questioned spending practices, the state of flood control projects, water rate increases, employee compensation, and stratospherically high reserves.

Guess what? An audit raised many of the same questions the editorial board has been asking for years. I can only surmise from Williams’ letter that the water district isn’t comfortable with those questions and is trying to divert attention from these troublesome matters to service levels.

Puh-lease. Water district customers (and voters) might be apathetic, but they’re not stupid. I’m really hoping the just-completed financial audit and upcoming management audit combine to shake our water district apathy from us really fast.

***

The to-do about a premature legal notice for a cell phone tower in Morgan Hill’s Jackson Park set my eyes spinning and caused me to pair my “puh-lease” with a “here we go again.”

I can understand why Morgan Hill officials might be upset with Sprint, which apparently printed the legal notice before it had gone through all of the necessary City Hall hoops. I can understand why people might be upset about the aesthetics, or lack thereof, of the proposed cell phone tower.

What I can’t understand are people who are upset about the supposed health hazards of cell phone towers.

“The proposal would put that tower in Jackson Park, which is by the elementary school and I was really upset,” Kimberly Leiser was quoted as saying in a recent story. “So much has been written about possible health hazards from cell phone towers. I am just against having a cell phone tower in a neighborhood, and especially by a school!”

Puh-lease. What’s been written about cell phone towers, at least by reputable sources who understand the science, is that they are safe. Here are a few of the reputable sources, as quoted in a Dispatch editorial from December 2002 when a similar issue erupted in Gilroy:

“• The Federal Communications Commission … states, ‘Measurements made near typical cellular and PCS installations, especially those with tower-mounted antennas, have shown that ground-level power densities are well below limits recommended by RF/microwave safety standards.’

• The Medical College of Wisconsin concurs. Here’s a quote from an article written by John E. Moulder, Ph.D., a professor of radiation oncology: ‘The consensus of the scientific community, both in the U.S. and internationally, is that the power from these mobile phone base station antennas is far too low to produce health hazards as long as people are kept away from direct access to the antennas.’

• According to … the Health Physics Society, a scientific organization that promotes radiation safety, ‘The consensus of scientific experts is that RF exposure from cellular phones and cellular base-station antennas, meeting the maximum permissible exposure levels set in the safety standards, is safe for all.’”

I don’t mind if you oppose cell phone towers because they’re ugly. But be intellectually honest and fight fair – don’t try to scare people with baseless claims that cell phone towers are dangerous.

***

The continuing moves by City of San Jose officials to build homes in Coyote Valley before the decades-old requirement of 5,000 jobs in Coyote Valley is met have me shaking my head, but they certainly don’t surprise me. San Jose promised that Coyote Valley development would be a model of smart planning, with pedestrian-friendly and transit-oriented high-density housing. But a few months ago, San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales and City Councilman Forrest Williams circulated a memo that proposed eliminating the jobs trigger and reducing the density requirements. The proposal has alarmed environmentalists and others.

If the triggers are eliminated, Morgan Hill’s public schools and Gavilan Community College will have to educate the students who live in those houses without benefit of property taxes from the long-promised businesses. Oh yeah, these are the same two agencies with no elected officials serving on the Coyote Valley Specific Plan Task Force.

Coyote Valley, a model of smart planning, an urban reserve? Puh-lease. So far, it’s been a model of politics as usual and provincialism. Let the lawsuits begin.

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